By Mario Casayuran
Senator Richard Gordon called on the public today to focus on the real issue which is how some key officials in the highest echelons of government worked with a French pharmaceutical company to manipulate the very agency mandated to regulate the industry.
Gordon made the call in the wake of ongoing arguments between and among medical experts and others over the Dengvaxia scandal that is adversely affecting not only the 830,000 school children vaccinated with the dengue vaccine by the Department of Health (DOH) during the Aquino administration but also the country’s immunization program.
He is chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that is investigating the mess created by the P3.5 billion purchase of the “Dengvaxia’,’’ the dengue vaccine manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, the French pharmaceutical firm.
Gordon rued that the issue has turned doctors-against-doctors, government agency-against-government agency, which the public is being encouraged to focus on.
“But we should focus on the conspiracy that transpired among officials, including those from the highest office in the country, and Sanofi to railroad the implementation of a vaccination program using a vaccine, which at that time, late 2015 and even early 2016, was still an experimental vaccine,” he said.
Gordon pointed out that the timeline of events showed the participation of high-ranking officials as early as 2014 which facilitated the hurried issuance of a certificate of product registration to Sanofi, even when the requirements it submitted were lacking.
“The (former) President (Benigno Aquino III) met with Sanofi officials in Beijing in December 2014 then less than two months later Sanofi submitted its application for registration with the FDA and paid the fees even if their application documents were incomplete. After that key officials in the DOH were moved to enable (then DOH) Secretary Janette Garin to be in a position of authority to influence the speedy approval of Sanofi’s application for registration. Key officials in the FDA were also moved,” Gordon noted.
“If former President Aquino’s first meeting with Sanofi officials was suspicious because it seemed to trigger the speed in connection with the FDA registration; his Paris meeting with Sanofi officials in early December 2015 appeared to have further accelerated the procurement process, that a Special Allotment Release Order signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa was already released on December 29 of the same year,” he added.
Gordon expressed optimism that when his Blue Ribbon committee investigation is concluded, there would be sufficient information to exact accountability from public officials and personalities involved and for concerned agencies such as the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman to build up possible charges against them for violation of several sections of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.