NBI recommends charges vs Aquino, Garin, Abad over Dengvaxia mess

MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) wants technical malversation charges filed against former president Benigno Aquino III, former health secretary Janette Garin, and former budget secretary Florencio Abad over the Dengvaxia mess.

The NBI sent its findings to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Friday, July 13, a copy of which was released on Monday, July 16.

In the transmittal letter signed by NBI Director Dante Gierran, the investigators said Aquino, Garin, and Abad illegally sourced the Dengvaxia funds from the 2015 Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) savings.

The NBI said Aquino called his Cabinet on December 10, 2015, asking for proposals so they could disburse the MPBF before the end of the year.

Citing the 2014 Supreme Court decision that declared parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional, the NBI said the officials violated the 3rd condition for a legal transfer of funds which was that the savings could be used to augment an item in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or national budget.

"There is no such item to augment in the 2015 GAA. To note, the anti-dengue vaccine or Dengvaxia is not yet available for government procurement at the time the savings was allocated due to its absence in the list of the Philippine National Drug Formulary," the NBI said.

Aside from Aquino, Abad, and Garin, the NBI wants technical malversation charges filed against Family Health Office Director Maria Joyce Ducusin, Philippine Children's Medical Center Executive Director Julius Lecciones, Family Health Office Medical Specialist Maria Wilda Silva, Diease Prevention and Control Bureau Director Mario Baquilod, and physician Rosalind Vianzon.

Graft charges

The NBI also recommended other charges like graft, violation of the procurement law, and administrative charges against other officials.

Garin, Formulary Executive Council (FEC) officials, and former health undersecretary Kenneth Hartigan-Go allegedly committed graft, according to the NBI, when they allowed shortcuts in the processes just so the FEC would recommend Dengvaxia. 

The NBI also said there were irregularities when Garin and the other officials attended meetings with Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur although both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the FEC had yet to approve the vaccine.

The NBI added that Garin's constant follow-ups to the FDA to issue a certificate of product registration (CPR) for Dengvaxia point to her involvement in an alleged conspiracy.

Sanofi would later warn against Dengvaxia for potential harmful effects to a recipient of the vaccine who has never had dengue before immunization. (READ: Sanofi's advisory on dengue vaccine 'miscommunicated'?)

Under the Duterte administration, the Department of Health (DOH) suspended the immunization program. The controversy triggered congressional investigations, where some lawmakers slammed the "haste" by which Dengvaxia was approved for commercial release in the Philippines. (READ: Aquino denies rush in Dengvaxia vaccination program)

Complaints for plunder, election violations, and civil damages were earlier filed against Aquino and the other officials, in relation to claims by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) that Dengvaxia was to blame for the deaths of several children. These claims were disputed by leading scientists. – Rappler.com

 

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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