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Angie M. Rosales

Noynoy, et al. face more criminal cases

Wednesday, 14 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines


Former President Benigno Aquino is now hounded by his having committed ceiminal acts and may be facing in the near future additional cases but with his protector, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, already out of her office by then.
The chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, Sen. Richard Gordon, during the Dengvaxia hearing yesterday, broadly hinted at charges to be recommended and filed by relatives of their kin who died due to Dengvaxia. The charges will be filed against former President Aquino, et al., on reckless imprudence and murder among many other charges that may still be filed.
Gordon said that Aquino’s personally meeting Sanofi executives in Paris, going by the earlier testimonies, hastened his government’s P3.8-billion Dengvaxia purchase and this, in spite of Sanofi having been warned about Dengvaxia even before mass immunization had occurred in the country.
Criminal charges have to be recommended since the criminal acts were “deliberate.”
“You are responsible for all the acts. This is serious. The former president should really get somebody to explain his role here,” Gordon said.
“I can tell you already that at the very least, there’s a dereliction of duty. There’s negligence, bad faith, violations of the procurement law,” he said.
“You are all responsible for acts that you made even if it’s not intended, if your acts are harmful to others, you are still responsible. I’m not happy with this. I am not happy but I really believe that they are responsible. I go by the evidence,” Gordon further said.
The senator, however, emphasized that the committee will not make such recommendations but the families of children or those who died due to alleged Dengvaxia vaccine can go as far as filing such charges.
“We can recommend but this may not be followed. This is why the Ombudsman and the Secretary of Justice or his representatives should be here during Senate investigations,” Gordon said.
The senator, before wrapping up the proceedings, noted the apparent deliberate moves to acquire Dengvaxia toward the latter part of the Aquino administration and there was an alleged undue haste in the release of funds, over P3 billion, prior to the 2016 elections.

