The Department of Justice (DOJ) has created a new panel that will handle the complaint filed against former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, his two former executives, and other officials in connection with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.
Through Office Order Number 439, the DOJ formed a four-panel person that will conduct a preliminary investigation on the criminal complaint filed by Vanguard of the Philippines, Inc. (VCPI) and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. has designated Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag as head of the panel.
Other members of the panel include Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez and Asst. State Prosecutors Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan and Gino Paolo Santiago.
The group of prosecutors is tasked to determine if there is sufficient evidence to indict Aquino and other respondents for multiple homicide and physical injuries, malversation of public funds, and violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Aside from Aquino, other respondents are former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Health Secretary Janet Garin and other former and incumbent Department of Health (DOH) officials.
Also among the respondents include senior executives of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur and of and Zuellig Pharma.
Sanofi is the developer and manufacturer of Dengvaxia, while Zuellig Pharma supplied the vaccine to DOH.
Complainants claimed that Aquino and other officials “anomalously and illegally funded and procured the Dengvaxia vaccine and ill-advisedly, thoughtlessly, and imprudently” implemented the dengue immunization program “by unduly influencing or exerting undue pressure on any member of the BAC (bids and awards committee) or any officer or employee of the procuring entity to take a particular action which favors or tends to favor a particular bidder.”
More than 830,000 Filipino children were administered Dengvaxia since the government implemented the dengue immunization program in April 2016.
The program was suspended last December following an announcement made by Sanofi that the vaccine poses health risk when administered on a person who has not been previously infected with the virus.
VACC filed the complaint amid reported deaths and serious illnesses of children administered with the anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.
But according to the current head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Sanofi Pasteur already knew the risks of the vaccine as early as 2015.
During the resumption of House hearings into the dengue immunization program on Monday, February 26, FDA Director General Nela Charade Puno claimed Sanofi already knew about the vaccine’s risks when it applied for a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) in Singapore last year.
“We visited some of the documents of Singapore. If you will check under publication, they approved Dengvaxia CPR September 2016. But with their publication they already announced that it is not to be used for patients who had not had dengue,” Puno told lawmakers.
She continued, “Ibig sabihin, alam na nila December 22, 2015, at dapat sinabi na nila sa Pilipinas na ‘di ito pwede sa mga batang ‘di pa nagkakaroon ng dengue (That means, they already knew on December 22, 2015, and they should have told the Philippines the vaccine cannot be given to children who haven’t had dengue).”
It was on December 22, 2015 when FDA allowed Sanofi to commercially sell Dengvaxia in the country. Sanofi only issued the warning on their vaccine more publicly on November 29, 2017.