PAO files new complaint against Duque over Dengvaxia controversy

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The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Tuesday filed an obstruction of justice complaint against Health Secretary Francisco Duque in connection with children’s alleged deaths due to the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.

In a press briefing after the filing at the Department of Justice (DOJ), PAO forensics expert Erwin Erfe accused the Department of Health (DOH) of damaging internal organs of children who are suspected to have died due to the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine.

Erfe said they noticed that children’s internal organs were damaged when they conducted a re-autopsy on the victims.

He also revealed that one of the victims had a missing appendix.

The PAO said that the children with damaged and missing internal organs were autopsied by the DOH.

Efre also alleged that the DOH had allegedly discouraged hospitals from allowing PAO to conduct autopsies on Dengvaxia recipients who have died.

PAO officials brought along with them during the filing of the complaint the family of suspected Dengvaxia victim 13-year-old Abbie Hedia.

Hedia died last February 7. She was given a shot of Dengvaxia on November 17, 2017, almost a week after Duque was appointed as DOH secretary.

Duque told GMA News Online said he will issue a statement once he receives a copy of and has read the new complaint.

Last week, the PAO included Duque in its complaints of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and violation of the Anti-Torture Law filed before the DOJ.

Former Health secretary Janette Garin, officials of Sanofi Pasteur and Dengvaxia distributor Zuellig Pharma and several other DOH officials were included in the complaint filed last week.

Duque had branded the Dengvaxia-related complaints against him as “counterproductive” and “malicious and oppressive.” He had also threatened to file counter charges.

The Health secretary had said that he could not be held liable in Dengvaxia-related cases because he was not the DOH’s chief when the dengue immunization program was rolled out in April 2016. He said he did not sign any orders on the Dengvaxia immunization.

He questioned the absence of former Health secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial’s name in the charge sheet.

Duque stopped the dengue immunization program in December last year after Sanofi Pasteur issued an advisory that Dengvaxia should not be given to people who have not been afflicted by dengue.

According to the summary of Hedia’s complaint, they alleged that Duque “deliberately committed acts which are effectively suppressing or concealing the records of the victims and the bodies of the deceased victims by other government and private entities, including PAO.”

Duque was also accused of protecting himself, Garin, and other government officials from prosecution.

Four public attorneys recommended one complaint of obstruction of justice and a corresponding complaint pursuant to Section 3(e) of RA3019 or the Anti-Graft and Practices Act, as filed earlier. —Rie Takumi/ALG/KBK, GMA News

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