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Walang takas! No saving Noy from Dengvaxia cases – Ejercito

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by Xave Gregorio

ZAMBOANGA CITY — President Noynoy Aquino is not off the hook from the Dengvaxia controversy, as he may be among those who could be charged for the botched P3.5 billion dengue vaccination program, Senator JV Ejercito said.

Ejercito said in a chance interview in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi that while Aquino may have exercised “good faith” in deciding to purchase millions of units of the Dengvaxia vaccine, he may still have to answer for his use of government savings for its procurement.

“I personally think that he acted in good faith considering that he assumed that due diligence were done already kaya lang that doesn’t spare you pa rin,” Ejercito said Thursday (February 9).

“Ang talagang ano ko dun is ‘yung use of the savings eh, too big. P3.5 billion is too big an amount for it not to have congressional approval,” he said.

Aquino said in a Senate probe in December 2017 that he opted to use government savings from 2015 that were set to expire by the end of that year as no funds have been allotted for the purchase of Dengvaxia as it has not yet been included in the Philippine National Drug Formulary at the time.

However, the release of funding for Dengvaxia has been criticized by solons that it was speedily released, with Aquino green lighting the funds for its procurement just a month after he met with Sanofi Pasteur officials in France.

But Aquino defended the hasty funding release, saying he did not want to expose Filipinos to the threat of dengue any further.

Still, Ejercito said government officials still need to answer for the hasty procurement of Dengvaxia, which its manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur revealed to cause serious illness among those not yet infected with dengue.

“If you will based it on the timeline talagang na-establish that the procurement was done in haste. Those responsible should be made responsible in order for us to also get back the confidence on the DOH (Department of Health) and other government agencies,” Ejercito said.

But the brunt of the blame for Dengvaxia falls on officials under Aquino, who may have “withheld” information on the drug from the former president, Ejercito said.

“He (Aquino) assumed all the diligence, all the research investigation had been done before the paper reaches his table,” he said.

“So ang talagang may kasalanan dun ‘yung mga under him who should have done the due diligence and should brief them regarding the risk involved.”

Aquino and some of his Cabinet members, including former Budget Secretary Butch Abad and former Health Secretary Janette Garin, are already facing two criminal and administrative cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Senate Blue Ribbon committee chair Senator Dick Gordon previously said his panel may recommend charges to be filed against Aquino and other former government officials.