By Charmaine A. Tadalan
LAWYER FERDINAND S. Topacio on Thursday filed before the Office of the Ombudsman plunder and malversation complaints against former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III and 21 others over alleged irregularities in the procurement of the Dengvaxia vaccine.
Meanwhile, current Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III and 36 others were slapped with new complaints over the dengue vaccination program.
Mr. Topacio said he filed the complaint against Mr. Aquino and the others precisely after the Senate investigation, with the aim of having its testimonies submitted as supporting documents.
“This is a conspiracy,” he said. “P3.5 billion was approved in ten days… Can you imagine how efficient they were in trying to plunder the national treasury?”
Mr. Topacio said he filed the complaint as a private individual. He is also the legal counsel of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
For his part, co-complainant and Citizen Crime Watch president Diego L. Magpantay accused the previous administration of procuring the vaccines to use the funds for the 2016 election campaign.
“Ito’y minadali. Sa tingin namin hindi talaga nangangailangan ng Dengvaxia, kundi kailangan nila ng pera dahil mag-eeleksyon,” Mr. Magpantay said. (This was rushed. We think there was no need for a Dengvaxia vaccine, but they needed the money for the election.)
Mr. Topacio, for his part, said further: “The entire immunization program of DoH (Department of Health) for that year, 2015, was only P3.2 billion. Buong taon na ‘yun, lahat na ng sakit ‘yun. (that’s for the whole year, covering all kinds of illness).”
He added: “Itong Dengvaxia, isang sakit lamang….Ilang buwan lang ang programa, P3.5 billion.” (Dengvaxia, is just for one disease. The program only covered a few months, P3.5 billion.)
Also charged were Mr. Aquino’s former officials in his Cabinet, former budget secretary Florencio B. Abad, former health secretary Janette L. Garin, and former executive secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr.
Also included among the respondents are: Ma. Carolina Vidal-Taiño, Gerardo V. Bayugo, Lilibeth C. David, Mario C. Villaverde, Lyndon L. Lee Suy, Nestor F. Santiago Jr., Laureano C. Cruz, Dr. Irma L. Asuncion, Maria Joyce U. Ducusin, Mar Wynn C. Bello, Leonita P. Gorgolon, Rio L. Magpantay, Ariel I. Valencia, Dr. Julius A. Lecciones, Nemesio T. Gako, Vicente Y. Belizario, Jr., Kenneth Y. Hartigan-Go, and Yolanda E. Oliveros.
This is the third case on Dengvaxia against Mr. Aquino following complaints of plunder and mass murder by former lawmaker Augusto Syjuco and graft charges by Gabriela Women’s Party.
On the charges against Mr. Duque and company, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida V. Rueda-Acosta said the three complaints were similar to the six previously filed accusing Mr. Duque, Ms. Garin, and officials of Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. and Zuellig Pharma of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.
Mr. Duque was included as the DoH incumbent.
Two of the complaints had the additional charge of obstruction of justice against the respondents.
Sought for comment, Mr. Duque said: “The cases filed are malicious, vexatious, libelous, meant to harass me! Again she did not implead former secretary (Paulyn Jean B. Rosell) Ubial who actually signed the documents to continue and even expand the Dengvaxia immunization program initiated by Garin.”
He added: “Acosta also did not implead Aquino and Abad! Bakit kaya? (How come?) I will file my counter affidavits and answer their complaints point by point once I receive copy of complaints.” — with Dane Angelo M. Enerio
By Charmaine A. Tadalan