MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) should play the lead role in investigating the deaths of children linked to Dengvaxia and not the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday.
Sotto made this remark during the confirmation hearing of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III telling him that the DOH taking the lead would help build a “solid case.”
“If you’re going to be Secretary of Health, set your foot down and make the DOH the lead into these investigations especially scientific investigations,” Sotto told Duque.
Sotto questioned PAO’s ability to investigate the Dengvaxia-linked deaths claiming that “there was no such thing” as forensic experts in PAO.
“Is the Public Attorney’s Office now a medical group? The last time I heard, PAO is under the DOJ (Department of Justice) not DOH,” he added.
Duque told Sotto that PAO was investigating the Dengvaxia-related deaths on behalf of the parents and family members of the victims.
Over a phone interview, PAO chief Persida Acosta refuted Sotto’s claim that PAO had no forensic experts.
“Madami kaming experts (We have many experts),” she said enumerating names and noting that the PAO even had its own forensic laboratory which was set up in 2004.
Acosta, meanwhile, explained that PAO was taking the lead role as allowing DOH might lead to conflict of interest.
“Maintindihan niyo sana may (I hope you understand that there is) conflict of interest. May mga taga DOH dati na involved sa kaso(There are DOH employees involved in the case),” Acosta said.
She clarified that she did not mean to say that the DOH was not competent enough but that parents of children whose death is being linked to Dengvaxia wanted to sue the DOH.
“Ang gusto ng karamihan ng magulang DOH ang idemanda (Majority of parents want to file cases against the DOH). May conflict of interest,” she added.