Press Release
October 12, 2016


"We cannot have people playing God and pretending to be God." This was Senator Richard J. Gordon's reaction to what he described as the previous administration's "indecent haste" in procuring a dengue vaccine just a few months before then President Benigno Aquino III was due to step down.

Delivering a privilege speech during Tuesday's session to reiterate the disclosure he made during a budget hearing of the Department of Health earlier in the day, Gordon slammed the Aquino administration's sudden decision, in December last year, to procure Dengvaxia, a dengue vaccine which had yet to be given pre-qualification approval by the World Health Organization (WHO), and inoculate 230,000 schoolchildren by April of this year without having tested at least 200 children first, as required by WHO.

"The issue involved is the sudden decision made in the latter weeks of the previous administration. On December 22, 2015, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved a dengue vaccination to be introduced in the Philippines. On the same day, the then DOH Secretary announced that DOH was awaiting pre-qualification guidelines from WHO for the said vaccine. The pre-qualification ensures that vaccines procured are safe and effective. By April, the DOH started inoculating schoolchildren with the vaccine," the senator said. The guidelines was only given in April after the vaccine have already been used.

"We cannot have these people pretending and playing God in our country, and say "let's put P3.5 billion here, not even Congress can question us because we make the decisions," he added, pointing out that with 200,000 dengue cases recorded in the country every year, there was no question on the need to take preventive measures, only on the speed that the vaccine was procured.

Health Secretary Paulyn Rosell-Ubial disclosed during the hearing that DOH records showed that the P3.5 billion used to procure the vaccines was not included in the Department's budget for 2016 but was given as additional allocation by the Department of Budget and Management that was sourced from the unobligated funds of other agencies.

Gordon said he will file a resolution calling for an investigation in aid of legislation into the said procurement which has turned the Philippines into the "number one guinea pig in Asia" and has exposed Filipino schoolchildren to danger.

"Wala po akong sinasabi na walang efficacy ang vaccine na ito because the jury is still out on the matter. When somebody makes a fast break, I am duty-bound to rise and to obviate any questions of lack of transparency... The issue is we have again to ferret whether there is danger or there is not enough due diligence required that has not been done or whether there are other priorities that this money could have been used for," he stressed, adding that the timing of the procurement appeared to be supply-driven rather than demand-driven.

Gordon further said that with the DOH only having 243 dentists when 97 percent of Filipino schoolchildren have dental caries or cavities, the funds used to purchase the vaccine could have served the citizens better if these were instead used to pay for the salaries of additional dentists who could have ensured better oral health care for the schoolchildren.

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