Ex-Pres. Aquino, other Cabinet officials to attend House probe on Dengvaxia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) — Following his appearance in the Senate probe on the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, former President Benigno Aquino III will also attend the House hearing on the issue on Monday.

Aquino's staff member confirmed his attendance to the hearing to CNN Philippines.

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, incumbent Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, and Education Secretary Leonor Briones are also invited to the probe.

In the Senate hearing on December 14, 2017, Aquino claimed no one advised him against procuring Dengvaxia from French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur.

"Bago nagdesisyon ang gobyerno sa Dengvaxia, habang nagdedesisyon, pagkatapos magdesisyon, at hanggang ngayon, walang nagparating sa akin ng pagtutol sa bakuna," he said.

[Translation: No one advised me against Dengvaxia during the decision-making process, after we procured, and until now.]

Health reform advocate Anthony Leachon said the former President could not be faulted if he was given "misleading" information on the vaccine.

The issue stemmed from an advisory released by Sanofi in December 2017, saying new studies showed those with no previous dengue infection and got vaccinated could contract "severe diseases." In response, the government halted its nationwide dengue vaccination program that began in 2016, after 837,000 children were immunized.

On February 12, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Inc. (VPCI) filed a joint complaint at the Justice Department against Aquino, Abad, Garin, former and current officials of the Health Department, as well as Zuellig Pharma and Sanofi Pasteur.

Among the charges are violation of the procurement law, graft, and technical malversation.

The complainants say testimonies of resource persons at House and Senate hearings support their claim that the respondents were "directly and proximately" responsible for the Dengvaxia mess. The complainants say the respondents should "be held to account not only for the ensuing deaths, but also for the undue injury caused any private party, including the government."

The complaint says Aquino and others illegally and anomalously funded and procured Dengvaxia, as well as "advisedly, thoughtlessly, and imprudently implemented the Dengue Immunization Program of the DOH en masse."

Officials from the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) also presented their findings on the bodies of the 22 children they autopsied, showing a link between their deaths and the dengue vaccine.

Health officials, however, claimed PAO's findings were inconclusive.

Meanwhile, through a parallel investigation on the death of 14 dengue patients, the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital panel of experts said their findings showed no direct link between the deaths and Dengvaxia.

The House of Representatives had earlier conducted a probe on the allegedly anomalous purchase of the Dengvaxia vaccines worth P3.5 billion.