THE Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday said it is poised to conduct preliminary investigation into criminal charges lodged by anticorruption groups against former President Benigno S. Aquino III and 19 others for their alleged role in the P3.5- billion Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine mess.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II said the probe will commence even as there is no conclusive findings yet as to the cause of death of several children who perished after being inoculated with the vaccine.
Aguirre said it would be the burden of the private complainants to substantiate their allegations against the respondents during the preliminary probe.
“It’s up to the complainants to prove their allegations. It’s their duty to support their cases and not depend on another’s submission,” Aguirre told reporters.
Over 830,000 children—aged 9 and above—from public schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Cebu were reportedly vaccinated with Dengvaxia since it was launched in April 2016.
The charges were filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI), Dr. Francisco Cruz and lawyer Nasser Marohomsalic.
They filed their complaint for multiple homicide and physical injuries, malversation of public funds, and violations of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) against Aquino, former and incumbent officials of the Department of Health (DOH) and pharmaceutical firms Sanofi Pasteur and Zeullig ahead of conclusive findings by government agencies on whether the reported deaths of children inoculated with Dengvaxia were caused by the vaccine.
Aguirre pointed out that the complaint filed by VACC and VPCI is independent of other possible complaints to be filed by other parties over the same controversy.
“It would be up to the prosecutors how to treat the complaints, whether to consolidate them or resolve [these] separately,” the justice chief said.
VACC lawyer Manuelito Luna earlier said they have conducted their own fact-finding investigation and submitted to the DOJ evidence as well as records of the Senate and DOH probes.
Besides Aquino, the other former top officials of the government named in the complaint were ex-Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad and former Secretary Janette Garin; DOH Undersecretaries Dr. Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; assistant secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; DOH Financial Management Service Director Laureano Cruz; DOH directors Dr. Joyce Ducusin, Dr. May Wynn Belo, Dr. Leonila Gorgolon, Dr. Rio Magpantay, Dr. Ariel Valencia and Dr. Julius Lecciones; retired DOH Undersecretaries Dr. Nemesio Gako, Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr. and Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go; and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, who served as head executive assistant to Garin.
The groups said they filed the complaint based on the testimonies of the resources persons invited to shed light on the issue by the House Committee on Health and the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation (Blue Ribbon) joint with other concerned committees, which substantiated their claim that the respondents were “directly and proximately” responsible for the Dengvaxia vaccine mess.
They said Aquino and the other respondents should be held responsible for “ill-advisedly, thoughtlessly and imprudently” implemented the anti-dengue vaccination program.
They added that the purchase of the Dengvaxia vaccine was approved by Aquino and Abad even if the program had no allocation in the 2016 national budget.
Execute them! I am volunteering to be executioner!