Parents of children whose deaths were linked to the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine on Monday assailed Undersecretary Jesse Hermogenes Andres for perceived conflict of interest over his appointment at the National Prosecution Service (NPS), an attached agency of the Department of Justice.
At a media briefing at the Public Attorney’s Office in Quezon City, Sumachen Dominguez, Samahan ng mga Magulang, Anak at Biktima ng Dengvaxia president, said Andres heads the NPS that investigates allegations that a crime has been committed and prosecutes all cases involving violation of penal laws, including the multiple counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.
The criminal complaints were filed against ex-Department of Health Secretary Janette Garin and more than 30 other doctors, as well as the executives of vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and distributor Zuellig Pharma Corp.
Dominguez pointed out that Andres was Garin’s lawyer before his appointment to the DOJ.
“Undersecretary Andres was always there to attend every hearing at the NPS. We have pictures of him, along with Garin,” she told the media.
Last August, Andres was appointed as Justice Undersecretary.
PAO, however, clarified that they are not hurling accusations of biases and prejudice against Andres, but asserted that the rule on inhibition must apply to Andres.
Dominguez deplored the recent dismissal of 24 Dengvaxia-related cases filed with the DOJ-NSP, including the deaths of SPO2 Vincent Arugay Jr. of the Quezon City Police District and Dr. Kendrick Gotoc, also from Quezon City, as well as the physical injury sustained by her minor son after receiving the anti-dengue vaccine in 2016.
PAO sent yesterday an appeal letter to the President, while motions for reconsideration have been filed with the DOJ’s state prosecutors, PAO-NCR director Revelyn Ramos-Dacpano said.
Speaking in Ilokano dialect, the group’s president appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to transfer Andres to another post in the DOJ, and to Justice Jesus Remulla to heed their sentiments.
“This (appointment of Andres) is another controversy,” Dominguez stressed.
“We are still grieving for the deaths of our children up to now. All we want is fair litigation. We have been in legal battle for five years. Andres lawyered for Garin in the Dengvaxia case. May we ask for his inhibition at the NSP?” said Jonathan de Guzman, whose 12-year-old son died after three doses of the Dengvaxia vaccine.
Annie Gabito of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said she have been with the VACC for 24 years, and this is my worst experience.”
In an official statement in November 2017, Sanofi said those who have received the Dengvaxia vaccine without prior dengue infection could be vulnerable to more severe infections.