BBM, Remulla help asked on Dengvaxia cases
BY ARLIE O. CALALO
The Manila Times
THE Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has formally asked President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla for the inhibition of a RANKING OFfiCIAL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ) FROM SUPERVISING THE NATIONAL PROSECUTION SERVICE (NPS) WHICH HAS JURISDICTION OVER DENGVAXIA CASES. This, as PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta refuted media reports that her agency wanted to take over the prosecution of those charged in the controversial case led by former Health secretary and now Rep. Janette Garin. The PAO chief said that they got hold of a DoJ circular dated Sept. 13, 2022 which indicated the duties and responsibilities of its officials, including Undersecretary Jesse Hermogenes Andres whose function is the supervision of NPS. Such supervision is evident from an Oct. 10, 2022 memorandum by DoJ’s panel of prosecutors on PAO’s request for the panel members to inhibit themselves from the Dengvaxia cases in court, Rueda-Acosta said in a letter to Marcos and Remulla, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times. “It is apparent from the memorandum that the panel members are reporting to Undersecretary Andres; the memorandum addressed to the Honorable Secretary of Justice having been coursed through Undersecretary Andres, along with Prosecutor General Malcontento and Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Fadullon,” the chief public attorney said. “Relative to this, it must be stressed that Undersecretary Andres was the former counsel of one of the accused in the Dengvaxia cases, former Department of Health secretary Janette Garin,” she added as she showed photos of Andres and Garin during the highly publicized preliminary investigation of the Dengvaxia cases. Without meaning to impute any irregularity on the part of Andres, Rueda-Acosta said PAO believes that his being the former counsel of Garin, “by and in itself, undoubtedly creates the appearance of impropriety.” “While the PAO wishes not to forthrightly accuse the good undersecretary of undue interference and meddling in the outcome of Dengvaxia cases, it bears stressing that there are already circumstances which may engender such suspicion,” Rueda-Acosta said. She cited the Dengvaxia criminal complaint of Sumachen Dominguez in connection with her son who was hospitalized but has since survived. His case, however, was dismissed by the DoJ for the “sole reason [that he had] no vaccination card and that the victim was merely injured.” “Moreover, several criminal complaints were dismissed because of the absence of a Dengvaxia card for each of the child-victims, despite affidavits of witnesses who saw and/or with the childrenvictims when they were inoculated with Dengvaxia,” Rueda-Acosta said. PAO said former Health secretary Francisco Duque 3rd during the congressional committee on appropriations hearing on May 16, 2018 admitted that there were Dengvaxia recipients who have yet to be given vaccination cards. “It is, thus, highly opportune for Undersecretary Andres to inhibit from his supervisory functions over the NPS relative to the Dengvaxia cases,” the PAO chief said. His inhibition would save the NPS from any unwarranted suspicion of being biased in favor of the accused and of being unduly influenced or controlled by him as former defense counsel of Garin, the same letter said. “To maintain and preserve the trust and faith of the private complainants not only on the DoJ and the NPS but on the entire justice system and the Marcos Administration as well, we plead for Your Honors’ sound discretion and judgment; lest private complainants, who fear of not being able to obtain the justice that they deserve, would find themselves believing their fears to be true. More than that, the integrity of Undersecretary Andres, as part of the government agency whose task is to secure the conviction of Dr. Garin, would be preserved,” Rueda-Acosta said. Meanwhile, Rueda-Acosta said the media reports were inaccurately written facts which were contrary to the position of PAO. “[This is] fake news, so to speak. Apparently and sadly, fake news is being peddled by the mainstream media and the same could have averted had the matters been duly verified and further researched on,” she said. The “fake news” reports quoted the PAO as saying that it filed a motion in court asking the DoJ to hand over the prosecution of Dengvaxia cases. “To clear things out, the PAO has not filed any motion in court and did not accuse the entire NPS of bias and conflict of interest. It is also not true that the PAO wants to take over the prosecution of the Dengvaxia cases,” Rueda-Acosta said.