Aquino admin execs to face more raps over Dengvaxia mess: PAO

MANILA Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said more officials from the previous administration are set to face criminal charges in connection with the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Acosta said the PAO filed four separate complaints for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Republic Act No. 9745 (Anti-Torture Act) against former Health Secretary Janette Garin and 34 others over the death of Aejay Bautista, 11; Angelica Pestilos, 10; Lenard Baldonado, 10; and Zandro Colite, 11.

She noted that the PAO has already documented 43 deaths so far, but they have only completed the cases for the first four victims and is expecting more complaints to be filed.

Acosta hinted that the charges for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Republic Act No. 9745 (Anti-Torture Act) might even include more respondents.

Acosta disclosed that they will file a supplemental complaint before the DOJ based on the report that the Senate will release over the inquiry the lawmakers conducted over the Dengvaxia issue.

"We are still waiting for the result and recommendation of the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Sen. (Richard) Gordon as well as the recommendation by the House on the liabilities of higher officials like former president (Benigno) Aquino (III). Whatever the recommendations will be, we will follow," she explained.

She also said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is currently conducting its own investigation into the PHP3.5 billion procurement of Dengvaxia.

"The DOJ divided the task for the PAO and the NBI. Our investigation focused on death and illnesses while the NBI was assigned to look into the procurement aspect," she noted.

Among those being looked into by the NBI is the possible liability of Aquino and former budget secretary Florencio Abad, who both approved the funding of the immunization program reportedly without undergoing proper procurement procedures.

In the complaints, the PAO pointed out that based on the admissions and declarations of respondents Sanofi Pasteur, Inc., if Dengvaxia is administered to a person who has not yet contracted dengue, that person will have a greater risk of developing severe disease, which would have been otherwise had Dengvaxia not been administered upon him.

"In so doing, they (respondents) displayed grave recklessness, utter bad faith, lack of foresight, lack of skill, want of care, gross neglect and deliberate, arbitrary and even malicious disregard of the safety and lives of thousands of Filipino children," read the complaints.

"After inoculation of Dengvaxia, Respondents Garin, et al. did not initiate and effectuate a full-fledged, active and aggressive monitoring and surveillance over the Dengvaxia recipients so as to immediately address any report of serious adverse and life-threatening reactions and events among the latter, thus, resulting to the increasing number of deaths including that of herein victim," the complainants further alleged.

The PAO argued that the respondents should also be held liable for torture for "intentionally inoculating the Dengvaxia recipients with an unsafe product undergoing clinical trial, which caused them not only severe pain, exhaustion, disability or dysfunction of one or more parts of the body, but untimely death".

Apart from Garin, those who have been named as respondents in all four complaints are Dr. Socorro Lupisan and Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM); and other officials of the Department of Health (DOH) who were involved in the purchase of the vaccine, namely, Vicente Belizario Jr., Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Gertardo Bayugo, Lyndon Lee Suy, Irma Ascuncion, Julius Lecciones, Joyce Ducusin, Rosalind Vianzon, and Mario Baguilod.

Vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and distributor Zuellig Pharma Corporation were also included as respondents in each of the complaints.

The corporate directors and officers of Sanofi named in the complaints are Carlito Realuyo, Sanislas Camart, Jean Louis Grunwald, Jean-Francois Vacherand, Conchita Santos, Jazel Anne Calvo, Pearl Grace Cabali, and Marie Esther De Antoni.

Meanwhile, those from Zuellig are Kasigod Jamias, Michael Becker, Ricardo Romulo, Imran Babar Chugtai, Raymund Azurin, Nilo Badiola, John Stokes Davison, Marc Franck, Ashley Gerard Antonio, Ana Liza Peralta, Rosa Maria Chua, Danilo Cahoy, Manuel Concio III, Roland Goco, and Ma. Visitacion Barreiro.

The PAO filed the charges after its forensic teams established that all four victims died of organ failures that could be attributed to the vaccine.

To recall, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI) filed criminal charges against former President Benigno Aquino III and 19 others over the Dengvaxia controversy before the DOJ last February.

The DOH suspended the vaccination program in December 2017 after Sanofi Pasteur said the vaccine poses risk to those with no prior dengue infection. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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