The National Bureau of Investigation has recommended the filing of technical malversation charges against former President Benigno Aquino III, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, and former Budget chief Florencio Abad over their alleged role in the P3.5-billion purchase of the Dengvaxia vaccine.
In a letter received by the Office of the Ombudsman on July 13, NBI Director Dante Gierran forwarded the results of the bureau's preliminary investigation on the country's mass immunization program where it recommended the indictment of Aquino and his two former Cabinet secretaries.
The case against Aquino hinged on his approval to use the savings of the executive department's 2015 Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) to facilitate the procurement of the anti-dengue vaccine.
The initial funding of P3.5 billion was intended to cover the vaccines of public school students in the National Capital Region, and Regions 3 and 4-A.
However, the NBI said Aquino was only allowed to allocate savings on existing government projects, noting that the purchase of dengue vaccines was not included in the 2015 national budget.
"Former President Aquino, by his authority, declared the use of savings from the 2015 Mutual Benefit Personnel Fund and use the same to 'augment' a non-existent anti-dengue immunization program of the Department of Health," the NBI said in its recommendation.
The NBI said the use of savings is also impossible without the recommendations of Garin and Abad, both of whom justified the budget allocation despite the project's absence in the budget and the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF).
The PNDF is a list of essential medicines with proven quality and safety standards at an affordable cost. The government is required to purchase drugs based on this list.
On December 10, 2015, Garin allegedly submitted a proposal to the DBM for funding for a Health Facilities Enhancement Program and for the purchase of three million doses of Dengvaxia. She then submitted a memorandum to Aquino on December 22 requesting the use of savings to purchase the vaccines.
"She acknowledged that there is no anti-dengue vaccine program under the 2015 General Appropriations Act and that Dengvaxia is not yet included in the PNDF nor exempted for it but still she pursued through for the use of savings to fund her project," the NBI said on Garin.
Abad, for his part, submitted his own memorandum to Aquino on December 23 urging the former chief executive to obligate funds for the vaccines before March 25, 2016 to avoid the election ban. It was also through his authority that a Special Allotment and Release Order was issued.
Aquino then approved for Abad to use the MPBF savings for the Dengvaxia purchase in a memorandum dated December 29.
"Simply put, there is no such item to augment in the 2015 General Appropriations Act. To note, the anti-dengue vaccine or Dengvaxia is not yet available for government procurement at the time the savings was allocated due to its absence in the list the PNDF," the NBI said.
"Such allocation would go beyond the authority given to the president whose primary authority given by law is limited to the use of savings to augment actual deficiencies of existing item, program, activity or project; and not to allocate funds for a new item," it added.
The NBI, meanwhile, implicated former DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial for technical malversation for allowing the continuation of the immunization program in Cebu despite knowledge of procurement irregularities.
Garin was also recommended to face criminal charges of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and falsification.
The NBI also tagged at least 37 then-officials from DOH, Formulary Executive Council, and Philippine Childrens' Medical Center.
Aquino faces at least two complaints at the Ombudsman related to the Dengvaxia purchase. He had said the project aimed to curb the increase of suspected dengue cases in the country, which, according to DOH data, shot up from 5,166 cases in 1995 to 200,415 cases in 2015.
Garin had also maintained that the goal of the dengue vaccination program was to prevent dengue-related deaths and illnesses.
NBI urges raps vs. Noynoy, Garin, Abad over P3.5-B Dengvaxia purchase
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent