Aquino, 46 others expected to attend Dengvaxia probe Monday

MANILA -- Former president Benigno Aquino III, two former Cabinet officials, and several former and incumbent officials of the Department of Health (DOH) are expected to appear on Monday before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the preliminary investigation on the complaint filed by two anti-crime advocacy groups over the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

The DOJ panel, headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag with members, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez, Assistant State Prosecutors Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan and Gino Paolo Santiago, has already issued subpoenas to Aquino, former budget secretary Florencio Abad, former health secretary Janette Garin and 44 other respondents to attend the preliminary investigation on June 4.

The criminal complaint was filed by newly appointed Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lawyer Manuelito Luna and Eligio Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Inc. (VPCI).

The VACC and VPCI filed the complaint against them for possible violation of Section 3 of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); Section 65 of RA 9184 (Government Procurement, Reform Act); Article 220 (Technical Malversation) of the Revised Penal Code; Article 365 (Criminal Negligence) of the Revised Penal Code; and for other violations of the law.

During the hearing last May 15, Balauag told the lawyers of the respondents to ask their clients to attend the next hearing at 10 a.m. on Monday for the submission of counter-affidavits, where respondents are required to be present to reaffirm the sworn statements before the DOJ panel.

Explaining why the panel took cognizance of the case despite the complaint's graft aspect, Balauag said the case also has a criminal aspect -- that of violation of the Revised Penal Code, over which the DOJ has primary jurisdiction. It is the Office of the Ombudsman that has primary jurisdiction over graft cases.

The complaint filed against respondents does not pertain to anti-graft alone. The DOJ assumes jurisdiction on other crimes, like technical malversation and violation of procurement law, that's why we assume jurisdiction. But there are other offenses covered under the jurisdiction of the NPS (National Prosecution Service). Leave it to us on how to properly evaluate, she said during the hearing after one of the lawyers of the respondents asked the panel about the jurisdiction over the complaint.

Aside from Aquino, Abad and Garin, also named as respondents were DOH undersecretaries Dr. Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; and assistant secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago.

Others named were the health department's Financial Management Service director Laureano Cruz; directors Dr. Joyce Ducusin, Dr. May Wynn Belo, Dr. Leonila Gorgolon, Dr. Rio Magpantay, Dr. Ariel Valencia and Dr. Julius Lecciones; retired health undersecretaries Dr. Nemesio Gako, Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., and Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go; and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, who served as Garin's head executive assistant.

Also named as respondents in the complaint were officials and employees of the pharmaceutical company Zuellig, which supplied the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, and Sanofi Pasteur, the Dengvaxia manufacturer. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency