Despite saying that he did it in good faith, former President Benigno S. Aquino III is still not yet off the hook and may still be held liable for technical malversation for approving the P3.5-billion dengue vaccine deal, Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said yesterday.
Ejercito said Aquino and former Budget and Health Secretaries Florencio “Butch” Abad and Janette Garin have a lot to account over the speed in which the Executive approved and procured the Dengvaxia vaccines for the government’s Expanded Program for Immunization or EPI.
Granted that he signed the deal with Sanofi Pasteur believing it may avert a possible dengue outbreak in the country, Ejercito said the former Chief Executive, as the last person to sign the document, should have informed Congress of the Executive department’s decision to acquire the medicines as it was not part of the General Appropriations Act.
“Nobody knew about their purchase and said that at the end of the year, they only used the savings. I don’t think that anybody from Congress is aware of these transactions or would be transactions precisely because these are savings,” Ejercito said, referring to Garin and Abad’s statements that the R3.5-billion fund was culled from the Miscellaneous and Personnel Benefits Fund.
Ejercito, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said that even if the President has the prerogative to realign savings at the end of the year, the fund is “too big an amount” not to be included in the General Appropriations Act.
“If you look at the amount, I think it’s necessary that lawmakers, the peoples’ representatives, to know about it. We are not a rich country, and thus the R3.5-billion is a very huge amount,” he pointed out. (Hannah L. Torregoza)