Health chief denies obstruction of justice claims

DEPARTMENT of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has denied accusations made by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) that he could be held liable for obstruction of justice over his refusal to cooperate in the ongoing probe into the Dengvaxia fiasco.

Duque said in a statement that it is not true that he is not cooperating with efforts to bring before justice those responsible for the controversial mass dengue vaccine program of the DOH.

Over 830,000 people have received Dengvaxia since it was launched during the Aquino administration. The program had sown fears after the vaccine manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, revealed in December 2017 that recipients of the vaccine who have not previously contracted dengue might suffer from "severe" dengue.

"I deny any accusation that I am obstructing justice. I am not protecting anyone, most especially those allegedly involved in the controversial implementation of the dengue immunization," said Duque.

He vowed to continue to give full cooperation and transparency in the submission of documents to the Department of Justice and Congress in their respective investigations on the program.

"I am also after the truth and I am for the correction of the deficiencies observed in the rollout of the program," Duque said.

The health chief assured that anyone who will be found liable for the program, which was launched by the previous administration, will be held accountable.

"Should there be any DOH official who will be proven to have transgressed any law or deviate from standard operating procedures in relation to the purchase and implementation of the dengue vaccine, I will make sure that they will face justice," Duque said.

On Thursday, VACC lawyer Manuelito Luna slammed Duque for supposedly telling lawyers to leave to doctors and other experts the medical aspect on issues surrounding the anti-dengue vaccine.

Luna also said that Duque has not been cooperating in their probe by not providing them with the documents they had requested.

Such actions, Luna said, make Duque liable for obstruction of justice and for violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)

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