By Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter
A JOINT House panel on Wednesday recommended charges against former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III and other officials in connection with the Dengvaxia controversy.
The House committees on good government and public accountability and on health, voting 14-4, had approved the report on their investigation on the purchase of the P3.5 billion worth of anti-dengue vaccines.
The report said Mr. Aquino, former budget secretary Florencio B. Abad and former health secretary Janette L. Garin, among others, should be held liable for graft and corruption, technical malversation, and grave misconduct.
“It is apparent that there was collusion among public officials to ensure that a large quantity of Dengvaxia vaccines would be purchased by the government for administration to schoolchildren,” the committees said in their report.
The panel was led by Surigao del Sur-2nd district Rep. Johnny Ty-Pimentel and later by Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus D. Romualdo.
Mr. Romualdo said the new draft report identified the concerned officials and specified their liabilities, as opposed to an earlier report.
“Actually hindi naman in-exonerate, hindi lang ni-name, hindi in-identify, so ‘yung conclusion dun sa first draft was…may finding ng liability against officials. Hindi lang in-identify ‘yung officials na ‘yun and kung anong ginawa nila to merit ‘yung liability na ‘yun,” Mr. Romualdo told reporters after the hearing. (Actually, the previous report did not exonerate them, it just didn’t name, or identify the officials; so the conclusion in the first draft was…there was a finding of liability against the officials. They were just not identified and the merit of those liability was not cited).
The report said Mr. Aquino is liable for authorizing the use of P3.5 billion in the purchase of the vaccines; Mr. Abad, for requesting authority to use savings; and Ms. Garin, for including the vaccines in the inoculation program.
Also among the respondents were physicians Maria Joyce U. Ducusin, Julius A. Lecciones, Kenneth Hartigan-Go, and members of the bids and awards committee of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center.
Further, the report said Mr. Aquino and his officials authorized the procurement of the vaccines, despite their having no allocation in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the procurement’s non-inclusion in the Department of Health’s Expanded Immunization Program.
“Thus, (whereas) the President may be authorized by law to augment any item in the general appropriations with savings from other items, this power to augment necessitates an existing appropriation to be augmented,” the report stated. “Savings cannot be used to fund procurement…for which no appropriations have been made in the GAA.”
House panel members had also proposed to include among the respondents the concerned officials of Sanofi Pasteur and former health secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial for expanding coverage of the vaccine program.
For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said “we defer to the House of Representatives, belonging to a separate and co-equal branch of government, on its recommendation to file charges against officials of the previous administration and other private individuals over the government’s suspended dengue vaccination program.”
Mr. Aquino faces several complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman as well as the Commission on Elections, in connection with election spending. Ms. Garin so far faces 32 complaints before the Department of Justice.