THE Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon will invite former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and former Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad to explain the purchase by the Aquino administration of the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
In a chance interview, Gordon said his committee will definitely invite Aquino to give him his chance to explain his side on this issue as he assured that the former president will be treated with utmost respect.
“President PNoy will be treated with respect. Of course, he is our former President and it is but proper to treat him with respect and with dignity. But the public wants to know what happened and we want to hear the truth from him,” Gordon said.
Earlier, Gordon raised the possibility of a conspiracy between the government to purchase P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccines.
Gordon said the fund to purchase Dengvaxia was not in the 2016 national budget, and that it was “forced into the budget.”
The senator said Aquino and Abad should explain the contract to purchase anti-dengue vaccines since the Department of Budget and Management would not have released vaccine fund without the approval of the president.
“The people are interested to hear from him (Aquino). We want to know what happened,” Gordon insisted.
According to the Senator, should the former President ignore the invitation, “that’s his decision and we will respect him. But it does not mean that we will stop the investigation. We will pursue it,” Gordon assured.
Gordon said he will also listen to the opinion of the medical experts in the international community as it was learned that the vaccine which was administered to 830,000 by the Department of Health without meeting the requirements of the World Health Organization.
Nothing irregular — Garin
During the hearing, former Secretary Janet Garin said she is willing to face the consequence of her actions should medical experts from the international community declare that the vaccine Dengvaxia posed danger to the lives of the vaccinated children.
Garin said there was nothing irregular in the meeting with Sanofi Pasteur because it was done in the presence of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
But former health secretary Enrique Ona said Garin is “solely” to blame for the dengue vaccine mess because the program was approved under her watch.
“In the light of the Sanofi Pasteur advisory on the use of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, the leadership that took over the DoH after I left in December 20, 2014, are solely responsible for all the decisions that has resulted in what is becoming to be a major health nightmare in the country today,” Ona reportedly said.
Ona said Sanofi, during his time, had never claimed that the vaccine was ready for general use and that the pharmaceutical firm only gave a “vague projection” at the time of its launch.
Proof of this, he said, is that the DoH did not allocate any budget for the dengue vaccine program during his time.