House reopens Dengue probe, zeroes in on identifying those responsible for controversy

Published November 20, 2018, 7:45 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Ben Rosario

The House of Representatives reopened Tuesday the P3-billion Dengvaxia purchase probe as lawmakers zeroed in on who was behind the anomalous dengue vaccination program.

Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo

The House Committees on Good Government and Public Accountability and on Health, chaired by Reps. Xavier Jesus Romualdo (PDP-Laban, Camiguin) and Doy Leachon (PDP-Laban, Oriental Mindoro), respectively, agreed to reopen the Dengvaxia hearings to clarify a number of issues that were raised by panel members on the controversy.

Romualdo said former and incumbent officials of the Department of Health and other government agencies involved in the implementation of the 2016 anti-dengue vaccination program should be identified and their roles clarified.

However, none of the resource person invited responded to lawmakers’ queries on who was behind the Dengvaxia vaccination program.

“Many aspects of the multi-billion peso deal are questionable. One example is the fact that government appropriated funds notwithstanding the absence of a CPR (certificate of product registration) issued by the FDA,” Romualdo explained.

Romualdo and Leachon, together with Reps. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), grilled former and incumbent DOH officials, led by former Secretary Janette Garin, on this aspect of the probe.

Director Joyce Ducusin of the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau admitted that the budget request to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) came prior to the issuance of a CPR.

Responding to Romualdo’s query, Ducusin said the Dengvaxia vaccine was the only vaccine without CPR among the four they recommended for funding by the DBM.

“It (recommendaiton) came from us when we were made to list down all vaccines for funding and submit the justifications for the choices,” Ducusin said.

The recommendation was submitted on December 10, 2015 after then Health Secretary Janette Garin informed them that the DBM had informed DOH that there were savings to fund important programs.

Romualdo said the action taken by the DOH officials “didn’t make sense”.

The House official said an FDA-issued CPR would have at least guaranteed the efficacy and safety of the Dengue vaccine.

Leachon noted that, not only was the CPR not issued, the Aquino administration even guaranteed the release of the P3 billion Dengvaxia budget.

According to Leachon, the inclusion of Dengvaxia in the Phiilippine formulary exemption was even more vital if procurement of pharmaceuticals and medicines were to be financed with public funds.

Leachon said the said exemption was issued two months after the release of the budget in December, 2016.

“Not only certification of product registration was needed, but also exemption from Philippine formulary because if there would be no exemption, the release of government funds would violate Philippine laws,” stated Leachon.

Garin belied claims that there was “undue haste” exerted by government in pursuing the Dengvaxia vaccination program.

In 2013, then Health Secretary Enrique Ona announced in a press conference and press statements that the government will implement an anti-dengue vaccination program.