Aquino, Abad to attend House probe into Dengvaxia controversy

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III and former budget chief Florencio Abad are set to attend the House investigation into the controversial dengue vaccine on Monday, February 26.

Aquino and Abad confirmed this to Rappler on Saturday, February 24.

"Yes, I am attending. Our office received the invitation on Tuesday (February 20)," Aquino said.

Aquino said he is ready to face the House committee on good government and public accountability.

Asked if he is also prepared to see his former health secretary Enrique Ona, he only said: "Let's see."

Aquino, Abad, and former executive secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr earlier faced the Senate hearing and defended their decision to implement the now-controversial program and to rush the procurement of the vaccine.

Aquino said in a Senate hearing that it was Ona who first introduced the dengue vaccine to him earlier in his term. At the time, he said, the vaccine was still in the works.

But Ona, in a separate hearing, slammed the extent of the Aquino administration's implementation of the P3.5-billion Dengvaxia program, saying he would not have done the same because the vaccine was not yet proven then.

"Ibig pong sabihin dapat pag-isipan po nang husto kung i-implement po 'yun. (This means they should have thought hard before implementing it) If I were the Secretary of Health, I would not implement it in that extent," Ona said on January 22.

The issue started after French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur announced that Dengvaxia could lead to "more severe" cases of dengue when administered to a person who had not been previously infected by the virus.

Aquino, Abad, and 18 others from the Department of Health are facing a complaint before the Commission on Elections for their alleged violation of the Election Code.

The two, as well as Ochoa and former health secretary Janette Garin are also facing a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.