Sandiganbayan rules: Dengvaxia case vs Garin, 4 others to stay

PNA photo

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The Sandiganbayan has junked the plea of former Department of Health (DOH) secretary and current Iloilo 1st District Representative Janette Garin to dismiss the graft and malversation charges filed against her.

The anti-graft court’s Second Division argued that it found the allegations in the criminal information against Garin sufficient to proceed to trial, as they contain the elements of the offense of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“The Court finds that the above-quoted allegations in the information are sufficient. They contain all the elements of violation […] Hence, the information in question alleges facts and circumstances that necessarily constitute the offense charged,” the court said in its nine-page resolution dated January 10.

Section 3(e) of RA 3019 prohibits public officials from providing unwarranted benefits, advantages, or preferences to a private party or causing any party, including the government, undue injury.

Garin, in her motion to quash dated November 21, 2023, contended that her constitutional right to the speedy disposition of her cases was violated because of the “inordinate delay in the proceedings” of her case.

She argued that the complaint against her over the Dengvaxia controversy was filed in February 2015, but the Ombudsman only resolved the case in August 2023, and the criminal charges were filed to the Sandiganbayan on October 24, 2023.

However, the anti-graft court noted that the preliminary investigation was initially handled by the Department of Justice before it was forwarded to the Ombudsman in 2021.

It further emphasized that there were originally 42 respondents who were given a chance to answer the allegations, along with the issues and voluminous documents that needed careful study.

“The Court finds that the length of time spent by both the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman before issuing resolutions that culminated in the filing of cases in court is reasonable and acceptable,” the second division said.

The anti-graft court stressed that the investigations were not attended by “vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays.”

It highlighted that the time spent in the investigation only showed that evidence and documents were carefully examined and reviewed before the cases were filed in court.

Daily Guardian has reached out to Garin for comment, but she has yet to respond as of writing.

The four others indicted in the case, alongside Garin, are DOH supply chain management director Joyce Ducusin, former undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo, former undersecretary Kenneth Hartigan-Go, and former Philippine Children’s Medical Center executive director Julius Lecciones.

They are facing criminal charges related to the allegedly anomalous P3.5-billion Dengvaxia mass vaccination program of the DOH during the Aquino administration.

The government spent P3.5 billion for the purchase of dengue vaccines in 2016 from the French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur.

Around 10 percent of over 800,000 students had not had any prior dengue infection before Sanofi Pasteur announced that Dengvaxia is more risky for people not previously infected by the virus.

The DOH, under Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in December 2017, ordered the temporary suspension of the dengue vaccination program.