Groups file case vs. ex-Pres. Aquino, other officials over Dengvaxia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12) — Former President Benigno Aquino III, two former Secretaries, and several others are facing a new lawsuit over the Dengvaxia mess.

The groups Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Inc. (VPCI) filed a joint complaint at the Justice Department Monday against Aquino, former Budget Secretary Butch Abad, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, former and current officials of the Health Department, as well as Zuellig Pharma and Sanofi Pasteur.

Among the charges are violation of the procurement law, graft, and technical malversation.

The complainants say testimonies of resource persons at House and Senate hearings support their claim that the respondents were "directly and proximately" responsible for the Dengvaxia mess. The complainants say the respondents should "be held to account not only for the ensuing deaths, but also for the undue injury caused any private party, including the government."

The complaint says Aquino and others illegally and anomalously funded and procured Dengvaxia, as well as "advisedly, thoughtlessly, and imprudently implemented the Dengue Immunization Program of the DOH en masse."

It cites an affidavit by Dr. Clarito Cairo of the Health Department where he says representatives of Sanofi were present in workshops and trainings conducted by the DOH even before the vaccine was procured by the government.

The complainants say this "smacked" of favoritism and a violation of Section 65(3) of R.A. No. 9184, or the Procurement law, because it put undue influence or pressure on members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to favor Zuellig/Sanofi Pasteur.

The complaint also says some deaths and dengue shock incidents are irrefutably linked to Dengvaxia. It adds, the respondents should have known that the efficacy and safety of the vaccine could not yet be determined with pinpoint accuracy at phase 3 of trials but failed to disclose this and any adverse events associated with the mass vaccination, contrary to law and existing regulations.

Aquino, Abad, Garin, and Dr. Julius Lecciones, medical center chief of Philippine Children's Medical Center, are also accused of technical malversation as they appropriated P3.5 billion for the procurement of Dengvaxia even if there was no appropriation for it nor does it belong to the same allotment class under the school-based Dengue immunization program in the National Capital Region (NCR), Calabarzon and Central Luzon."

In a message to CNN Philippines, Abi Valte, spokesperson of former President Aquino said, "Former President Aquino is prepared to answer the baseless allegations made against him."

RELATED: TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy