By Jennifer T. Santos
QUEZON CITY –The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft and malversation charges against former Department of Health Secretary now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin and four other DOH officials over the supposed unauthorized purchase of anti-Dengue vaccines known as Dengvaxia.
More than 800,000 school children were vaccinated in 2016 when Sanofi announced that Dengvaxia may cause adverse effects in those who have not had previous dengue infection. Scores of children vaccinated died.
In the charge sheet dated October 24, government prosecutors alleged that Garin, former DOH Undersecretary Kenneth Go, former DOH undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo former DOH Officer-in-Charge Director Maria Joyce Ducusin and former Executive Director Julius Lecciones of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously” caused the release of P3.57 billion of public funds to increase the budget for the Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI) but used the said funds for Dengvaxia purchase which is not part of the EPI.
The Ombudsman noted that the procurement of Dengvaxia from pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur in 2016 was not part of the health department’s expanded program for immunization (EPI).
The Ombudsman also alleged that Dengvaxia vaccines are not listed in Volume 1 of the Philippine National Drug Formulary, and have not secured an exemption from being listed in Philippine National Drug Formulary in violation of Executive Order No. 49, series of 1993, and related administrative orders and issuances.
“[These circumstances are] to the damage of public service [and are] contrary to law,” the criminal information states.
The Ombudsman recommended an P18,000 bail for each accused in the case.
Garin immediately expressed confidence that the graft and technical malversation charges filed against her would be dismissed.
Garin said her conscience is clear, as she welcomed the case as an “opportunity to finally put an end to the longstanding issue”.
“As we maintain our clear conscience and readiness to face the issues that confront us, we are confident that our sound exercise of discretion, which is backed by hard science, will disprove the allegations in the complaint,” she said.
She noted that advocating vaccine development entails a lot of risks for doctors and vaccinologists, arguing that it is part of the challenges “that come with our calling to save lives.”
“We firmly believe in the principles of justice and due process, which our legal system upholds. With this, we fully trust that our innocence will be duly proven, and the truth will come out in due time,” she said.