A former consultant of the Department of Health (DOH) and an anti-corruption group on Friday asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to probe former President Benigno Aquino III and several former and current government officials for implementing the P3.5-billion dengue vaccine program at the height of the 2016 election campaign.
Dr. Francis Cruz and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed a complaint with the Comelec Legal Department, accusing Aquino, former Budget secretary Florencio Abad, former Health secretary Janette Garin, and several DOH officials of violating Section 261 (o) and (v) of Batas Pambansa 881 (Omnibus Election Code).
That section prohibits the release and use of government funds for poll campaign within 45 days before a regular election or 30 days before a special election.
Any person found guilty of any election offense under BP 881 would be penalized with imprisonment of one to six years, disqualification to hold public office, and deprivation of the right to vote.
“Aquino III, Abad and Garin had caused the releases, disbursements or expenditures of over P3.5 billion in public funds in connection with the procurement of the Dengvaxia vaccine and implementation of the School-Based Immunization of Tetravalent Dengue Vaccine of the Department of Health (or Dengue Immunization Program) in the National Capital Region (NCR), Calabarzon and Central Luzon during 45 days before the May 2016 elections, contrary to Section 261 (v), B.P. Blg. 881, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code,” the complaint stated.
“In the case of other DOH officials, they are liable for being involved, directly or indirectly, in the first round of implementation of the Dengue Immunization Program on April 4, 2016 or during the election ban,” it added.
A former DOH consultant and VACC ask the Commission on Elections to probe former President Benigno Aquino III and several former, current gov’t officials for implementing the dengue vaccine program at the height of the 2016 election campaign. @gmanews pic.twitter.com/qHxztyaPmq— Virgil Lopez (@virgillopez) February 2, 2018
The complaint added the public funds were used for partisan political activity of Aquino’s former ruling Liberal Party “in order to further the candidacies of his partymates, especially those vying for the presidential, vice-presidential and senatorial post, or otherwise influence or entice the voters to throw their support or vote for the candidates for president, vice-president and senator of his party in the May 2016 elections.”
“As for the other DOH officials, they violated sec. 261 (v), (o) for being part of the cabal or conspiracy,” the complaint stated.
Garin welcomed the case, saying it will give her a “platform to present the truth.”
“The immunization program was never used for politics. We in DOH worked and delivered, commensurate to what is expected of any government employee or official,” Garin told GMA News Online.
Abad said he has not yet seen the complaint even as he assured that the government “took into consideration the election ban when we released allotments and disbursed funds for the project.”
The DOH stopped the government’s dengue immunization program last December 1 following the admission of vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur that the use of Dengvaxia must be strictly limited due to evidence it can worsen the disease in people who have not previously been exposed to dengue.
According to the DOH, more than 830,000 children — aged nine and above — from public schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Cebu were vaccinated with Dengvaxia since it was launched.
Following the suspension, the DOH said it would evaluate the dengue vaccination program and is now working in close coordination with the Department of Education to monitor the thousands of students who have been administered with Dengvaxia, the world’s first dengue vaccine.
Ang reklamo ay isinampa laban kay Noynoy Aquino, Abad, Garin laban sa paglabag sa batas sa eleksiyon para sa programa ng bakuna
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent