THE wheels of justice has started grinding now that the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted former Health Secretary Janette Garin and several others for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over deaths allegedly caused by controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo expressed hope that the indictment would bring “true justice and peace” to families of children who supposedly died because of the inoculation of Dengvaxia.
“The wheels of justice have begun to grind for the victims and families of children who died allegedly because of the Dengvaxia vaccine with the Department of Justice finding probable cause to charge former officials responsible for the failed immunization program initiated during their time,” he said.
In a statement on Friday, March 1, state prosecutors found that Garin and other respondents “exhibited ‘inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight’ when they facilitated, with undue haste, ‘the registration and purchase of Dengvaxia’ and used the vaccine in implementing a school-based dengue mass immunization program.”
The state prosecutors also found evidence that Garin and other respondents “circumvented various regulations in the purchase of P3.5 worth of Dengvaxia vaccine, which constituted proof of their reckless imprudence.”
Dengvaxia was administered to over 800,000 individuals during Garin’s stint at the Department of Health (DOH) under the watch of then president Benigno Aquino III.
The DOH suspended the mass anti-dengue immunization program on December 1, 2017, a day after Dengvaxia maker Sanofi Pasteur admitted that the vaccine may cause greater risks among recipients who had not previously been afflicted with dengue.
Panelo urged critics to refrain from “politicizing” the Dengvaxia issue, following Garin's indictment, saying that doing so would just cause “unnecessary fear.”
“Now that the legal process has taken its course, we wish everyone would finally stop politicizing the issue in the court of public opinion, noting that such exercise has only caused an unnecessary fear on the part of parents for good and creditworthy health programs of the government to the detriment of innocent children,” he said.
Following the latest development, Panelo assured Garin and other respondents that the executive branch would not meddle in the court proceedings concerning the Dengvaxia controversy.
He said the Palace would allow the former Health chief and others facing charges to refute the allegations hurled against them.
“As for the defendants, they should welcome this latest development as an opportunity to clear their names and raise whatever defense they have in relation to the matter before a court of law,” he said.
“As always, we will not interfere in the proceedings save for the DOJ which is mandated by law to prosecute accused felons,” Panelo added. (Ruth Abbey Gita/SunStar Philippines)