VACC wants ex-President Aquino charged over Dengvaxia issue

MANILA — The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Thursday said that it is recommending plunder charges against former President Benigno Aquino III in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of Dengvaxia dengue vaccines during his term.

VACC counsel Ferdinand Topacio said, during the resumption of the Senate blue ribbon probe into the controversial dengue vaccine, made this call noting that Aquino and other Cabinet members accumulated millions of pesos worth of ill-gotten wealth from purchasing the vaccine.

Topacio said that the group is also recommending plunder charges against former Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Garin, and other health officials.

He said that it was Abad who released a memo that recommended the release of PHP3.5 billion used to purchase the vaccine.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, however, reminded Topacio that the probe was only being done in aid of legislation.

Drilon said Topacio is already making legal conclusions by making these allegations.

A former member of the DOH Expert Panel on Dengue and health reform advocate Dr. Anthony Leachon, for his part, said that it was not right to blame Aquino if he had been fed with “bad science” or wrong information.

“How can you blame the (former) president if he was fed with bad science or wrong information?” Leachon said.

Leachon pointed out that the problem was that Aquino felt that there was a sense of urgency that led him to approve of the purchase.

It was Dr. Antonio Dans, professor of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, who said that bad science is the root of the problem.

“There were already signals of harm in zero negative patients many years ago and it was ignored initially and it led to a delayed recognition of that harm and the end result is we have patients who are uninformed,” Dans said.

He said that all parties concerned — the World Health Organization, DOH, physicians, and patients are all victims.