PAO asks SC to designate special courts for Dengvaxia cases

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2018 02:12 AM

MANILA - The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Monday urged the Supreme Court (SC) to designate special courts to try civil and criminal cases arising from the massive school-based inoculation of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.

In a four-page letter dated May 8, 2018, addressed to then Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, PAO lawyers said the reason for the special courts is for the purpose of avoiding “conflicting decisions should the cases be heard in different Regional Trial Courts (RTCs).”

PAO, headed by Deputy Chief Public Attorney Ana Lisa Soriano, requested for the creation of one special court in RTC Manila and one in Quezon City for the Dengvaxia-related cases in the event these land in court.

PAO said it had filed then six criminal cases, including reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and torture, and four civil cases with RTC Quezon City. 

To date, PAO has filed 17 criminal complaints before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against former and current health department officials, including incumbent health chief Francisco Duque and former health chief Janette Garin; officials of vaccine manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur; and officials of vaccine distributor, Zuellig Pharma.

PAO told the high court that 2,128 Dengvaxia recipients, 2,125 of whom are children and the other 3 are adults, have sought the assistance of state lawyers. 

“53 of these Dengvaxia recipients are dead victims who respectively underwent PAO forensic examination… Considering the declaration of Sanofi of the adverse effects of [Dengvaxia], there is a great probability that more deaths will occur in the succeeding days, thus, the filing of more cases is not remote,” the letter stated. 

The P3.5-billion immunization program, which began during the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III, was halted by health officials under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte after Sanofi Pasteur admitted the vaccine should only be given to those who have already contracted dengue because the illness may worsen in recipients who have no history of dengue.

Aquino, Garin, and former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad are facing a separate complaint for criminal negligence and reckless imprudence, technical malversation, causing undue injuries, and violations of the Procurement Law filed by Vanguard of the Philippines, Inc. (VCPI) and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).

The DOJ has yet to resolve the Dengvaxia-related complaints. 

There is no word yet from the high court as to its action, if any, on PAO’s request.