AUGUSTO SYJUCO, former head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and former lawmaker, filed on Friday complaints of plunder and mass murder against former president Benigno S. C. Aquino III and former Health Secretary Janette L. Garin over the Dengvaxia vaccine controversy.

News reports said Syjuco likened the dengue vaccine mess to the Mamasapano incident in 2015, which led to the deaths of 44 police commandos, close to 20 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters, and at least three civilians in clashes that followed a covert government operation to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in Maguindanao.

Syjuco based his complaint on news reports and asked the Ombudsman to further investigate the issue and provide evidence as well.

The complaint was filed a day after Aquino and Garin appeared before the Senate investigation into the matter and defended the purchase of P3.5 billion worth of vaccines from French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur in 2016.

In a radio interview, Garin in Filipino said that she welcomed the case because it gives us a platform to air fully everything that transpired, to submit all documents without bias that will result in a closure to the issue.

Garin acknowledged that Syjuco was a rival in Iloilo politics as she lamented how politics entered the anti-dengue vaccine controversy.

“The DOH should be on top of the situation but it seems so many parties have joined and the discussions are veering into politics. This cannot help the cause of our children’s health,” she said in Filipino.

In a related development, a senator said that former president Aquino was possibly “misinformed” about Dengvaxia.

It is “possible that he was misinformed on the whole dengue vaccine issue,” said Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, a member of the Senate blue ribbon committee. “What is evident is that the whole transaction was done in haste.”

Mr. Ejercito said the former president approved the vaccine “in good faith” in order to avert the dengue outbreak in the future.

“It is the other officials who might have taken advantage and did not give him an extensive report that included the risk if there was any,” Mr. Ejercito added.

Meanwhile, according to Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, “(a)ny chief executive relies on his or her alter egos for accurate and timely information. It is the responsibility of the alter ego, in this case former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette L. Garin to meticulously vet any proposals for public health to the president.”

For Mr. Gatchalian, the former DOH chief gave the former president incomplete information about the vaccine, which made him decide to conduct massive immunization among children.

Senators Francis Pancratius N. Pangilinan and Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, meanwhile, said they were dismayed over Senate blue ribbon committee chair Richard J. Gordon’s handling of the Senate hearing on the Dengvaxia issue last Thursday, which was attended by Mr. Aquino and other individuals involved including former DOH officials.

“Hopefully, we will have a chance to ask our questions thoroughly when another hearing is called,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

For her part, Ms. Hontiveros said: “The Dengvaxia could have been handled and managed in a more participatory and democratic manner in which Senators could have been given enough time to ask questions. After all, the blue ribbon committee is a collegial body.”

“I had a hard time asking questions because there was not enough latitude and flexibility. Despite that, I attended all the hearings, tried to be very patient and asserted my right to ask my own questions,” Ms. Hontiveros added.

Ms. Hontiveros also said that allowing Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) General Counsel Atty. Ferdinand S. Topacio to speak before the hearing was inappropriate.

“I also thought it was improper to let a non-resource speaker speak before the hearing and let the individual cast aspersions against personalities and then ask the committee to look for evidence to support the unsubstantiated claims,” Ms. Hontiveros added. — with Arjay L. Balinbin