The late Senator Joker Arroyo was correct when he once said that the eye-popping anomalies perpetrated during Noynoy Aquino’s term lead directly to the former president’s doorstep. The Dengvaxia scandal is one such terrible scandal that goes straight to the Aquino family home’s residence on Times Street.
It took guts for former Health Secretary Enrique Ona to call out his ex-boss Aquino for lying to the Senate about Ona’s alleged presence in Beijing during a meeting between Aquino and executives of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. By the time the meeting was held on the sidelines of a regional summit, Ona told the Senate, he had already quit as health secretary and wasn’t anywhere near Beijing.
Ona’s testimony before Senator Richard Gordon’s Blue Ribbon committee last Monday is the most damning against Aquino so far. If, after all, Aquino cannot even be trusted to remember who was with him when he met with Sanofi executives who were selling the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia to the Philippines, how are we to trust him when he says that everything about the P3.5-billion purchase was above-board?
I say that Ona’s declaration was gutsy because so far, all of Aquino’s former top officials who have been linked to the vaccine scandal have not spoken a word against the ex-president even after his testimony before the Gordon committee. This despite the clear evidence that the Dengvaxia purchase was railroaded right before Aquino’s term ended and could in all likelihood not have proceeded had the president himself not leaned hard on his people involved in the scandal, led by Ona’s replacement, Secretary Janette Garin.
It was truly unfair for Aquino to implicate Ona, the well-respected medical professional, in the Dengvaxia purchase. After all, Ona’s removal from the Cabinet in late 2014 is believed to be the direct result of his opposition to the Dengvaxia rollout program, which eventually led to the vaccination of up to 830,000 children who may have been been put in danger of contracting severe dengue after being given the vaccine.
It took Garin to push through with Aquino’s vaccination scheme, with the help of a bunch of senior health officials involved in the testing, evaluation and final greenlighting of Dengvaxia, beginning in January 2016, just days after Aquino and his budget officials were able to find the funds for the program. What made the vaccination even more of a head-scratcher was that dengue, while endemic in the Philippines, is not even among the top 10 leading killer diseases in the country.
The alacrity that attended the rollout of the Dengvaxia program, I will insist, required a full-court press from Aquino’s office. Aquino may claim that he had the best interests of his countrymen in mind when he pushed for the vaccine’s rollout in the last few months of his term—but he will never be able to escape culpability for the deaths of children that have been linked directly to the use of Dengvaxia, which was not yet cleared for public use at the time.
Ona has already shown the way for Garin and others who are directly linked to the Dengvaxia scandal. They should not allow their careers and reputations to be destroyed simply because they have to protect Aquino, who masterminded the whole sorry and sordid Dengvaxia affair.
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There’s nothing like an upcoming “people power” anniversary to get a rise out of the anti-Duterte forces collectively known as the Yellows. Ahead of next month’s annual Yellow party, the supporters of the Aquino family and its remnants among the political and economic elite have already been working overtime in a bid to show to Filipinos and to the world that they have not, in fact, already been reduced to complete and utter irrelevance.
To start the year, the Yellows have already staged the “non-closure” of their favored but financially destitute online-only news organization, Rappler, which continues to troll for anti-government stories despite the revocation of its official business registration documents. By painting the order of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which only performed its mandate as regulator of Philippine corporations, as an attack on free expression, Rappler attempted to skirt questions about its insolvency and its failure to file proper documentation like any other firm; of course, Rappler’s recent rally may have flopped miserably, but that doesn’t mean that its sympathizers will stop falsely accusing the government of President Rodrigo Duterte of suppressing their unabated (and unfounded) attacks.
Then there’s that other manufactured (and totally laughable) Yellow controversy about the bestowing of an award by the University of Santo Tomas alumni association on popular blogger Mocha Uson. The Aquino fanboys and -girls want to make a federal case out of such a trivial thing—an action that will make sense only if taken in the context of the upcoming Edsa rites.
I expect more gimmickry and invented scandal from the Yellows as their increasingly irrelevant anniversary approaches. Desperate times, after all, require desperate measures, especially now that—as Leni Robredo recently remarked—darkness threatens to envelop the flatlined and totally discredited Yellow movement.