MANILA Four families assisted by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) on Thursday filed a separate criminal complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against former Health Secretary Janette Garin and 33 others over the death of four children inoculated with controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
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 Garin over the death of Aejay Bautista, 11; Angelica Pestilos, 10; Lenard Baldonado, 10; and Zandro Colite, 11.
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.
While, 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.
According to PAO, Bautista died last Jan. 24 due to multiple organ failure while Pestilos, who passed away on Dec. 5, 2017, had a pre-existing lupus disease and died of acute respiratory failure;
Baldonado, of Laguna, who passed away on November 9, 2017, had pre-existing leukemia and died also of acute respiratory failure; while Colite, of Cavite, died on December 27, 2017 due to multiple organ failure.
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 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."
Records of the agency showed that all four victims had no history of dengue when they were inoculated with the vaccine and all of them died after the vaccination in their respective schools.
We have established the strong link between the mass vaccination and the untimely deaths of the victims, Acosta told reporters as she added that the deaths are not just mere coincidental, the deaths are unusual.
The mass vaccination was highly suspicious because the children affected were appeared to be healthy, she pointed out.
Acosta explained that Garin was included among the respondents because "she was the one who spearheaded the vaccination program."
She cited as jurisprudence the decision of the United States court that held the secretary of health liable for a similar vaccination mess.
"Why did they but the vaccine when it was still under clinical trial stage?" the PAO chief stressed.
Acosta revealed that the PAO has already documented 41 deaths so far, but they have only completed the cases for the first four victims so far.
Acosta disclosed that they will file a supplemental complaint before the DOJ based on the report that the Senate will release over the inquiry lawmakers conducted over the Dengvaxia issue.
So paglabas po ng resulta ng Senate inquiry (Once the Senate releases the results of its inquiry), we will be filing a supplemental complaint in accordance with such recommendation, Acosta said.
She also said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is currently conducting its own investigation of the PHP3.5 billion procurement of Dengvaxia.
The 2016 mass immunization program of the Garin-led DOH, which had administered the drug to over 800,000 schoolchildren, was discontinued in 2017 after Sanofi's admission.
Garin: PAO complaint has no basis
Sought for a comment, Garin dismissed the complaint as having no basis.
"Walang basehan ang reklamo kaya naman sasampahan din namin ang PAO ng kasong malicious prosecution (Their complaint has no basis so we will also file a complaint against PAO for malicious prosecution)," she said the former Health chief said in a text message.
"She is just using the poor victims for her personal agenda. This undue hysteria should already be stopped in the interest of public health," Garin added.
She slammed what she said was the "scare" caused in the context of the now-controversial anti-dengue vaccine.
"Highly irresponsible people who were touted as experts misled our people to distrust government. Who will call them to account? Now, instead of making it harder for the DOH, let us support Secretary Duque and the DOH," Garin said.
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.
Source: Philippine News Agency