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Gusto abswelto! Gordon claims Noy called senators on Senate Dengvaxia committee report

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by Xave Gregorio

Senate Blue Ribbon committee chair Richard “Dick” Gordon claimed that former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has called senators regarding the Senate committee report on the controversial anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.

In a text message to Politiko on Monday (August 20), Gordon said “some senators admitted that PNoy called them.”

Politiko has reported that Aquino’s camp has called up at least two senators in the past two weeks asking that they push for the deletion of the recommended charges against the former President from the joint committee report of the Senate Blue Ribbon, health and finance panels.

Sources from the Senate, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the issue, say Senators Cynthia Villar and Loren Legarda were among those called.

Villar and Legarda’s camps have yet to respond to Politiko’s request for comment. Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, told Politiko that she has not received a call from Aquino.

“I did not receive a phone call from him regarding Dengvaxia. I also signed the committee report,” Poe said.

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero also denied being called up by Aquino and is not aware that other senators have been called.

When pressed for further details, Gordon refused to disclose the names of the senators who supposedly received calls from Aquino. “You should ask them. But I cannot tell you their names,” he said.

The committee report, pending in the Senate Committee on Rules, recommended criminal and administrative charges against Aquino, his former Cabinet officials and some government doctors over their involvement in the P3.5 billion Dengvaxia mess.

It was recommended that Aquino be charged for his supposed violations of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 4(b) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The report was filed for plenary discussion on April 30, but was blocked by Aquino ally Senator Panfilo Lacson, who questioned if the report garnered enough signatures and referred it to the Committee on Rules for resolution.

Of the 22 members of all the three committees, 14 affixed their signatures on the report. However, Senators Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Grace Poe have signed the report with reservations, especially on the recommended charges against Aquino.

Separate dissenting opinions were also filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Leila de Lima, both Aquino allies, while others, like Lacson, did not sign.

Gordon said senators have agreed during the meeting of the Committee on Rules last August 8 that those who have signed the report with reservations would have to make a manifestation or written concurrence to the Dengvaxia report.

“When Session resumes next week, the issue will be brought to the floor and the Senators who made reservations on the Report will have to manifest on whether or not they are with the majority position,” Gordon said.

“However, whether or not they do, we still have the majority,” he added.

Aquino said in congressional probes that the rising number of dengue cases prompted him to allow the procurement of the anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine, which was administered to over 830,000 schoolchildren.

In November 2017, its manufacturer, Sanofi-Pasteur, disclosed that the vaccine could cause “serious disease” among those who have not yet been infected with dengue.