If President Rodrigo Duterte had his way, those who allegedly conspired to procure and administer the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine to schoolchildren should be put to death.
This was bared by Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, who said that the President had advised her to file murder complaints against those responsible for the death of young dengue patients.
Acosta said that Duterte gave her this advice during a meeting in Malacañang in February.
Also in that meeting were former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Dr. Anthony Leachon, Dr. Francisco Cruz, then-VACC chairman Dante Jimenez, and PAO forensics chief Dr. Erwin Erfe, Acosta said.
The PAO chief made the revelation during the continuation of the Department of Justice’s probe into the second batch of Dengvaxia complaints.
She said they presented to Duterte the findings of the first batch of complaints.
But Acosta admitted that she did not heed President’s advice and instead filed complaints for criminal negligence, reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, because they lacked pertinent documents.
“Wala pa kaming complete documents. Noong natanggap namin ‘yun, naisampa na ang first batch. Reckless imprudence lang ebidensya,” she said.
Acosta said the meeting with Duterte on the filing of murder case against those involved in the Dengvaxia controversy was supposed to be confidential, but she admitted that she inadvertently mentioned about it.
The PAO is reportedly studying the possibility of upgrading the criminal negligence complaints to murder but on Thursday, Acosta said that PAO will wait for the result of the probe on the first batch of Dengvaxia complaints.
PAO filed two more complaints against former Health Secretary Janette Garin, current Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other respondents also named in previous complaints on Thursday.
Duque is being held responsible in a case because the child was supposedly inoculated during his term while he is accused of obstruction of justice in another case because he allegedly refused to provide a master list of those who received the Dengvaxia vaccine.
In all, four batches or 29 Dengvaxia complaints are pending before the DOJ.
Garin and 37 others are facing two more criminal complaints, in connection with the deaths of schoolchildren inoculated with Dengvaxia vaccine.
The charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and violations of the Anti-Torture Act and Consumer Act were filed by the families of two more victims, schoolchildren Shiela Mae Guerra and Gillian Vasquez.
In all, a total of 29 number of cases were filed by the families of the victims.
The latest cases were filed by Guerra’s mother Sonia Guerra from Las Piñas City and Vasquez’s parents Felix Noel and Honey from Cardona, Rizal.
Aside from Garin and Duque, also charged were several health officials and executives of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur and distributor Zuellig Pharma.
The complainants accused Garin and others of negligence for their failure to obtain the consent and inform the Dengvaxia recipients and their parents or families of the dangers and risks related to the vaccine.
The new complaints, meanwhile, cited the failure of the health department under Garin to conduct proper screening of Dengvaxia recipients and implement active and aggressive monitoring and surveillance.
Acosta said Duque was included in the latest charge sheets because the two victims were inoculated with the vaccine during his term in the DOH.
The DOJ, through a panel chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Maria Emilia Victorio, has already completed preliminary investigation on the first batch of cases involving deaths of nine schoolchildren -Aejay Bautista, Angelica Pestilos, Lenard Baldonado, Zandro Colite, Abbie Hedia, Jansyn Bataan, Mark Axel Ebonia, Rey Justin Almagno and Alexander Jaime.
A separate panel chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay is currently conducting PI on the second batch of cases involving eight victims - Clarissa Alcantara, Christine Mae De Guzman, Erico Leabres, Roshaine Cariño, Naomi Nimura, John Paul Rafael, Michael Tablate and Christine Joy Asuncion.
During the hearing Thursday, the families of complainants reiterated their plea for the indictment of Garin and asked the prosecutors to reject the defense she raised in her counter-affidavit.
The panel set the final hearing on Dec. 3 before submitting the case for resolution.
The PAO also filed recently a third batch of cases involving 10 victims - Wiljen Alcontin, Eleazar Brigoli Jr., Trishanne Asona, EJ Christian Apa, Joaniña Cortes, Gladimeir Juevesano, Kianah Mae Racuya, Adeline Castroverde, Jessica Viaros and Senior Police Officer 2 Vicente Arugay.
The PAO, which was tasked by the DOJ to conduct fact-finding investigation and build up on Dengavaxia cases, has so far documented at least 100 deaths from the controversial vaccine approved and implemented during the previous administration.
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