By Hannah L. Torregoza and Czarina Nicole O. Ong
After hearing former President Benigno S. Aquino III’s testimony, Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian have expressed belief that the former Chief Executive acted in good faith in allowing the P3.5-billion dengue immunization program.
Ejercito said he understands that it was a judgment call on the part of Aquino to address the increase in dengue cases that was unusually high during the years he was in office.
But he said other officials might have taken advantage of this by giving him wrong information on the adverse effects of the Dengvaxia vaccine being marketed by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur.
“Personally, I think PNoy did it in good faith, to avert dengue outbreak in the future,” Ejercito said. “But it’s the other officials who might have taken advantage and did not give him an extensive report that includes the risk if there was,” he added.
Ejercito pointed out Presidents rely on their secretaries or heads of agencies for information on every important issue. And as Aquino pointed out during the hearing, he said “a President would presume that the due diligence was done, that clinical tests were likewise completed, and strict protocols were followed.”
“My personal take is that not all information was disclosed, so that the transaction will push through,” Ejercito said. “(It’s) possible that he was misinformed on the whole dengue vaccine issue. What is evident is that the whole transaction was done in haste,” he added.
Gatchalian echoed Ejercito’s position and said it was the responsibility of the President’s alter-ego to check and assess any proposals being forwarded to the Chief Executive.
“Any Chief Executive relies on his or her alter egos for accurate and timely information. It is the responsibility of the alter ego, in this case former Secretary Garin to meticulously vet any proposals for public health to the President,” Gatchalian said.
Plunder raps have been filed against Aquino and former Health Secretary Janette Garin over the dengue vaccination program before the Ombudsman.
Former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr. filed the complaint a day after hearing Aquino’s testimony “for and on behalf of 733,000 school children who were inoculated with the deadly vaccine Dengvaxia” because of the incompetence of the former Chief Executive and Garin.