Senator Dick Gordon INQUIRER file photo / EDWIN BACASMAS
Sen. Richard Gordon on Monday said former President Benigno Aquino III and former Health Secretary Janette Garin could be held criminally liable for implementing a dengue immunization program that had been halted over safety concerns.
Following Sanofi Pasteur’s statement last week that use of Dengvaxia must be strictly limited due to evidence it could worsen the disease in people not previously exposed to the dengue virus, Gordon said the matter was “begging a civil suit” and a “multimillion-peso” case at that because it involved thousands of children.
Gordon said that as chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, he would hold another hearing on the dengue vaccine next Monday following the latest controversy.
No due diligence
His committee conducted an inquiry last year after the reported deaths of two children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia.
“It proves the point that [the Aquino administration was] not exercising due diligence,” Gordon told reporters.
There was no comment from Aquino on Monday, but Garin welcomed the Senate inquiry and the investigation ordered by the Department of Justice.
“I will answer all questions at the right time and in the appropriate forum. I will also wait [for clarification] from the [Department of Health and the World Health Organization], as they are the authorities on this,” Garin said.
Garin apologized for her two days of silence, saying she was attending to her ailing father.
On Sunday, Garin said the immunization program was implemented in accordance with WHO guidelines.
Gordon said there “must have been added motive for fast-tracking” the immunization program, noting that the money for the purchase of the vaccine was approved on
Dec. 29, 2015, or the eve of the 2016 election campaign.
Only Sanofi can be sued
He said he found it unusual that Aquino met with Sanofi officials twice and then the approval of the immunization program came fast afterward.
Gordon said the government could not be sued in this case, only Sanofi.
“It’s going to be Sanofi but they can be held criminally liable,” he said, explaining this was for “negligence and even knowing that [the vaccine] has not been tested and they pursued it.”
‘Everybody from P-Noy’
Asked who should be held liable, he replied: “Everybody from P-Noy. P-Noy has to explain. He should explain that he does not know about it.”
P-Noy is the nickname of the former President.
Asked whether Garin should be held liable as well, he said “definitely.”
The good government committee of the House of Representatives may also reopen its inquiry into the immunization program, said Rep. Johnny Pimentel, the panel’s chair.
“We have to verify reports whether there were bad effects on the students,” he said, referring to the more than 733,000 schoolchildren who had been vaccinated under the program.
“If it’s true, then we will reopen the case,” he said. —With reports from Vince F. Nonato and Nestor P. Burgos
- Published in Top Stories