Why is PAO investigating Dengvaxia mess? Acosta explains

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 01 2018 09:52 AM

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Why is the Public Attorney's Office investigating deaths allegedly linked to the controversial dengue vaccine program?

According to its website, the Public Attorney's Office exists to "provide the indigent litigants, the oppressed, marginalized, and underprivileged members of the society free access to courts, judicial and quasi-judicial agencies, by rendering legal services, counselling and assistance in consonance with the Constitutional mandate that 'free access to courts shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty' in order to ensure the rule of law, truth and social justice as components of the country's sustainable development."

PAO has claimed finding a "pattern" that led to the deaths of at least 5 children who received Dengvaxia.

Senator Vicente Sotto III, however, said experts from the Department of Health should lead the exhumation and forensic examination of vaccine recipients because PAO is not a medical group.

PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said the PAO Law authored by Senator Sotto states that the office can be called upon to "render services."

"Ipinaliwanag ko, Senator Sotto, author ka ng PAO Law. Nandoon, we can be called upon by government authorities to render services -- hindi naman sinabing i-counsel lang namin," she said.

"Kaya noong 2004 pa lang, binigyan ako ng pondo pampabayad ng mga forensic [experts]."

Acosta added PAO pathologists are connected to big hospitals while Dr. Erwin Erfe, the agency's forensic laboratory director, is a renowned medico-legal expert.

The PAO chief claimed that conflict of interest may mar the investigation if DOH takes over because some of its officials are allegedly linked to Dengvaxia-maker Sanofi Pasteur.

"Sinong inirereklamo? DOH e, sila ang nagbakuna. Bakit hindi raw UP-PGH, e ika ko, hindi naman basta-basta nag-o-autopsy iyung mga sinasabing experts ng UP at iyung iba roon ay confirmed na consultant ng Sanofi," she said.

DZMM, 1 February 2018