Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

A giant comeback

The appointment of Janet Garin as DOH secretary completes the comeback of the 1st district political dynasty in the national stage.Janet Garin
It shows the political adroitness of the patriarch, former Congressman Oscar Garin, in jumping from one administration to another.
The Garins have never stayed out of the political loop of every administration for too long.
In 2000, Oca Garin was appointed by Pres. Erap as presidential assistant for Western Visayas. He hesitated. He accepted the appointment sometime in November 2000 or thereabouts. By January 2001, Erap was kicked out from office, leaving Garin drifting in the political ocean.
But true to form, Garin quickly got into the good graces of the Gloria Arroyo administration. Before long, he was appointed as chief of the Philippine Coconut Authority.
Garin was a marked man as far as Liberal Party leader Franklin Drilon was concerned. Drilon regarded him as a mortal enemy. Corruption issues flew thick in Garin’s wake. In 2010, Garin campaigned for Villar. When he saw that the victory of Noynoy was unstoppable, changed colors three days before the elections.
It was not enough to gain him entry into the good graces of the Aquino administration. He was ultimately removed as PCA chairman and once again stayed as a benchwarmer.
That changed, however, in 2012. Drilon embraced Garin to pave the way for a “unification ticket” for the Liberal Party. Garin’s wife and children all ran under the LP banner in 2013 and won. Janet Garin was appointed DOH undersecretary.
And now Janet is DOH secretary. Oca Garin must be wearing a big smile these days. He has once again outmaneuvered everybody, including the grand old man of the Liberal Party in Iloilo, Niel Tupas Sr.
Tupas, who sacrificed greatly for party platform and principles, does not even hold an appointive position.
I am not saying that Dr. Janet Garin is not competent. She is intelligent and capable. She might even make a good DOH secretary.
But the message is that this appointment conveys is that the Aquino administration has embraced traditional politics as a means to survival and strengthen its chances of getting a partymate to succeed H.E. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III on June 30, 2016.

A not-so-subtle hint to get out

Former (let me repeat that: FORMER) PCA administrator Oscar Garin was given a Halloween present when Malacanang announced his appointment as a board member of the Philippine Coconut Authority, an agency he headed for about five years and which he used as platform to launch a new party-list to electoral victory in the House of Representatives.

Garin was technically fired from his position by being given a lower position in the agency, and it should register in his mind that he is now being given a graceful exit from government. President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III is according him courtesy and respect as a former colleague in the House of Representatives by not throwing him out just like that. The President politely gave Garin a cushion to land on. But the message is unmistakable: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME ABOARD THE SHIP.

This happened even after the Garin family maneuvered hard to keep the patriach in his position as PCA administrator. His daughter-in-law, Rep. Janette Garin, was all over the court trying to get “ninongs” and “ninangs” to curry this big favor from the Aquino administration. It came to a point when they already boasted that Garin was going to stay as PCA administrator and ultimately get his entire family into the Liberal Party.

As it happened, the Liberal Party in Iloilo asserted its right of refusal against the Garins. Its leadership drew up a manifesto strongly opposing any move to admit the Garins into the party. Just over a month ago, no less than President Noynoy assured the Ilonggo LPs nothing of the sort will happen without their consent and approval. This demotion is a signal from the President that the voice of the Iloilo LP was heard loud and clear.

What Garin does in the next few days will determine whether he belongs to the category of the “kapit-tuko” lambasted by President Noynoy in his first 100 days speech, or take the strong hint for him to get out.

President Noy calms LP Iloilo leaders’ fears

There is yet no formal request for the Garin family to be inducted into the Liberal Party, and if its local leaders shouldn’t worry when it does happen, for their voice will be heard and given great weight before any action is taken on the matter.

This was the assurance given by no less than President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III after getting hold of the manifesto adopted by Iloilo provincial leaders of the Liberal Party expressing their concern and opposition to the reported attempt of 1st District Rep. Janette L. Garin to sneak her way into the new party in power, and in the process assuring the extended stay of her father-in-law, Oscar Garin Sr., as administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

Here is the full text of the letter of the President dated September 21, 2010:

“The Liberal Party

“Provincial Directorate

“Province of Iloilo

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your manifesto regarding the alleged attempt of the Garin family particularly Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Oscar G. Garin Sr. and Cong. Janette L. Garin to be included as members of the Liberal Party. I wish to inform you that there are no formal requests for their inclusion in the Liberal Party.

“Rest assured that there will be proper consultation with you if ever we will receive such request in the future.

“Warm regards.

“Sincerely,

“BENIGNO S. AQUINO III”

The letter was warmly received by local LP leaders who had begun to worry about the “insidious” maneuvers of Cong. Janette Garin to obtain the acceptance of the national leadership of the party. After the elections, she and her father-in-law invited the victorious come-backing Senator, Franklin M. Drilon, to grace the oath-taking of the Garin family members who were voted into office. Drilon politely declined their invitation but attended the oath-taking of City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Cong. Jerry Trenas on June 28.

