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New dengue probe targets government executives

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Good Government will reopen next month its inquiry into the allegedly irregular procurement of P3.5 billion worth of the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine from French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur to exact accountability from the government officials involved in the mess.

Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, the panel’s chairman, said he will take up the issue when Congress resumes session next month.

“We will be trying to tie up some loose ends. Probably we can still hold a hearing or two,” Romualdo said. 

Congress adjourns session beginning today, Friday, for its Halloween break.

Romualdo, who assumed the chairmanship of the committee that was then led by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, also said his panel might invite former President Benigno Aquino III, former Health secretary Janette Garin, and then  Budget secretary Butch Abad. Garin and Abad both served under the past administration as resource persons.

Pimentel then said the committee that he led―after having conducted several hearings―would recommended the filing of charges against Aquino and the others involved in the Dengvaxia mess.  He also then said that the committee “did not clear anybody,” including Aquino, of administrative, civil and criminal liability.

The House good government and public accountability committee investigated the controversy, together with the health committee led by Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan.

Romualdo said he had already coordinated with Tan on the plan to reopen the congressional inquiry.

He said reopening the probe on the Dengvaxia mess will be “a fresh start.”  

“I was not part of the previous panel and I have not even read the articles in the newspapers,” Romualdo said.

The Pimentel committee was not able to officially release its report since Pimentel was replaced as the committee chairman following the surprise election of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in July.

The draft 38-page committee report included in its recommendations “the filing of the appropriate administrative and criminal cases against the government officials and employees involved in the irregular procurement of the dengue vaccine for having violated [Executive Order] 49, EO 292 on the disbursement of public funds, [Republic Act] 9184 and pertinent rules and regulations.”

It also recommended “the filing of the appropriate administrative and criminal cases against the government officials and employees, including private individuals, involved in the irregularity on the registration of Dengvaxia and on the procurement thereof under Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The draft committee report also said “despite noble intentions, the committees determined that there was undue haste in the procurement of the vaccines and the implementation of the dengue vaccination program disregarding existing laws, rules and regulations.”

French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur manufactured the drug, which in April 2016 was made the focus of a massive inoculation campaign by the Aquino administration.

In November 2017, Sanofi admitted that the vaccine could worsen the symptoms for “seronegative” children or those who had never contracted dengue but were given Dengvaxia shots anyway.

By this time, nearly 900,000 Filipino school children had been vaccinated under the anti-dengue program.

Topics: House of Representatives , Dengvaxia , Committee on Good Government , Sanofi Pasteur , Xavier Jesus Romualdo
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