Garin insists on testimony of pathologist in Dengvaxia probe

Published November 2, 2018, 10:11 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Jeffrey Damicog

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin continued to insist that the Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors accept the testimony of a pathologist who would refute her liability in the deaths of persons who were inoculated with the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine.

The panel chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia Victorio granted her request to appeal for the reversal of its Oct. 10 order which denied her motion asking to accept the supporting affidavit of pathologist Dr. Raymundo Lo.

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin gestures during the Inquiry into the implementation of the DOH Health Facilities Enhancement Program including the alleged irregularities in the Barangay Health Stations Project in Pasay city, July 4, 2018. (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)
Former Health Secretary Janette Garin

“In addition, counsel for Garin will submit a memorandum as well as a motion for reconsideration to the order of the panel denying motion to admit affidavit of expert witness,” read the minutes of the panel’s last hearing held on Tuesday.

Last Tuesday, the panel held its last hearing over the preliminary investigation it conducted for the complaints against Garin and her co-accused concerning the deaths of nine children who received shots of Dengvaxia, namely, Aejay Bautista, Anjielica Pestillos, Lenard Baldonado, Zandro Colite, Abbie Hedia, Jansyn Art Bataa, Mark Axel Ebonia, Reijazztine Justin Alimagno, and Alexander Jaime.

The families of the dead children, assisted by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), filed the complaints and accused the respondents of reckless imprudence resulting to 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.

In its Oct. 10 order, 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.

However, 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.