By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) urged the Senate to recommend the filing of plunder charges against former President Benigno Aquino III, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, and other officials of the previous and current administration over the purchase and administration of the Dengvaxia vaccine.
Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, VACC legal counsel, said they want Aquino, Abad, and Garin probed for allegedly being behind the purchase of P3.5-billion dengue vaccine .
Also mentioned in the plunder case were former Health Undersecretary Boy Gako, former Undersecrtary and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) head Kenneth Hartigon-Go; U/Secs. Lilibeth David, Gerry Bayugo, Carol Taino, Lyndon See Uy; Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago; Expanded Program on Immunization Officer-in-Charge Joyce Ducusin; Region 3 Director Leonita Gorgolon; Region 4-A Director Rio Magpantay; NCR Director Ariel Valencia; and Philippine Children’s Medical Center chief Dr. Julius Lecciones.
Topacio, at the resumption of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s inquiry into the government’s dengue immunization program Thursday, said the P3.5 billion used for the purchase of Dengvaxia was not provided for in the 2015 and 2016 General Appropriations Acts and claimed that Aquino’s “express” authorization allowed its release following Abad’s recommendation.
Topacio said he was informed by two former Presidents, whose names he did not divulge, that the release of such amounts of money “could not have occurred without express presidential imprimatur.”
Topacio also alleged that Aquino “extended favors to the company” when clinical trials for the vaccine had not yet been completed. He added that the former Chief Executive committed “undue and indecent haste” in the procurement of the vaccines to launch the immunization program amid the 2016 elections.
He added that the budget for the vaccine had been approved despite pending FDA certification.
Garin and other health officials, meanwhile, allegedly connived with Aquino and Abad to undertake the mass vaccination.
Topacio, in an effort to prove their claims, also urged the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look into the officials’ bank accounts and check their assets, if warrented.
Meanwhile, the VACC called for the blacklisting of Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of Dengvaxia, from doing business in the Philippines, for supposedly conspiring with public officials for alleged corruption of public funds.