It cannot be helped that there is some correlation in the purchase of the vaccine with the 2016 national polls whether to make money or receive kickbacks or even earn brownie points for the administration then, the senator said.
The senator did not mince words in alluding to the former president as possibly being responsible for the mess, saying that former Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Janette Garin could not have initiated everything.
“There are indications of this. You can also see that almost immediately after the former president appointed her (Garin) the transactions followed quickly,” he told reporters after the hearing.
He echoed his pronouncements of the proceedings saying that “Garin could be the captain but it is the Commander in Chief that gives the signal for the P3.8 billion for the procurement of the vaccines and P4.5 billion for other projects.”
Gordon noted that over P10 billion was actually released by the previous administration to the vaccine project which included also barangay clinics in the schools with a size of only 43 square meters.
“Somebody has to be held responsible. Who pushed the button? Who said ‘let’s do this?’ Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” he said.
The senator did not exclude former DoH Secretary Paulyn Ubial, an appointee of President Duterte who continued the project, insofar as liability is concerned.
He stressed though that the accountability should include even higher.
“The people who pushed the button, the (former) president) budget minister, health secretary and all the people who went for the ride, they disregarded conditions, they disregarded protocols even violating procurement provision and in the process hurt the young people of this country,” he said.
Gordon also addressed Sanofi’s representative Thomas Triomphe saying that there “was really a microwave, was really a supersonic high performance engine that was really trying to push your product down our throats.”
“In other words, it was being forced fed upon my country. I’m sorry that’s how I feel,” he said.
“That’s not the case your honor but I understand that’s how you feel,” Triomphe said.
Appearing in the last Senate hearing on Dengvaxia, an American dengue expert, Dr. Scott Halstead told the committee that both Sanofi and the Philippine government were forewarned about Dengvaxia long before the mass immunization took place in the country some two years ago.
“I was quite astonished and quite upset, the mass immunization was going forward,” he said to the committee, recalling the time when he issued the warning against Dengvaxia in March 2016 being administered to those who had not been infected with the dengue virus.
Sanofi only acknowledged Halstead’s position in Nov. 2017 after an independent panel of experts from all over the world, the Independent Data Monitoring Committee (IDMC) came to the same conclusion.
The government carried out the program in April 2016 but Triomphe claimed that they learned about the so-called risk only in late 2017.
Also during the hearing, Halstead crushed hopes of those planning to sue Sanofi based on the findings of forensic experts of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) saying that the conduct of autopsy will not yield any information showing that Dengvaxia caused the death of those given the anti-dengue vaccine.
“Please be aware that the diagnosis of Dengvaxia cannot be based on an autopsy,” Dr. Scott Halstead, an expert on dengue disease and who has been studying vaccines since 1957, told Senate probers Tuesday.
“There are a lot of autopsies being done now because unfortunately children die for one reason or another after vaccine. This is a very old phenomenon. I’ve been in the vaccine business forever, there’s always a problem like this, he added.
Halstead was asked by Sen. JV Ejercito, during the concluding public investigation in the Senate on the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, on the feasibility of arriving at such findings by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) forensic team.
Ejercito took up the matter apparently in reference to reports where the PAO, which is investigating the deaths allegedly linked to Dengvaxia, had claimed of finding a supposed pattern that led to the deaths of at least five children who received Dengvaxia.
“In any child who died post Dengvaxia (vaccination), there has to be two things. One is an unequivocal evidence that the infection was caused by dengue virus. The second one is we need to know whether the vaccine in that particular individual was given when the individual was seronegative or seropositive,” Halstead said.
Seronegative refer to those who had never been infected with dengue virus.
Studies that came out late last year showed that Dengvaxia, when administered to those seronegative individuals are likely to have severe dengue if infected by the mosquito-borne virus.
The US-based scientist said that from what he has gathered so far, the actual vaccine Dengvaxia manufactured by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur “does not cause any illness whatsoever.”
Halstead noted the similarity on the measles vaccine when it was market in the US some 40 to 50 years ago.
“What happened there was, two years after the measles vaccines were given, two (persons) acquired measles but it wasn’t just ordinary measles, it was a very severe measles that ended in death,” he said.
“So we’ve encountered this phenomenon before. But here is a much bigger group of people exposed. We don’t want to have available vaccine where people inadvertently receive antibodies that are going to be detrimental,” he added.
There actually was a test that Sanofi has developed and which can actually tell whether an individual who was given a Dengavaxia is seronegative or seropositive, Halstead said.
It’s available in several laboratory but not yet in the Philippines, unfortunately.
“Would you say that the present Dengvaxia vaccine is safe and effective?” Ejercito asked.
“The only available (anti-dengue vaccine) in the market is Dengvaxia. It’s effective in protecting people who had prior Dengue, yes. It’s not effective in preventing disease in people who are seronegative at the time they’re vaccinated,” Halstead said.
Aquino earlier denied that the implementation of the Dengvaxia mass immunization was rushed.
“The end result if that if you do not do this at this point in time, you are practically saying that the first implementation of this vaccine will be in 2017 because it will be for the next budget cycle, which will be under the new administration,” he said when he attended the hearing on December 14.
Senator Gordon stressed that the government did not undertake due diligence when it implemented the mass immunization.
‘This sad part of our history will never be repeated by the very sentinel, by the very guardians, of our health, the Department of Health,’ Gordon said.
After 7 hearings, Senator Gordon terminated yesterday the probe into the controversy surrounding the government’s purchase of P3.5 billion worth of dengue vaccine doses, used in a mass immunization program for public school students.
“We shall now adjourn these hearings on Dengvaxia and the report will be forthcoming. You can be assured, and I think you know already, this will be a hard-hitting report with the end in view that this sad part of our history will never be repeated again by the very sentinel, by the very guardians, of our health, the Department of Health,” said Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
The hearings were held jointly with the Senate committee on health and demography and the committee on finance.

Cha-cha not likely to be finished by Oct. — Kiko

Wednesday, 14 March 2018 00:00 Published in Nation

Despite the marathon deliberations in the Senate and the possibility of floor debates taking place in June, the matter of putting in place the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha) for plebiscite in October is unlikely to be realized, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan yesterday said.

