Sereno facing dismissal; Aquino and Garin held liable for Dengvaxia mess

Published April 13, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Getsy Tiglao
Getsy Tiglao

By Getsy Tiglao


Overlooked amid the drama surrounding the possible dismissal from service of on-leave Supreme Court head Ma. Lourdes A. Sereno was the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee report finding former officials of the Aquino administration liable for the Dengvaxia scandal.

The Senate commitee draft report said former President Benigno Aquino III, former health secretary Janette Garin, and former budget secretary Florencio Abad were the primary conspirators in the P3.5 -billion procurement of the flawed dengue vaccine, and they must be held criminally liable.

This is big news and could have been the banner story of the major newspapers were it not for the crazy happenings before the Supreme Court, which is hearing the quo warranto case against Sereno. This legal proceeding aims to show that Sereno was never qualified to be chief justice in the first place, thus her appointment is not valid or legally binding.

Sereno’s decision to defend herself exposed her lack of court experience as well as her utter witlessness and childish antics (interrupting the SC justices several times and then throwing accusations at them when she is the one being charged). This is not gall, it’s just plain idiocy.

Sereno faced off against her colleagues when she knows they are way smarter than she is, more emotionally stable, and they all filed the required Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs). Is Sereno on a self-destructive mode?

Even if she runs for the Senate as is widely reported after she is removed from the SC, her mental and emotional weaknesses have already been exposed. Only those with the “nine symptoms of mental disturbance” can be expected to support her. (See previous column, “For the good of the country, CJ Sereno should resign,” March 3, 2018.)

Sereno lied about losing or misplacing her SALNs, said the Office of the Solicitor General, with even her former employer the University of the Philippines denying it has Sereno’s SALNs. There should be a copy somewhere as copies are required to be submitted, unless she didn’t actually file and submit her SALNs.

With the on-leave SC chief imploding, we may have a new Supreme Court chief justice by the end of April. Thank goodness, we’ve had enough of this drama. Time to get a real chief justice for the country’s highest court.

According to reports, there is already a draft decision that will declare Sereno’s appointment as “null and void” and she will be asked to vacate her post immediately. Sereno’s failure to submit her SALNs will just be one of the points that will be cited in the decision with questions on her integrity also being raised.

As Sereno’s case winds down and likely end in her departure from the SC, we hope that more attention will now be focused on the victims of the Dengvaxia vaccination scandal. At least 45 children have now died after being given Dengvaxia, according the autopsy reports by the Public Attorney’s Office forensic team led by Dr. Erwin Erfe.

The heavens have indeed fallen and yet the outrage has been limited to the poor families whose children were made the guinea pigs of the former administration’s politically motivated vaccination program. Dengvaxia was purchased and the public vaccination implemented during the 45-day election ban before the May 2016 elections.

The inoculated children reportedly suffered tremendously before dying and our hearts go out to their grieving parents and families. Those responsible should be charged and jailed post-haste.

As its manufacturer Sanofi-Pasteur itself admitted, the Dengvaxia vaccine should not be given to people who have not had dengue. Otherwise, when infected the inoculated person will get the worst symptoms of severe dengue, including internal hemorrhaging, leading to organ failure and death.

How many of the 800,000 public school children had not had dengue? Most likely, the majority of them. How many of them will get severe dengue and die? Too many.

Even those who will be spared will live with the nightmare of knowing they could get infected at any time. The officials of the former administration just destroyed the lives of these innocent school children – where is the guilt and shame?

According to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee draft report, former President Aquino is responsible “because he had caused the purchase of Dengvaxia and in the process caused irreversible damage, possible death, to children; anxiety, sleepless nights, mental anguish and unnecessary expense on the part of the parents and guardians.”

Garin was the health secretary who implemented the Dengvaxia program while Abad was the one who reportedly arranged for the quick disbursement of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO), Budget’s final financing document.

“To get SARO alone is very hard, but to get SARO from savings of this magnitude of P3.5 billion leaves no doubt that it can only be done with the president’s knowledge and approval,” the committee report said. The money for Dengvaxia was not approved by Congress, which in itself is a violation of the law.

We commend Chairman Richard Gordon for his fearlessness in going after the former president. Frankly, we didn’t expect Gordon to be this hard-hitting against Aquino after he treated the latter with kid gloves during the Senate hearing on Dengvaxia.

“The greatest sin and transgression of Aquino was to put the lives of Filipino children in grave peril. He simply did not care. This is in keeping with the character of the President. During the Mamasapano tragedy, he did not even visit the bodies of the fallen Special Action Force,” the report said.

The verdict of the Blue Ribbon Committee is that Aquino, Garin, and Abad are guilty of malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance and of violations of the human rights of parents of Filipino children who were inoculated with Dengvaxia.

The report said the three must be held criminally liable. Your move, Department of Justice: We hope you will be just as brave as Gordon’s committee in charging public officials whose uncaring and corrupt ways led to the death of innocent school children.