Gordon: Aquino, Garin may face charges over Dengvaxia mess

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Former Health Secretary Janette Garin and former President Noynoy Aquino

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 7) — The Senate panel probing the government's controversial dengue vaccination program may recommend the filing of charges against former President Benigno Aquino III and other ex-officials.

"Ang linaw ng paper trail and there is a direct causal connection," Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard Gordon said in an interview following the panel's Tuesday hearing.

[Translation: The paper trail is clear and there is a direct causal connection.]

Gordon also said aside from Aquino, former Health Secretary Janette Garin and former Budget Secretary Butch Abad may also face charges for their involvement in the Dengvaxia program.

He added that the people involved in the controversial program must answer to the public.

"At least, paliwanag sila sa mamamayan na hindi nila ginawa ito dahil for greed, for politics, for whatever," he said.

[Translation: They should at least explain to the public that they didn't do this for greed, for politics, for whatever.]

Hasty purchase

Gordon noted the haste in the purchase of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which the government used for the ₱3.5-billion dengue vaccination program it kicked off in April 2016.

Read: DOH starts dengue vaccination program

The Health Department suspended the program in December 2017 after Dengvaxia's manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said those who got the vaccine, but have not yet had dengue, may be at risk of "severe disease."

Read: Gov't halts dengue vaccination program due to health risk

"Yung lumalabas talaga, tuwing lalakad sa abroad, bumibilis yung papeles," Gordon said. "Nagmamadali dun sa pagkuha ng FDA (Food and Drug Administration) permit. Pati yung (Philippine National) Formulary, ini-influence."

[Translation: What's really emerging is that when there are trips abroad, the papers move faster. There is a rush to get the FDA permit. And even the Formulary is being influenced.]

The Philippine National Formulary is a list of drugs that all pharmacies in the Philippines must carry, following a review by the Formulary Executive Committee.

In February 2016, Garin issued a certificate of provisional exemption for Dengvaxia so that it would not be included in the Formulary.

Related: DOH medical expert panel: Dengvaxia rollout 'premature'

Aquino and Garin both met with Sanofi officials in 2015, with the Budget Department issuing in December 2015 a ₱3.5-billion Special Allotment Release Order to Garin's office to purchase the vaccines.

Read: TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy

Aquino said in a December 2017 Senate hearing that his administration decided to buy Dengvaxia for the public's protection.

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

"From our perspective, the choice is simple. We can implement it at this point and time for the protection or wait at least a year as a minimum and expose our people to a risk that could have been prevented because of this vaccine," Aquino said.

Other cases

Aquino and Garin likewise face before the Ombudsman a mass murder and plunder complaint over the Dengvaxia mess filed by former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Boboy Syjuco.

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

Meanwhile, the Public Attorney's Office filed a civil case on Monday against Garin, former Health Undersecretary Kenneth Uy and other health officials for implementing the program with undue haste even if "the product has no proven safety and efficacy."

Read: PAO files civil case vs. ex-DOH, Sanofi officials over Dengvaxia