Sen. Richard J. Gordon yesterday vowed to ensure that the Senate investigation on the previous administration’s alleged anomalous procurement of P3.5 billion in anti-dengue vaccines would be non-partisan.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which he chairs will begin its probe into the controversial Dengvaxia vaccines today following French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur’s reported admission last Nov. 29 that the vaccines pose serious health risks to those who had never contracted dengue before.
Former President Benigno S. Aquino III’s apparent involvement in the approval of the vaccines has repeatedly surfaced in previous hearings into the issue.
“Pray for a good investigation; wala pong partisan yan. Kaibigan ko rin ho lahat ng mga taong involved dyan pero napipilitan ho tayong mag-imbestiga dahil nung isang taon pa dapat yan na natapos eh,” Gordon said.
Apart from Gordon’s committee, the Senate Committees on Health and Demography and Finance, which Senators Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito and Loren Legarda, respectively, chair, will also join the hearing, even though Ejercito said his panel has decided to hold in abeyance its own investigation into the issue and wait for the World Health Organization report on the vaccine.
The vaccines were administered to more than 700,000 school children with eight or 10 percent of them being inoculated even without having had dengue.
Gordon said the scandal over Dengvaxia has given individuals and families nationwide to be skeptical and fearful of government-initiated vaccination programs.
“It gave vaccination a bad name. Why? Because the government did not exercise due diligence when they should have tested and checked those medicines first,” he said.
“Huwag dapat tayong complacent, dapat alisto tayo,” Gordon reiterated.
Looking at the timeline prior to the Aquino government’s procurement of the vaccines, the senator said: “There were very strong signs of conspiracy” to buy the Dengvaxia medicines.”
Asked if he believes Aquino’s “fingerprint” is all over the case, Gordon said he is just stating the obvious.
“He was the one who met with officials of Sanofi. And former Health Secretary Janette Garin had the courage to make that trip to Paris to meet with executives of Sanofi prior to PNoy’s meeting with them in December of 2015,” he said.
Gordon, in a privilege speech last year, said the government’s R3.5-billion immunization deal with Sanofi smacks of a “midnight deal” as it was approved on Dec. 29, 2015 before the start of the 2016 May election campaign period.
The Food and Drug Administration has ordered the suspension of the sale of the dengue vaccine while the Duterte government is now bent on seeking a refund of the R3.5 billion used to buy the vaccines. (Hannah L. Torregoza)