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PNoy camp making moves to drop recommended charges in Dengvaxia committee report

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By Xave Gregorio

The camp of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is making sure that recommended charges against him are dropped from the Senate committee report on the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Four sources from the Senate told Politiko that Aquino’s camp had called at least two senators one to two weeks ago appealing to have all recommended criminal raps against him for alleged violation 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 scrapped.

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

Politikos has reached Villar and Legarda’s camps for comment, but they have yet to issue a statement.

The joint committee report of the Senate Blue Ribbon, health and finance panels was filed on April 30 for plenary discussion, but was blocked in May by Senator Panfilo Lacson who raised questions on the number of signatures it garnered.

Lacson, who did not sign the report, moved to refer Committee Report No. 368 to the Senate Committee on Rules for it to settle whether the required majority has backed it.

Of the 22 members of all the three committees, 14 affixed their signatures. 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.

The rules committee, chaired by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, met two weeks ago to discuss the Dengvaxia committee report, but sources say it has not yet made a decision on Lacson’s query.

Sources say those against the Senate panel report on Dengvaxia want it to be routed again to the senators for their signatures. If this happens, it may further delay discussion on the report and may even result in it being archived, as election season nears and lawmakers would be more focused on their respective campaigns.

The three Senate panels, led by the Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon’s Blue Ribbon committee, recommended criminal and administrative charges against Aquino, his Cabinet officials and some government doctors for their supposed involvement in the procurement of P3 billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccines.

Over 830,000 schoolchildren were given the anti-dengue vaccine before its manufacturer, Sanofi-Pasteur, disclosed in November 2017 that the vaccine could cause “serious disease” among those who have not yet been infected with dengue. -with John Carlo Cahinhinan