Former Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial on Friday asked the Department of Justice to dismiss the criminal charges filed against her by her predecessor, former Secretary Janette Garin, in connection with the deaths of schoolchildren inoculated with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.
In her counter-affidavit, Ubial appealed to the DOJ’s panel of prosecutors led by Assistant State Prosecutor Claire Eufracia Pagayanan to dismiss outright Garin’s charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against her for lack of basis.
Ubial branded as “false and unfounded” the allegation made by Garin that she should be held criminally liable because it was her who decided to shift the dengue immunization program from being school-based to community-based which contributed to alleged reported deaths among immunized children.
According to Ubial, Garin “merely surmises that the implementation of the Community-Based Dengue Immunization Program ‘may have’ contributed to ‘alleged reported deaths’.”
She said the complaint “does not allege, much less prove through any piece of evidence, the factual circumstances surrounding said alleged deaths. To repeat, probable cause demands more than bare suspicion and must rest on competent relevant evidence.”
“Thus, even assuming that the alleged reported deaths occurred, the Complaint-Affidavit should nevertheless be dismissed outright because it fails to establish the said deaths were caused by Dengvaxia administered during the Community-Based Dengue Immunization Program,” she added.
Ubial also debunked the claim of Garin that the community-based implementation of the dengue immunization program was contrary to the World Health Organization recommendations that immunization programs should be school-based.
“The WHO, in several publications, has never stated that the dengue immunization programs should only be implemented through a school-based method. In fact, the WHO SAGE (Strategic Advisory Group of Experts) has stated that dengue vaccines ‘may be administered either through health facilities or through school-based programs,” she said.
Lastly, Ubial explained that she was “not negligent or imprudent in implementing the Community-Based Dengue Immunization Program” and that the decision to implement it was “a result of discussions by the DOH Executive Committee, consultations with medical experts, and was supported by scientifically and medically backed-up research culled from several years of clinical trials.”
“It is true that at the onset, I had previously expressed my doubts over the safety of Dengvaxia. However, in discharging my primary responsibility as DOJ Secretary to promote, protect and restore the health of the people, I proceeded with utmost care and caution to mobilize the resources of the DOJ in gathering all the relevant evidence on the safety and efficacy of Dengvaxia,” she pointed out.
Garin, who is facing a string of criminal charges herself before the DOJ over deaths attributed to Dengvaxia vaccine, served as health chief from December 2014 to June 2016, followed by Ubial, who was in the post from July 2016 to October 2017.
A total of 29 cases for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and violations of the Anti-Torture Act and Consumer Act have been filed against Garin and 37 other health officials, executives of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur and distributor Zuellig Pharma.
The Public Attorney’s Office, which has been tapped to conduct fact-finding probe and build up cases in the Dengvaxia controversy, earlier explained that Ubial has not been charged in their cases because she would be used as a prosecution witness.