Groups ask DOJ to summon Dengvaxia records


MANILA — The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Inc. (VPCI) on Monday asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to subpoena the records of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine from various government agencies to prevent a cover-up of the investigation on the PHP3.5-billion immunization project.

In a three-page letter, the VACC and VPCI asked the DOJ to require the submission of all documents on the immunization project from the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and other agencies.

VACC lawyer Manuelito Luna said their move was a “precautionary measure” to ensure that evidence related to the investigation on the anti-dengue vaccine would not be compromised.

Fellow VACC lawyer Nasser Marohomsalic said the documents should “be preserved for purposes of preliminary investigation” on the criminal charges they have filed against former president Benigno Aquino III and 19 other officials last week before the DOJ.

“The documents requested to be produced are material and relevant, and tended to establish the facts in the issue,” part of the letter said.

Among the documents sought by the VACC and Vanguards are the contracts with Sanofi Pasteur and Zuellig Pharma Corp., purchase orders, bidding documents, disbursement vouchers, studies, delivery and payment receipts, registration and budget papers related to the implementation of the immunization project and technical papers for its implementation from the Philippine Children Medical Center.

They also asked the DOJ to summon the records for license and product registration of Dengvaxia issued by the Food and Drug Administration, as well as DBM documents, including the special allotment release order for the project.

Likewise, they also asked for the submission to the DOJ of records pertaining to the exemption of Dengvaxia from the national drug formulatory by the DOH Formulatory Executive Council and the cost effective study conducted by Dr. Hilton Lam of the UP National Institute of Health.

The VACC and Vanguard also wanted the forensic findings of the Public Attorney’s Office and the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) on the deaths associated with Dengvaxia.

Apart from Aquino, also charged with multiple homicide and physical injuries through negligence were former budget secretary Florencio Abad; former health secretary Janette Garin; incumbent DOH undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David, and Mario Villaverde; retired undersecretaries Nemesio Gako, Vicente Belizario Jr. and Kenneth Hartigan-Go; assistant secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; former financial management service director Laureano Cruz; incumbent DOH directors Joyce Ducusin, Mar Wynn Bello, Leonila Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay, Ariel Valencia, and Julius Lecciones; and Garin’s former executive assistant Yolanda Oliveros.

Also included in the charge sheet were senior officials of Sanofi Pasteur and Selling Pharma, the DOH’s supplier of the vaccine.

The respondents were also charged with malversation of public funds and violations of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act).

The VACC and VPCI claimed that procurement of the Dengvaxia was “irrefutably” fast-tracked and may have transgressed pertinent provision of the government procurement law.

A total of 830,000 children and 30,000 more, including members of the Philippine National Police, received doses of the Dengvaxia vaccine.

“Since correlation between vaccine (Dengvaxia) and deaths had been established prima facie, respondents Aquino III, Abad, Garin and the other respondents (concerned DOH officials, past and present) should stand trial for criminal negligence under Article 365 of the RPC (Revised Penal Code). The respondents should be charged with multiple homicide and physical injuries through criminal negligence,” read the 17-page complaint.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said it would be the burden of the private complainants to prove the criminal liabilities of the respondents during hearings.

“It is up to the complainants to prove their allegations. It is their duty to support their cases and not depend on another’s submission,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre said the complaint filed by VACC and VPCI is independent of other possible complaints to be filed by other parties on the same controversy.

“It would be up to the prosecutors how to treat the complaints, whether to consolidate them or resolve separately,” he noted.