“It’s too tight. And I don’t think I should be done posthate,” he said.
“I think October timetable is too short for us, assuming that we go to Cha-cha and have it presented to the public by October this year with far reaching effects,” Pangilinan, chairman of the committee constitutional amendments and revision of codes, added.
As a courtesy to the consultative committee created by President Duterte which is reviewing amendments to the 1987 Constitution and led by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the senator said his committee would like to hear them out, even out of courtesy to the move of the Chief Executive.
The committee is set to conduct further hearings especially as there appears to be strong opposition against a no-election (no-el) scenario in the course of amending or revising the Constitution.
Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. joined eight other resource persons in rejecting a no-election scenario when asked to provide inputs at a Senate hearing Tuesday on proposed Cha cha.
“I do not support any move to defer the election set for May 2019,” Pimentel who is part of the 25-man consultative committee, told senators.
Pimentel, father of incumbent Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, “a no-election scenario would unduly prolong the exercise of powers and privileges even of undeserving elective officials, and deprive those who may be more deserving of elective public offices from having the opportunity to seek the mandate of the people to serve them.”

Solons cross parties to slam UN’s Zeid

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein should relinquish his post after pontedly throwing insults on President Duterte, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel said yesterday.

“They cannot use their position and also the UN organization to personally attack the head of a member state. He should resign his post for lacking the steely nerves, the self-control and the extreme patience required of international bureaucrats or diplomats,” Pimentel said.
Even Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, in a rare instance, defended the President as he joined colleagues in slamming Zeid for his snide remarks, telling Duterte that he “needs to submit himself to some sort of a psychiatric exami-nation.”
“Even if I’m in the opposition, I don’t want insults thrown at the President. As a Filipino, it is not acceptable that our leader becomes the subject of insulting and personal statements,” Drilon said.
The senator, a lawyer and seasoned lawmaker, said it would be better if the level of discourse would correspond to the stature of the parties involved and in this case, a head of state and an official of one of the agencies of UN.

“Maybe we should have restraint in this debate. We can debate. We can disagree, we need not be disagreeable. And we should debate but let us keep to a level of issues and not personal topics,” Drilon said.
Drilon said it no longer came as a surprise to him when Duterte issued criticisms against UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard and International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
“It is not new for me because when he was Davao City Mayor, his style of talking was already like that. Now that he is President, the effect of his speeches has a wider reach,” he said.
The President took a potshot at those planning to investigate him over alleged human rights violations, saying that they cannot acquire jurisdiction over him, even threatening to slap Callamard if she will insist on conducting her probe on the alleged human rights abuses of his administration.
In coming to the defense of Callamard, Zeid said Duterte’s tirades against UN human rights activists suggest he needs to see a psychiatrist.
But Pimentel, a staunch ally of Duterte, said the likes of Zeid must show extreme patience and respect to member nations.
“If he wants to be a politician instead, then he should run and be a politician in his home country and not meddle in the internal affairs of the Philippines,” Pimentel said.
The Senate chief expressed belief that Zeid knew full well what are the so-called protocols as he seemed to have been with the UN for so long now.
“Maybe he lost the patience required of an international bureaucrat or diplomat, the nerves, the objectivity. So he should be the one to say what happened and he should resign,” said Pimentel.
Tit-for-tat looms
The United Nations’ (UN) human rights body should not be surprised if Mr. Duterte starts firing off his legendary venom at them, his spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.
Talking to Palace reporters, Roque defended Mr. Duterte’s statement the other day to feed a UN High Commissioner to crocodiles as a proper response to Zeid’s suggestion that the Philippine president “needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation.”
Mr. Duterte’s response is viewed by his spokesman, an expert on international law who used to lawyer for victims of human rights violations, as an “appropriate response.”
“UN officials should respect sitting heads of states because the UN is composed of sovereign states represented by their respective leaders,” Roque said.
“UN high commissioners are not allowed to use that kind of language,” he added.
Mr. Duterte has been known for making impolite statements against other world leaders such as former US president Barack Obama and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un whom he separately described as “crazy” and as “a son of a bitch.”
Moreover, Roque took a swipe at the UN right’s chief reputation, saying that he should learn to respect the democratic mandate bestowed by the Filipino people who elected Mr. Duterte.
The Palace official slammed Zeid, noting that he could not be knowledgeable enough on how democracy works because the country where he’s from may not have a clear context of democracy.
Zeid is a Jordanian prince and a career diplomat. He played a central role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and was elected the first president of the Assembly of State Parties of the ICC in September 2002.
Ted Tuvera


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