MALACAÑANG yesterday vowed charges will be filed in court against those involved in the Dengvaxia controversy after the Department of Justice (DOJ) ended its preliminary investigation into the complaints concerning deaths allegedly linked to the anti-dengue vaccine.
“The Executive branch has taken forceful action, with the DoJ taking the lead and is expected to come up with a resolution before the end of the month,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“Appropriate charges will be lodged and pursued against government officials and private individuals found responsible by the DoJ for this failed health program for children,” he added.
Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte is monitoring the issues surrounding the controversial vaccine.
“He hears all the calls for justice of families of children whose deaths are reportedly caused by the said vaccine,” the Palace official said.
This developed as a panel of public attorneys is considering moving for the upgrade of the charges from reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide to murder.
In its reply filed before the Department of Justice, the office cited a 2014 study by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine that Dengvaxia had “serious adverse effects,” including death, Chief Public Attorney Dr. Persida V. Rueda Acosta said.
PAO lawyers were given a week to study who among the respondents in the first and third batches of their complaints should face murder charges, said Acosta.
Acosta says she has given her lawyers 1 week to study upgrading of Dengvaxia complaints to murder.
Though both murder and homicide have an element of an “intent to kill,” for a case to qualify as murder, it must be attended by any of the qualifying circumstance under the Revised Penal Code such as treachery, cruelty, or evident premeditation.
Facing complaints for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and torture at the DoJ are former Department of Health Secretary Janette Garin, incumbent Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, officers of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur and its local distributor, Zuellig Pharma, and several others.
The DoJ is still hearing two more batches of complaints involving 18 other deaths.
The Dengvaxia controversy arose in November last year when Sanofi Pasteur announced that the vaccine may lead to more severe symptoms of dengue for those who have never been infected by the virus prior to vaccination.
As a result, the DoH stopped the school-based dengue immunization program and proposed to Duterte a panel of Asian health experts that will look into safety issues raised against the vaccine.