When the closure of this avenue became obvious to them, Cong. Garin focused her efforts on befriending Cong. Niel Tupas Jr. through several intermediaries. Her machinations were also doused with cold water.

The elder Garin has managed to cling to his position and obtained an extension until Dec. 31 this year, which was the reason why Cong. Garin worked hard to gain support for their defection to the Liberal Party. She had wanted to get a new appointment for her father in law despite his notoriety at the PCA as an absentee administrator.

In their manifesto, the local LP informed the President about Garin’s background in politics.

Garin, the manifesto said, has always been quick to change parties depending on who was likely to win as President. This way, he always managed to stay in the good graces of whoever was the President of the Republic. In the last elections, Garin openly campaigned for Gibo Teodoro while maintaining a shadow organization to campaign for Manny Villar. Three days before the elections, Garin switched his support for the Liberal Party standard bearer when it became clear that he was going to win with a landslide margin.

Garin has also perfected the “art of money politics”, which is an avowed enemy of the Liberal Party. “It would be a betrayal of core party values if Garin is accepted into the party,” the local LP leaders said.

The local LP chapter also informed the President that during the 1986 snap Presidential elections, candidate Corazon C. Aquino got “zero” votes in the municipality of Guimbal where Garin’s wife, Ninfa, was the mayor. This is clear proof of Garin’s penchant for dirty politics and outright cheating just to serve his political masters, the local LP leaders said.

Garins unwelcome, say LP Iloilo leaders

From the day President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III assumed office, a political clan in Iloilo province has kept busy trying to build bridges to get themselves admitted into the new ruling party, the Liberal Party.

This “never-say-die” effort by the family of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) administrator Oscar C. Garin Sr. was witnessed on national TV last July 26 when President Aquino delivered his first State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) before the joint session of Congress. The entire nation saw 1st district Rep. Janette L. Garin, who was part of the reception party that accompanied President Aquino from his holding area, literally stuck to him like a leech as he made his way to the podium.  She monopolized the President’s ears as the party walked across the hall, and it’s easy to surmise what it was Rep. Garin was trying to tell him.

Acceptance to the party in power has always been a goal relentlessly pursued by the Garins. Shifting party affiliations is so easy for them as changing clothes every day.

But local LP leaders have asserted their right to first-refusal and appealed to the national leadership to reject any proposal to admit the Garins, particularly PCA head Oscar Sr. and Rep. Janette, as members. In a manifesto signed by the LP provincial directorate headed by former Gov. Niel Tupas Sr., the local LP leaders made it clear they consider the Garins unwelcome to the party because it would go against the grain of its own core values and ideals.

The Garins, local LP leaders said, are not trustworthy allies who jump from one party to another, depending on who is in power. They rejected the “politics of money” to which PCA head Oscar Garin Sr. has become known for and his involvement in alleged cheating as demonstrated by the “flat zero” result obtained by the President’s own mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino, in Guimbal town during the February 1986 snap presidential elections. At the time, San Joaquin mayor Ninfa S. Garin, wife of the PCA administrator, was mayor of Guimbal.

Presently, the elder Garin is clinging to his position as PCA administrator despite his having been named to the position by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Party sources say his daughter-in-law is pursuing every avenue to ingratiate themselves to the new administration that won on the battlecry, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” This core value would be violated once the party allows the Garins to join, the Iloilo LP leaders complained.

During the last elections, the Garin clan openly supported the candidacy of Lakas-Kampi standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro while running a shadow organization to support Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party. Three days before the elections, when it became clear that then Liberal Party presidential bet Noynoy Aquino was headed for a landslide victory, the Garins put up his name as their candidate of choice.

The treachery of patriach Oscar Garin Sr. is also a major reason the local LP is against his family’s admission into the party. Garin had persuaded the Tupases not to put up a congressional candidate in the 1st district with the promise that he will not support Lakas candidate Arthur Defensor Sr., who got Oscar Richard Garin Jr. as vice gubernatorial candidate. “You have to believe me,” Oscar Garin Sr. told a family gathering of the Tupases. “I will not break my word.” Several times during the campaign, Garin phoned LP gubernatorial candidate Raul “Boboy” Tupas to reassure the latter about his “word of honor”. The younger Tupas was certain to win in his district, Garin said. Jjust 10 days before the elections, Garin even told Boboy Tupas that “it’s just a matter of days, and you’ll be Governor of Iloilo.”

However, on election day, Garin gave marching orders to his machinery to defeat Boboy Tupas in the first district. Tupas lost by more than 20,000 in the 1st district, a job made easier for Garin because his daughter-in-law was unopposed. It was a political double-cross of the highest order. Because of this, the admission of the Garins to the LP will only reopen the wounds he inflicted on Boboy Tupas and family. It  will  be a personal insult to a family that fought hard for President Aquino’s victory in Iloilo province.