MANILA — The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Friday filed a complaint against former President Benigno Aquino III and former and current government officials in connection with the implementation of the controversial dengue immunization program before the May 2016 polls.
Also included in the complaint filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) were former budget secretary Florencio Abad, former health secretary Janette Garin, and other former and current Department of Health (DOH) officials, including Undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David, and Mario Villaverde; Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; Directors Laureano Cruz, Joyce Ducusin, Mar Wynn Bello, Leonila Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay, Ariel Valencia, and Julius Lecciones; former undersecretaries Nemesio Gako, Vicente Belizario Jr., and Kenneth Hartigan-Go; and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros.
In an affidavit complaint, the group accused Aquino and company of violating several provisions of the Omnibus Election Code over the implementation of the controversial dengue immunization program ahead of the May 2016 polls.
“It behooves the Law Department to evaluate this joint complaint-affidavit and to file the formal charges against the respondents, as well as to order the conduct of preliminary investigation, coupled with the service of subpoena to the concerned individuals by the fastest means,” said the VACC complaint, which was represented by Dr. Francis Cruz.
The complainant said the individuals committed an “election offense” when they used public funds for an election campaign, despite being prohibited by the OEC.
They added that Aquino and company violated the prohibition against the release, disbursement, or expenditure of public funds within 45 days before a regular election is held.
“It appears that no exemption had been requested and was granted by the Commission on Elections to respondents Aquino III, Abad, Garin and the other respondents,” Cruz said.
They added that Aquino, Abad, and Garin must be held liable after causing the releases, disbursements, or expenditures of more than PHP3.5 billion in public funds in connection with the procurement of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia and implementation of the school-based immunization of tetravalent dengue vaccine of the DOH.
“The said humongous public funds were used for any election campaign or for any partisan political activity, as no less than Aquino III, the leader of the Liberal Party, together with some DOH officials, took part during the launching of the Dengue Immunization Program of the DOH in order to further the candidacies of his partymates, especially those vying for the presidential, vice-presidential, and senatorial posts,” Cruz added.
As for the other DOH officials, he said they should also face charges for being “part of the conspiracy”.
“In the case of other DOH officials, they are liable for being involved, directly or indirectly, in the first round of implementation of the Dengue Immunization Program on April 4, 2016 or during the election ban,” the complaint added.
An election offense carries the penalty of one to six years of imprisonment, removal of the right to vote, and disqualification to hold public office.