Former DOH undersecretary: Garin, Sanofi meeting illegal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 11) — Former Secretary Janette Garin's meeting and arrangements with Sanofi Pasteur on distributing the controversial dengue vaccine was not only inappropriate, but also illegal, a former undersecretary said Monday.

Former health official Ted Herbosa said the 2015 meeting, held in Paris, France undermined the independence of the assigned bids and awards committee that should have sealed the deal with Sanofi.

"There's inpropriety in that. If you see me wining and dining with the supplier that makes hospital equipment, that's not appropriate," Herbosa told CNN Philippines' The Source. "The bids and awards committee is the party that makes the decision, and not the head of the agency."

He said Garin breached protocol "because she negotiated a price before the bidding even started."

Garin is in hot water following Sanofi findings that its anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia poses health risks for those who were vaccinated and had never contracted dengue before. In 2016, she oversaw a government immunization program that administered the vaccine to about 800,000 students.

In a Senate hearing on Monday, Garin denied negotiating with Sanofi officials in their Paris meeting, saying officials of the pharmaceutical firm only presented the price of Dengvaxia for the private sector. She claimed it was "not a midnight deal" and details of the meeting were "above board."

Related: Ex-DOH Secretary Garin: No corruption in Dengvaxia purchase

However, Herbosa says it still breached protocol "because she negotiated a price before the bidding even started."

 

Herbosa acted as Health undersecretary under former Health Secretary Enrique Ona, both serving from 2010 to 2014 under former President Benigno Aquino III.

Related: Ex-DOH Sec. Ona: Garin solely responsible for Dengvaxia 'nightmare'

The former undersecretary maintained that more than Aquino, Garin and the officials who approved the program had to be held accountable.

"The President is not a doctor. You are the alter ego, the Secretary of Health, the undersecretary of health are experts... and you are the ones supposed to give advice. Sometimes, the leaders will follow your expert advice, or un-expert advice," he said.

The former undersecretary chalked up the rushed implementation to the campaign season.

"Whether they took corruption money out of this big, huge deal that's for the lawmakers, lawyers, [and] paper trail to prove," said Herbosa. "Whatever you say, the mothers were lied to. The public [was] lied to. Doctors were lied to."

The House of Representatives on Wednesday is also set to tackle the Health Department's controversial dengue vaccine program, which has since been suspended.

CNN Philippines Senior Digital Producer Lara Tan contributed to this report.