NBI files raps in Ombudsman vs. Aquino, others over Dengvaxia mess

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

July 16, 2018, 6:09 pm

MANILA -- The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation on the complaint for graft and other criminal offenses filed against former President Benigno Noynoy” Aquino III, two former Cabinet officials, and several former and incumbent officials of the Department of Health (DOH) and private individuals in connection with the PHP3.5 billion anti-dengue drive of the agency and French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, manufacturer of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.

The NBI filed the charges after following its own investigation based on the Dec. 4, 2017 order of former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to look into the controversy involving the purchase of the vaccine.

In a letter signed by NBI Director Dante Gierran addressed to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the NBI recommended the conduct of preliminary investigation against Aquino and his co-respondents including former budget secretary Florencio Abad, former health secretary Janette Garin for conniving to introduce the Dengvaxia vaccine in the country by circumventing procurement and other government processes.

The NBI sought the prosecution of Aquino for technical malversation under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) “by his authority, declared the use of savings from the FY2015 Mutual Benefit Personnel Fund and use the same to ‘augment’ a non-existent anti-dengue immunization program.”

The NBI said Aquino, Abad, and Garin should be held liable for technical malversation for conspiring to unlawfully effect the release of savings from the fiscal year 2015 Mutual Benefit Personnel Fund and use the same to augment the anti-dengue immunization program.

“Review of the 2015 GAA (General Appropriations Act) finds no reference to any item or program, activity or project for the procurement of anti-dengue vaccine in particular,” the NBI said.

Apart from Aquino Abad, and Garin also named respondent are health officials Maria Joyce Ducusin, Julius Lecciones, Maria Wilda Silva, Mario Baquilod, and Rosalind Vianzon.

The agency also recommended that former health secretary Paulyn Ubial be investigated for technical malversation for pursuing the Degue vaccine program project despite knowing that it was never part of the 2015 or 2016 General Appropriations Act.

“There is technical malversation because government funds amounting to PHP3 billion intended for the 2015 Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) of the Executive Department was utilized for the procurement of Dengvaxia under the DOH school-based immunization program. Although the source of fund was declared as savings by the Chief Executive, its intended purpose failed as there is no existing programs , activity or project for dengue procurement and immunization,” the NBI said.

The vaccine was purchased for the amount of PHP3.5 billion and was used for the vaccination of 830,000 children.

“Parents of vaccinated children, regardless of status, was shaken by the latest discovery of Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. (SPI) that the Dengvaxia should not be introduced to seronegative individuals,” the NBI lamented.

The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) cited that there are over 200 deaths which can be attributed to Dengvaxia.

The NBI said that the purchase was made without certificates of product registration (CPR) given to Dengvaxia which only received a certificate of exemption.

The bureau added there were irregularities in the issuance of the exemption and that “the issuance of Certificate of Exemption was reduced into a mere procedural technicality that should be complied in order for the responsible officials to procure Dengvaxia.”

Likewise, the NBI asked the Ombudsman to hold Garin, health undersecretary Kenneth Hartigan-Go, former officer-in-charge (OIC) of Food and Drug Authority (FDA) lawyer Nicolas Lutero; former OIC of Center For Drug Research and Regulation(CDRR)-FDA Ma. Lourdes Santiago; OIC CDRR-FDA Melody Zamudio ; FDA consultants Grace Medina and Imelda Matero; health undersecretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Vito Roque; DOH official Vito Roque; and Sanofi officers Conchita Santos, Oliver Charmeil, Guillaume Leroy, Jean Antoine Zinsou, Thomas Triomphe , Joselito del Mundo Sta.Ana and Jervin Papelleras liable for violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The NBI said Formulary Executive Council chairperson Froilan Bagabaldo and members Cleotilde How, Cecicilia Jimeno, Hilton Lam, Cecilia Maramba-Lazarte, Paul Matthew Pasco, Imelda Pena and John Wong should also be investigated for violation of the same provision R.A 3019.

The NBI accused the respondents of “causing undue injury” to the government by giving Sanofi unwarranted privilege in connection with the anti-dengue vaccine deal.

To recall, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI) filed criminal charges against former President Aquino and 19 others over the Dengvaxia controversy before the DOJ last February.

The DOH suspended the vaccination program in December 2017 after Sanofi Pasteur said the vaccine poses risk to those with no prior dengue infection. (PNA)