By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has denied the appeal of former Health Secretary Janette Garin to accept the testimony of a pathologist who would refute the complaints against her concerning the deaths of nine children who received shots of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
In a five-page order, the DOJ panel of prosecutors conducting the preliminary investigation of the complaints declared that “the instant motion to admit the supporting affidavit of Dr. Raymundo W. Lo has no leg to stand on.”
“At any rate, matters raised in the alleged expert testimony of Dr. Lo are evidentiary in nature and as such it is better threshed out in a full blown trial before the court,” read the DOJ order signed by the six-person panel chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia Victorio.
Assisted by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), families of the victims filed the complaints before the DOJ concerning the deaths of nine children, namely:Aejay Bautista, AnjielicaPestillos, Lenard Baldonado, ZandroColite, AbbieHedia, Jansyn Art Bataa, Mark Axel Ebonia, Reijazztine Justin Alimagno, and Alexander Jaime.
The panel noted that the supporting affidavit of Dr. Lo “assailed not only the supposed expertise of the PAO forensic team led by Dr. Erwin Erfe, but also the procedures they undertook in conducting the autopsy examinations of the victims.”
“More significantly, he debunked the PAO forensic team’s conclusion that Dengvaxia vaccine is the cause of death of the victims herein,” it added.
But the panel pointed out that “it is well-settled that in a preliminary investigation the investigating officer acts upon probable cause and reasonable belief, not proof beyond reasonable doubt.”
“The occasion is for the presentation of such evidence only as may engender a well-founded belief that an offense has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof,” it stated.
Apart from this, the panel noted that Garin filed the affidavit of Lo very late considering “she had already filed her Rejoinder-Affidavit.”
“After she received the last batch of the complaints (nos. 7-9) on May 24, 2018, she was given one month within which to submit her counter-affidavit. That was more than enough time for her to secure the affidavits of her witnesses, including Dr. Raymundo Lo,” it stressed.
“More importantly, there is nothing in the Motion which shows any valid and justifiable reason for very late submission of Dr. Lo’s affidavit in support of respondent’s defense,” it added.
The complainants accused Garin and co-respondents of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC); for torture resulting to the death of a person and the torture of a child under Republic Act 9745, also known as the Act Penalizing Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment; obstruction of justice under Section 1(b) of Presidential Decree 1829; and violation of Section 3(a) of Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.