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Noynoy, Garin and Abad deserve to rot in jail over Dengvaxia mess

At long last, the Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon has found more than enough basis to seek the prosecution of former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, former DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin and former DBM Secretary Butch Abad for their conspiracy to put the lives of Filipino children at risk with the Dengvaxia mass vaccination program at a cost of P3.5 billion.

Right from the start, I was already convinced about the culpability of these former officials, especially in undermining the Government Procurement Reform Act and related laws, just to roll out this mass vaccination program over the loud protests of experts on dengue.

Everything about the transaction smacks of what we call “lutong makaw”, a Filipino slang for a transaction that was rigged to favor Sanofi Pasteur and ensure that it bags the P3.5 billion contract even before it was given final clearance on the safety and efficacy of Dengvaxia.

Senator Gordon is correct: the bureaucracy moved like an express train, with each move so well coordinated one would think it was a Philharmonic orchestra performing. Even the manner the P3.5 billion was obtained and released through a SARO was unbelievably fast, knowing that the bureaucratic red tape normally would take one year to do that.

When the bureaucracy behaves that way, one can easily conclude the directives go all the way up, and not just at the Cabinet level.

Hopefully, the Ombudsman would pick up from where the Blue Ribbon Committee and redeem itself just as Tanodbayan Conchita Carpio Morales is about to retire. The graft investigators have mountains of evidence to sort out and build an airtight case against these three individuals who have committed the greatest sin against the Filipino people. This is a case that cannot be allowed to fail; the people have been betrayed more than enough.

And justice must be swift. The Ombudsman should elevate the case to the Sandiganbayan within a year. The souls of Filipino children who have died because of Dengvaxia are crying for justice. Noynoy, Janette and Butch should rot in jail for justice to be delivered to the victims.

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Dengvaxia: corruption kills

No amount of explaining made by former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and former DOH Secretary Janette Garin can erase the obvious fact that the P3.5 billion procurement of Dengvaxia vaccines that were later administered on 830,000 school children was rushed with amazing speed while disregarding potential hazards to those vaccinated.

Gordon and garin

No responsible government official would gamble on the health of its people with a drug — supposedly a miracle drug — that had yet to be proven efficacious, with no risks that could bring death, or serious illness, to beneficiaries. It is clear from the testimonies of Mr. Aquino, Dr. Garin and other officials during the two public hearings conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that the Philippine government purchased Dengvaxia with a deadline to beat. The deadline wasn’t an epidemic in which every day that went by caused thousands of death; it was December 31, 2015 after which the funds they had set aside was going to revert to the public treasury.

We have heard the saying, “haste makes waste.” In this case, it became “haste is deadly.”
What makes it more painful for the Filipino people is that the deadly haste was motivated by insatiable greed. The officials who pushed this program through were fully aware of the objections raised by experts. And still they chose the color of money over the lives of innocent children.

There’s even no need to delve deep into the scientific issues about the drug’s efficacy. Just one look at how the procurement was undertaken is enough to prove the corruption. Among the cardinal principles of the government procurement law are transparency and competitiveness. And the law requires that any purchase must be included in the annual procurement plan of the agency. In addition, funds must have been appropriated for the purpose.

The timeline as revealed by Blue Ribbon chairman Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon shows that the entire procurement activity was shrouded in darkness and undue haste. Documents like the SARO (Special Allotment Release Order) from the Department of Budget and Management for the entire amount, the FDA certification and Formulary Exemption Council (FEC) exemption were issued as if these were just pieces of paper picked up from the shelves of a store, within a few days of each other. Those who transact with the FDA will tell you a certification even for vitamin supplements that are already being sold in the United States could take one to two years! In this case, the FDA certificate was issued in about nine months! And that’s for a drug that was yet not proven safe.

But the corruption now takes the backseat as an entire nation stews with anger over the potential health hazards posed by exposure to the vaccine. The manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, had issued an advisory warning that vaccinating children with Dengvaxia with no previous exposure to dengue could lead to more virulent strains of dengue. This has caused widespread fear and worry among families of the 830,000 children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia. While no deaths have been reported as a direct result from Dengvaxia vaccination, the Sanofi advisory was enough to trigger an outrage never seen before.

The only sore point in this scandal was the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he didn’t think Garin is culpable. What she did was done in good faith, Pres. Duterte said. With due respect, Mr. President, only a naive individual could possibly buy that theory. Garin is guilty as a principal in this grand conspiracy, along with Mr. Aquino, former DBM Secretary Butch Abad and other officials who made it happen.

Tell all on Dengvaxia, Dr. Janette Garin

Former DOH Secretary Janette Garin tried to inject a dose of dramatics into her scheduled appearance before the joint hearings of the Senate blue ribbon, finance, health and demographics committees this morning and testify on what transpired in the P3.5 billion purchase of Dengvaxia vaccines a little less than two years ago.Janette Garin

On Friday, Garin checked into a private hospital in Tacloban City after she supposedly felt acute abdominal pain. Her doctors diagnosed her as suffering from acute appendicitis, her chief of staff said. But Garin, whose husband Oscar Richard Jr. is the incumbent congressman of the 1st district of Iloilo, has asked her doctors to postpone surgery so she could attend the hearing.

It will be a tough morning for Garin at the Senate should she really attend despite her supposed condition. There is a storm of public condemnation against her and former President Noynoy Aquino over their rushed procurement and implementation of the vaccination program despite strong objections by experts. Several lies told by Garin have also been exposed. For instance, she denied having met with Sanofi Pasteur company officials when she visited Paris two years ago. She had to recant and admit it when ABS-CBN reported on a DFA dispatch detailing the meeting.

Emerging facts support insinuations that the transaction is bursting at the seams with corruption. My sources estimate that the kickbacks could run into more than a billion pesos, definitely making it one of the biggest single corruption cases in our history. But this corruption is only secondary to the possible health hazards from the administration of the vaccine on Filipino children from the age of 9 and up. This is already being described as an act of genocide.

Garin should confess to the truth. She should not blame ex-President Aquino because it is clear the transaction was hers. Aquino himself cannot completely wash his hands. He showed his incompetence and naivete in allowing politics to dictate on decisions even though there was sufficient warning on the adverse effects it might have on the children.

Deadly corruption

dengvaxiaCorruption is a criminal act. But how do you describe corruption that has the element of putting the lives of innocent Filipino children at great risk? That should definitely put the officials involved on the same level of Adolf Hitler, the Pol Pot, Radovan Karadzic and other ruthless figures in history who enjoyed killing people.

For me, this is the magnitude of the sins committed against the Filipino people by the Aquino administration, notably former DOH Secretary Janet Garin, in rushing the procurement of P3.5 billion in Dangvaxia vaccines and having it administered on about 730,000 school children.

There were already whispers about Dr. Garin waved aside the objections of medical experts just to make sure the transaction gets done, at a tremendous overprice, about two years ago. The prudent thing would really have to have waited at least six months to allow experts to declare it safe. Dr. Garin refused to wait; she wanted it done before the end of the Aquino administration.

Now there’s a public uproar over the Dengvaxia issue after Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer, divulged the results of its own studies that those injected with the vaccine without being previously infected with the deadly virus could be exposed to greater risks, and could even die.

What has also shocked many Filipinos is that Dr. Garin, whose husband Oscar Richard Jr. is chairman of the PDP-Laban for Iloilo, is now working as consultant to House Speaker Bebot Alvarez. Could the administration be coddling a potential criminal against Filipino children?

The Senate is conducting an investigation into the scandal next week. I hope it does dig out all the details regarding this corruption case that has the potential of genocide against our own children. The perpetrators should be locked up in jail without delay.