Sandiganbayan denies Garin’s motion to dismiss Dengvaxia-linked raps

ILOILO. Iloilo First District Representative Janette Garin.
ILOILO. Iloilo First District Representative Janette Garin.Leo Solinap/SunStar File

THE Sandiganbayan anti-graft court has denied the request of former Health secretary now Iloilo Representative Janette Garin to dismiss charges against her for alleged misuse of taxpayers’ money in connection to the procurement of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccines.

In Garin and her co-accused’s motion to quash criminal information, they cited the inordinate delay in the filing of charges, which reportedly violated their right for speedy disposition of cases.

But the anti-graft court, in its decision, maintained that the length of time spent for the evaluation of a complaint, which originally includes 42 accused individuals, is reasonable and acceptable.

"Considering the circumstances that attended the investigation of these cases -- with originally 42 respondents who were all given the opportunity to answer the charges against them, and the complexities of the issues that required careful study and consideration of voluminous documents submitted in the course of the investigation -- the Court finds that the length of time spent by both the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman before issuing the resolutions that culminated in the filing of the cases in court is reasonable and acceptable," the resolution read.

"The Court rules that the investigations were not attended by vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays. Rather, the length of time spent in the investigation indicates that a careful examination and review of the evidence and documents were thoroughly undertaken before the cases were filed in court," it added.

Garin, former Department of Health (DOH) undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo, former DOH officer-in-charge Mary Joyce Ducusin, former Philippine Children’s Medical Center executive director Julius Lecciones and former undersecretary Kenneth Hartigan-Go were facing charges of graft and technical malversation after they allegedly realigned government funds through the issuance of a special allotment release order (Saro) amounting to P3.55 billion for the implementation of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) of the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III.

The Ombudsman said the funds were used for the purchase of Dengvaxia vaccines in December 2015 and the implementation of school-based immunization for dengue despite it not being part of the EPI, as well as the list under the Volume 1 of the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF).

The charges against the said individuals were filed by Manuelito R. Luna of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI) before the Department of Justice in 2018.

The Office of the Ombudsman indicted Garin and others over the charges in October 2023.

Garin said they see their indictment “as an opportunity to finally put an end to the longstanding issue that apparently continues to haunt us.”

He maintained her innocence as she posted bail in November 2023. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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