The Department of Justice (DOJ) will conduct a probe on a criminal complaint lodged against former Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and 19 others in connection to the controversial anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday, February 13, said they will start a preliminary investigation on the joint complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI), and former Department of Health (DOH) consultant Francisco Cruz.
As the government’s fact-finding into the cause of deaths of children who were injected the vaccine is still ongoing, Aguirre noted that it is the complainant’s burden to prove the liabilities of the respondents.
“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,” the justice secretary said.
He also noted that the complaint filed by the VACC, VPCI, and Cruz is independent of other possible complaints on the same issue.
“It would be up to the prosecutors how to treat the complaints, whether to consolidate them or resolve separately,” Aguirre added.
The VACC, VPCI, and Cruz on Monday, February 12, filed a complaint for multiple homicide and physical injuries through negligence against Aquino, former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio Abad, former DOH Secretary Janette Garin, and 17 others.
Respondents also include former and incumbent DOH officials; senior executives of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, the developer and manufacturer of Dengvaxia; and Zuellig Pharma, Sanofi’s distributor in the Philippines.
“Since [the] correlation between vaccine (Dengvaxia) and deaths have been established prima facie, respondents Aquino III, Abad, Garin and the other respondents should stand trial for criminal negligence,” VACC lawyer Atty. Manuelito Luna told reporters.
He went on to say, “The causal relationship between vaccine and deaths, dengue shock or adverse events, under the circumstances, could hardly be ignored. And the number of counts would be the number of subjects inoculated irrespective of the number of doses administered,”
The respondents are likewise accused of malversation of public funds, and violations of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act., and R.A. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
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 could cause a more severe case of dengue when administered to a person who had not been previously infected with the virus.
“Clearly, the deaths and dengue shock or adverse events noted following inoculation of Dengvaxia are correlated or linked,” the complaint read.
It further stated, “The causal relationship between vaccine and deaths, dengue shock or adverse events, under the circumstances, could hardly be ignored. And the number of counts would be the number of subjects inoculated irrespective of the number of doses administered.”