MANILA, Philippines – Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said, on Monday February 26, that all those accountable for the botched P3-billion dengue-immunization program should already be charged by now.
At the House of Representatives probe on the Dengvaxia mess, Zarate said cases should be lodged against former President Benigno Aquino III, as well as current Health officials who continued the program.
“Charges should be filed starting with former President Aquino and his cabal of officials who rushed the mass vaccination of mostly poor children. But it should not stop there,” he said.
“Charges should also be filed against officials of the Duterte administration who continued the Dengvaxia program despite questions already raised by health professionals and advocates.”
“This lack of concern and prudence also caused the mass vaccination of many more children even under the present administration,” he added.
Current Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier suspended the vaccination program after French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur bared, in November 2017, that Dengvaxia could worsen symptoms of the disease for people who had not previously been infected by the virus.
The anti-dengue vaccine, which was administered to more than 830,000 children in areas with high incidences of dengue, was launched during the term of former Health Secretary Janette Garin in 2016.
But this was later continued by former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial and Duque.
Zarate lamented how “the people’s confusion, anger, and anxiety mount each day because no public official or company has been charged.”
On top of seeking accountability, he said, lawmakers should fast-track legislation to improve the public health system, allot adequate budget for public health services, and prohibit privatization and business and commercial interests in public health services.
At the same House hearing, Aquino criticized an unnamed government official for “politicizing” the Dengvaxia issue.
“Alam na po nating pinasukan na ang isyung ito ng politika,” he said. “Silang mga aral at eksperto, sila po ang ating pagsalitain para mapayuhan tayo ng maayos (We know that the issue has been politicized. Let the experts speak to provide us with good advice.).”
Reacting to this, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said if the issue is indeed politicized, it is “certainly not because of the President.”
Both chambers of Congress have been conducting separate probes into the controversial anti-dengue program.
In previous hearings, health experts have clarified that although some children vaccinated with Dengvaxia have died, these cases could not yet be directly attributed to the vaccine, and further studies should be conducted to prove otherwise. (davaotoday.com)