The government, through the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), is considering pressing murder charges instead of the lighter reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against former government officials that include former President Benigno Aquino III, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and erstwhile Health Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad as a result of children’s deaths from the Dengvaxia scandal.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said the plan to upgrade the charges was made following autopsies of nearly 100 alleged Dengvaxia victims.
Acosta said PAO lawyers were given a week to study the revision of the cases to be filed.
PAO represents families of the alleged Dengvaxia victims.
The intent to kill, which is a necessary element of murder, can be proven by the officials’ purchase and administration of Dengvaxia despite their knowledge that the vaccine was “deadly.”
Aquino, Abad, Garin and several former and incumbent officials of the Department of Health (DoH) and private individuals are being probed in connection with the P3.5 billion anti-dengue drive during Aquino’s term using the vaccine purchased from French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur.
In the Senate hearings held on the Dengvaxia mess, it was found that Aquino and his officials pursued the immunization drive despite a Sanofi Pasteur warning that the use of the vaccine can cause adverse effects if applied to persons without a history of dengue.
An initial batch of criminal complaints in connection with children’s deaths attributed to the Dengvaxia may be decided by government prosecutors within the month, Acosta said.
The NBI filed the charges following its own investigation based on the 4 December 2017 order of former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to look into the controversy involving the purchase of the vaccine.
9 children suffered
Assistant State Prosecutor Maria Emilia Victorio said her panel will decide whether to pursue the case before the courts within this month after the panel concluded its preliminary investigation last 30 October.
The resolution will determine whether there exists probable cause to indict the respondents for the charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under the Revised Penal Code and violations of Anti-Torture Act and Consumer Act filed by families of nine children who died after being administered with the vaccine.
The first batch of Dengvaxia cases filed last April and May involved the deaths of Aejay Bautista, Angelica Pestilos, Lenard Baldonado, Zandro Colite, Abbie Hedia, Jansyn Bataan, Mark Axel Ebonia, Rey Justin Almagno and Alexander Jaime.
Other named respondents in the case are Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Dr. Gerardo Bayugo, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, Dr. Irma Asuncion, Dr. Julius Lecciones, Dr. Joyce Ducusin, Rosalind Vianzon, and Mario Baquilod, Dr. Socorro Lupisan and Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
Raps also vs Sanofi execs
The executives of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur – Carlito Realuyo, Sanislas Camart, Jean Louis Grunwald, Jean-Francois Vacherand, Conchita Santos, Jazel Anne Calvo, Pearl Grace Cabali and Marie Esther De Antoni – were also included in the complaints.
The officers of distributor Zuellig Pharma in the charge sheet, on the other hand, are Kasigod Jamias, Michael Becker, Ricardo Romulo, Imran Babar Chugtai, Raymund Azurin, Nilo Badiola, John Stokes Davison, Marc Franck, Ashley Gerard Antonio, Ana Liza Peralta, Rosa Maria Chua, Danilo Cahoy, Manuel Concio III, Roland Goco and Ma. Visitacion Barreiro.
The respondents were accused of negligence through “arbitrarily, maliciously, and deliberately failure to inform the Dengvaxia recipients and their parents/families of the dangers and risks related to Dengvaxia and to obtain their informed consent.”
Two more batches of cases involving 18 other cases are undergoing separate preliminary investigation before the DoJ.
Garin’s counsels, meanwhile, insisted there is also no probable cause to indict her for violation of the Anti-Torture Act “because said law clearly applies only to instances of punishment of person in custody,”
In her counter-affidavits, Garin insisted that “all vaccines have contraindications and potential risks, which are already anticipated. But these expected events have been determined in the clinical studies as manageable and safe for humans,” Garin said.
“Like in any other vaccine, the dengue vaccine has theoretical risks which were not supported by an empirical data at the time of the implementation of the dengue immunization program.
It was only on 29 November 2017 that Sanofi made a disclosure that based on new data, it would be more advisable to administer the vaccine to seropositive individuals,” Garin said in her plea.
The belated disclosure, complainants claimed, resulted in the deaths because the vaccine resulted in severe illness for “seronegative” patients or those who have not had dengue before the inoculation.