PAO budget cut meant to 'kill' Dengvaxia probe: Acosta

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2019 10:50 AM

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The Public Attorney's Office claimed Thursday that a slash in its 2020 budget is meant to "kill" its investigation into the alleged deaths of children who were given dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. 

In the proposed national budget, PAO lost P19.5 million meant for forensic equipment. Some minority lawmakers also inserted a provision barring the agency from using its maintenance operating expenses for forensic personnel, meetings and utilities, claimed PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta. 

"Bakit may paninikil at bakit biglang may insertion? Pinapatay po iyong ating kapangyarihang mag-imbestiga... para matigil na rin siguro iyang imbestigasyon sa Dengvaxia," she told radio DZMM. 

(Why is there an extortion attempt and a sudden insertion? Our power to investigate is being killed, perhaps to stop the investigation on Dengvaxia.) 

"Nakikiusap po ako sa ating Pangulo, paki-veto po iyan sapagkat hindi naman po sa akin ang pondong iyan, sa mamamayang Pilipino po iyan," she added. 
 
(I am asking the President to please veto that because those funds are not mine, they belong to the public anyway.) 

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he did not know who removed the budget for PAO forensic laboratory, but noted the agency can use the facilities of the police and the National Bureau of Investigation for its investigations. 

Sen. Sonny Angara also refrained from removing the slot for PAO's laboratory from the national budget, which means that Acosta can still ask for a special purpose fund from the executive branch for the whole 2020, said Lacson. 

The government in late 2017 stopped the sale of Dengvaxia and its use in the immunization of schoolchildren after its maker warned that the drug may cause more severe symptoms if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease. 
 
PAO autopsied the remains of around 100 children who allegedly died after getting the vaccine. The DOH and several health experts, however, insisted that there is no established link between Dengvaxia and the alleged deaths. 
 
DZMM, Dec. 12 2019