By Alex P. Vidal
“It is better that a guilty man should not be brought to trial than that he should be acquitted.”—Livy
OUR fearless forecast is Iloilo 1st district Representative Janette Loreto-Garin won’t be jailed for her role in the purchase of Dengvaxia, a vaccine used to immunize kids during the Noynoy Aquino administration where she served as Department of Health (DOH) secretary.
As a big fan and supporter of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., it’s so uncanny to see 50-year-old Loreto-Garin being locked in jail if found guilty of graft and technical malversation charges filed against her and several other DOH officials before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The wife of Miga-ao, Iloilo mayor Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr., and currently House deputy majority leader, posted bail November 13.
Both the Loretos in Leyte and Garins in the first district of Iloilo went all out for Mr. Marcos Jr. during the 2022 presidential election.
Loreto-Garin’s parents have been avid supporters of the Marcoses in the 80s. Loreto-Garin’s father-in-law, the late former Rep. Oscar “Oca” Garin Sr., was first elected as congressman after the 1986 EDSA Revolution that toppled the regime of President Marcos Jr’s father, Ferdinand Sr.
In many cases in the Philippines, political clan members facing the prospect of imprisonment managed to wiggle out from trouble if they were supporters of the incumbent administration.
In the previous Duterte regime, many high-ranking officials accused of malversation of public funds and even plunder, were only asked to tender their resignations.
Most of those who made millions or even billions illegally during their terms had exited the government unnoticed. No one went to jail.
Loreto-Garin, et al may still win an acquittal even without any influence or support from the Marcos Jr. administration.
From the start of the Dengvaxia brouhaha, Loreto-Garin has maintained her innocence.
“Posting bail is part of the agonizing process to prove our innocence. It is a crucial step in ensuring fair trial and safeguarding one’s rights,” she said in a statement after posting a P108,000 bail.
If Loreto-Garin, et al is acquitted, it will be a total defeat for the combative Samahan ng mga Magulang ang mga Anak ay Biktima ng Dengvaxia (SMABD), which had been pushing for her prosecution even before the Ombudsman filed the cases on October 24, 2023.
SMABD administrator Sumachen Dominguez had earlier announced they were delighted upon learning that the Office of the Ombudsman filed criminal complaints against Garin and three others before the Sandiganbayan for alleged illegal use of public funds.
In the charge sheet, government prosecutors alleged that Garin, former DOH Undersecretary Kenneth Go, former DOH Officer-in-Charge Director Maria Joyce Ducusin and former Executive Director Julius Lecciones of the state-run Philippine Children’s Medical Center “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously” caused the release of P3.57 billion of public funds to increase the budget for the Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI) but used the said funds for Dengvaxia purchase which is not part of the EPI.
The Ombudsman further alleged that Dengvaxia vaccines are not listed in Volume 1 of the Philippine National Drug Formulary and have not secured an exemption from being listed in Philippine National Drug Formulary in violation of Executive Order No. 49, series of 1993, and related administrative orders and issuances.
The raps against Loreto-Garin have something to do with her alleged role in controversial school-based dengue vaccination program during the tail end of the Aquino government in 2016.
The lady lawmaker ad added: “We hope that this first step into cleansing our name can be dealt with timely so that scientists and doctors can perform our regular tasks.”
Loreto-Garin is impacted in the alleged realignment of funds and alleged augmentation of funds for immunization relating to Dengvaxia, which was the vaccine used.
She had lamented that the Dengvaxia issue has led to a significant drop in vaccine confidence among Filipinos. This has led to measles and polio outbreaks in the country.
“Resolving the issue once and for all is aligned to the Doctors for Truth clamor because global history have taught us that any vaccine demonized, usually spreads to include other vaccine preventable diseases and results to outbreaks,” Loreto-Garin had noted.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)