Former President Aquino, ex-health officials face mass murder, plunder complaint over Dengvaxia mess

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Former Health Secretary Janet Garin and former President Benigno Aquino III

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 15) — Former President Benigno Aquino III and his Health Secretary Janette Garin were slapped on Friday with a mass murder complaint over a controversial dengue vaccine program.

A mass murder complaint resulting to reckless imprudence and plunder against Aquino and Garin were filed before the Ombudsman by a former government official, Augusto Syjuco. Syjuco was the former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief in the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

"Dengvaxia is a duplicate of Mamasapano," Syjuco said referring to the bloody Mamasapano clash in January 2015 when 44 Special Action Force troops of the Philippine National Police were killed by militant rebels in Maguindanao.

Syjuco said the complaint against Aquino and Garin holds them responsible for putting over 83,000 lives at risk. The figure represents the 10 percent of 830,000 children who had no prior history of dengue but were administered the Dengavaxia vaccine under a government program during the last few months of the Aquinoadministration.

Vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur on November 29 said children with no prior exposure to dengue and received Dengvaxia faced a bigger risk of contracting a "serious disease."

READ: Drug firm warns of 'severe disease' from dengue vaccine for people with no prior infection

"There is only one death so far but one death is one death too many... There will be more than one death in this particular event. There will be several deaths," said Syjuco. He was referring to the case of an 11-year-old boy who died days after receiving Dengvaxia. The Health Department said the boy died due to a pre-existing heart ailment.

"He had congenital heart disease and he should not even have received Dengvaxia," Syjuco said.

Over 830,000 students from Regions 3, 4A, National Capital Region, and Region 7 were immunized with Dengvaxia in the government's P3.5 billion national dengue immunization program which began March 2016.

Both Aquino and Garin have denied any irregularities in the purchase of the Dengvaxia.

READ: Aquino defends quick purchase of Dengvaxia using gov't savings

Supporters of Aquino denied Syjuco's charges.

"He (Syjuco) has no evidence against the former President. At the end of the day, public money and precious time are wasted, and for what?" said Abigail Valte, who was Aquino's deputy presidential spokesperson.

The embattled former health secretary Garin reiterated Valte's statement, saying Syjuco had no evidence. She welcomed  the filing of the charges, saying it gives her and Aquino a chance to prove their innocence.

"This will give us a platform to be fully heard, present all documents without bias and prove our innocence. This is an opportunity to put a closure to this issue and let the truth come out," she said in a statement.

Syjuco is no stranger to legal battles. He faces seven cases of corruption filed with the Ombudsman during the Aquino administration. Five are pending in the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.