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Bam slams Gordon Dengvaxia report: Hindi psychic si PNoy!

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By Xave Gregorio

Senator Bam Aquino slammed the draft Senate Blue Ribbon committee report on Dengvaxia which recommended criminal charges against former President Noynoy Aquino, saying that the former chief executive could not have known the ill effects of the controversial dengue vaccine at the time he pushed for its purchase.

“Palagay ko, hindi naman psychic siguro si former President Aquino na malalaman niya na magbabago pala ‘yung Dengvaxia a year later,” the senator and cousin of the former president said Thursday (April 12) in a chance interview in Quezon City.

After the Philippines became the first Asian country to approve Dengvaxia for persons aged 9 to 45 in 2015, the Aquino administration allotted P3 billion to procure vaccines intended for a million schoolchildren.

However, close to two years after the launch and subsequent expansion of the immunization program under the Duterte administration, the dengue vaccines’ manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, disclosed that it can cause “serious disease” in individuals who have not yet contracted dengue once they do contract the illness.

Former President Aquino has earlier said he could not have known the negative effects of the dengue vaccine when it was first presented to him by the French pharmaceutical firm, which did not disclose then the ill effects of Dengvaxia.

However, the Gordon report said the former president failed to exercise due diligence in ordering the purchase of the dengue vaccine, as he did not consult subordinates, researchers and experts and even ignored warnings, including that of renowned dengue expert Dr. Scott Halstead, about the efficacy and safety of Dengvaxia.

But Senator Aquino reiterated the former president’s stance and said, “Iba po ‘yung sinabi ng Sanofi Pasteur na wala po itong negatibong maging pwedeng epekto sa ating mga bata.”

He also questioned, despite admittedly not having read the report, the recommendation of graft and corruption charges against former President Aquino as previous Senate probes into the issue did not reveal that government officials earned from the Dengvaxia deal.

Even Gordon admitted in a media briefing that he is not yet recommending the filing of plunder charges against any official as there is still no evidence that people enriched themselves through the deal.

But the proposed graft charge against Aquino, including former Health Secretary Janette Garin, former Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Dr. Julius Lecciones of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center only pertain to an alleged violation of Section 3(g) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits the entering into disadvantageous contracts.

“‘Pag nakita ho namin ‘yan (graft charge) sa formal committee report, palagay ko po that is a cause for concern,” Senator Aquino said.

The report is still subject to the signatures and revisions of members of the Blue Ribbon committee, and Gordon said he is confident that all but Liberal Party senators would concur with it.

But Senator Aquino dismissed the report as a mere attack against the previous administration.

“Favorite punching bag ng administrasyon ay ‘yung mga nakaraang mga pinuno eh. So hindi naman ho ako nagtataka na ganito pa rin ang nangyayari dito sa isyu na ito,” he said.