By Leslie Ann Aquino
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has directed former president Benigno Aquino III, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Health Secretary Janette Garin to appear before its Law Department on March 15.
The three are facing an election offense case filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption over the implementation of the controversial dengue immunization program ahead of the May 2016 polls.
“You are hereby directed to appear and submit your counter-affidavit and other supporting documents or affidavits of your witness/es, if any, at the Law Department, Comelec, 8th floor Palacio del Gobernador, Intramuros, Manila on March 15, 2018 at 10 a.m. before Atty. Erwin S. Villarin, Atty. Abigail Claire F. Carbero-Llacuna and Atty. Nancy R. Hadap-Villanueva,” read the subpoena signed by Comelec Law Department director Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal.
“You are hereby warned that failure on your part to comply with the subpoena shall be considered as waiver of your right to present your defense and the case shall be considered submitted for resolution based on the evidence on record,” it further read.
Other respondents from the Department of Health were also ordered to appear on March 8 to submit their counter-affidavit namely; Undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; directors Laureano Cruz, Joyce Ducusin, and Mar Wynne Bello.
The Comelec also issued a subpoena to the complainants Doctors Francis Cruz and Clarito CairoJr. who were ordered to appear before the Law Department on March 8, 9 and 15.
In their affidavit-complaint, they claimed that Aquino, Abad and Garin caused the releases, disbursements, or expenditures of over P3.5 billion in public funds in connection with the procurement of the Dengvaxia vaccine and implementation of the School-Based Immunization of Tetravalent Dengue Vaccine of the DOH in the National Capital Region, Calabarzon and Central Luzon during 45 days before the May 2016 elections.
This, they said is contrary to Sec. 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.
In the case of the other DOH officials, the complainants said they are liable for being involved, directly or indirectly, in the first round of the implementation of the Dengue Immunization program on April 4, 2016 or during the election ban.