DOJ summons Aquino, ex-Cabinet execs to Dengvaxia probe on June 4

MANILA The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday ordered former President Benigno Aquino III, along with his two former Cabinet officials and several former and incumbent Department of Health (DOH) officials to attend the preliminary investigation on June 4 on the complaint filed by two anti-crime advocacy groups over the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

During the hearing on Tuesday, state prosecutors started the probe on the criminal complaint filed by newly-appointed Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lawyer Manuelito Luna and Eligio Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Inc. (VPCI) against Aquino and 44 respondents.

The panel was headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag with members Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez, Assistant State Prosecutors Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan and Gino Paolo Santiago,

The VACC and VPCI filed the complaint against them for possible violation of Section 3 of Republic Act (RA) 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); Section 65 of RA 9184 (Government Procurement, Reform Act); Article 220 (Technical Malversation) of the Revised Penal Code; Article 365 (Criminal Negligence) of the Revised Penal Code; and for other violations of the law.

Aquino did not attend Tuesday's preliminary probe at the DoJ, but sent his lawyer, Mildred Umali, to receive a copy of the complaint.

Former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former health secretary Janette Garin were a no-show in the hearing but were represented by their counsel.

Local officials of vaccine manufacturer Sanofi-Pasteur were represented in Tuesday's hearing by their lawyers, but the foreign officials did not have any representatives which prompted Balauag to order the issuance of another set of subpoenas for the said officials.

Balauag also explained why the panel took cognizance of the case despite the graft aspect of the complaint, stressing that the case also has a criminal aspect - that of violation of the Revised Penal Code, which the DOJ has primary jurisdiction over. The Office of the Ombudsman has primary jurisdiction, meantime, over graft cases.

The complaint filed against respondents does not pertain to anti-graft alone. The DOJ assumes jurisdiction on other crimes, like technical malversation and violation of procurement law, that's why we assume jurisdiction. But there are other offenses covered under the jurisdiction of the NPS Leave it to us on how to properly evaluate, she said during the hearing after one of the lawyers form respondents asked the panel on the jurisdiction on the complaint.

Balauag also told the lawyers of the respondents to asked their clients to be present on the next hearing schedule on June 4 at 10 a.m. for the submission of counter-affidavits, where respondents are required to be present to reaffirm the sworn statements before the DOJ panel.

Aside from Aquino, Abad and Garin also named respondents DOH Undersecretaries Dr. Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; and Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago.

Others named are the health department's Financial Management Service director Laureano Cruz; directors Dr. Joyce Ducusin, Dr. May Wynn Belo, Dr. Leonila Gorgolon, Dr. Rio Magpantay, Dr. Ariel Valencia and Dr. Julius Lecciones; retired health undersecretaries Dr. Nemesio Gako, Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go; and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, who served as Garin's head executive assistant.

Also named as respondents in the complaint are officials and employees of the pharmaceutical company Zuellig, which supplied the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, and Sanofi Pasteur, Dengvaxia manufacturer. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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