Aquino is culpable
Former president Benigno Aquino III’s denial of any culpability in the Dengvaxia controversy (“Aquino at DOJ to answer raps over Dengvaxia,” Inquirer.net, 6/4/18) is most infuriating. He even told the media that it’s all about politics.
My stomach churns to hear supposedly patriotic leaders shamelessly invoking the common good and national interest in deciding to embark on a highly risky mass vaccination program right before the May 2016 elections.
It was known among Cabinet secretaries and presidential staff that the former president reviewed major national projects and programs submitted for his approval almost to the minutest technical detail.
It is, therefore, a stretch to believe that the former president approved the program to inoculate 800,000 or so public schoolchildren relying mainly on the recommendation of his health secretary.
The Dengvaxia case would have surely been vetted with the same fine-tooth comb, unless political considerations got the better of his decision-making process.
From the start, the entire process had the command “expedite” all over the place, from product registration to procurement to implementation.
And how can one not be amazed by the speed with which the P3.5-billion funding was secured courtesy of government “savings”?
Despite all attempts at deflecting the issue with technicalities, the manner of financing this failed program had the markings of the legally discarded Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Savings from the lump-sum Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund under the 2015 General Appropriations Act was realigned to augment the Expanded Program on Immunization which had no provision for dengue vaccination. It therefore violated the constitutional requirement in the use of savings under the national budget.
And only by a reckless and politically motivated exercise of fiscal and policy discretion can government allocate billions of pesos on a vaccine that had yet to be fully tested, then implemented on a massive scale so close to a presidential election.
There was also the blatant usurpation of legislative prerogative over appropriation of public funds, which is at the heart of the Supreme Court decision to abolish the DAP.
DONATO P. SOLIVEN, firstname.lastname@example.org
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