VACC calls for seizure of Dengvaxia deal documents

MANILA -- The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) asked Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to seize all documents regarding the government's purchase of Dengvaxia, the world's first-ever dengue vaccine which was found to cause health risk to individuals with no prior dengue infection.

VACC lawyer Ferdinand Topacio made the call as he expressed concerns that the documents regarding the deal which are stored in government offices are now being destroyed.

May nagsabi po sa akin na isang insider na shine-shred na raw ang mga dokumento (An insider had told me that documents are now being shredded), he said during the press conference on Tuesday.

Kung ako sa kanya (referring to Aguirre), ipasusugod ko na yang mga ahente ng NBI, i-seize na lahat ng mga dokumento tungkol rito sa Dengvaxia, right now (If I were him, I would order right now the deployment of NBI agents to seize documents concerning Dengvaxia), Topacio said.

The lawyer assured the NBI does not need to secure search warrants to seize the documents.

Those are government documents, those are official documents. I-seize nila baka pa masira yung mga natitira (They should seize the remaining documents so these won't be destroyed), Topacio added.

The VACC called the immunization program "worse than any heinous crime," and urged the DOH to set up help desks to receive complaints from concerned parents and also vowed to help them seek compensation for the families whose children may have received potentially risky anti-dengue shots.

The group is also pushing for the conduct of investigation in order to run after those responsible for the mass vaccination.

Earlier, Aguirre ordered NBI Director Dante Gierran to conduct investigation and case build-up over the alleged danger to public health arising from the PHP3.5 billion anti-dengue vaccination drive of the DOH and Sanofi Pasteur and if evidence so warrants, to file appropriate charges thereon.

Aguirre required the NBI to submit a status report on their investigation regarding the issue, adding that he did not give the NBI a timeframe on their probe.

He said the probe would look into whether government officials should be held liable for the seemingly rushed procurement of the vaccine and immunization of more than 700,000 children.

Aguirre admitted that among those who would be investigated for possible culpabilities is former President Benigno Noynoy Aquino III, who gave the go-signal for the DOH to proceed with the vaccination project in 2016.

Also expected to be investigated is then Health Secretary Janette Garin who insisted on implementing the project despite strong objections from medical experts due to lack of certification from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Aguirre also ordered the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) to provide free legal assistance to the victims that will file possible criminal charges against those involved in the controversial PHP3.5-billion dengue vaccine project of the Department of Health (DOH).

In his Department Order No. 792 issued Dec. 12, Aguirre ordered PAO Chief Atty. Persida Acosta to extend free legal assistance in civil, criminal, and administrative cases to all possible victims of Dengvaxia related injuries, illness and deaths.

Pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur recently issued an advisory to the public that its product Dengvaxia is effective for people who have had dengue prior to immunization but creates a risk of a "severe" case of dengue for people who have not yet had dengue.

Prior to this, Philippine health officials is now under fire for obviously acting in undue by allowing the country to be the first Asian country to approve the vaccine for individuals aged nine to 45 years old in December 2015.

Source: Philippine News Agency