MANILA – The Public Attorneys Office on Sunday warned that former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral may be held liable for obstruction of justice if she insists on calling on PAO to stop its probe on alleged victims of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
PAO has claimed that there was a “pattern” in the deaths of at least 5 children who received Dengvaxia, based on the autopsies by their forensic experts.
Cabral, however, called on the Department of Justice to stop PAO from conducting further autopsies after experts from the UP-Philippine General Hospital reported that only 3 out of the 14 alleged victims of Dengvaxia died due to dengue.
“Kung ako sa kanya ay aralin n’ya ‘yung Presidential Decree 1829, obstruction of justice,” PAO chief Atty. Persida Acosta told DZMM radio.
(If I were her, I would study Presidential Decree 1829, obstruction of justice.)
“Kapag ang isang ebidensya ay hinaharang mo, itinatago mo, pinipigilan mo, ay puwede kang makasuhan ng obstruction of justice,” Acosta said.
(If you block the search for evidence, hide evidence, stop the presentation of evidence, you can be charged with obstruction of justice.)
The Philippines last year halted the use of vaccine Dengvaxia after Sanofi said it might increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients not previously infected by the mosquito-borne virus.
Cabral had said it was better to let “competent forensic pathologists” investigate alleged Dengvaxia-related deaths.
Acosta defended the competence of PAO experts, saying Dr. Erwin Erfe, who conducted the autopsies, is not just a forensic expert, but also a lawyer who understood the legal implications of his findings.
“Alam ng taong bayan ang kakayanan ng aming forensic laboratory,” she said.
(The public knows the capabilities of our forensic laboratory.)
PAO earlier said that conflict of interest may mar the investigation if the Department of Health takes over as some of its officials are allegedly linked to Dengvaxia-maker Sanofi Pasteur.
Acosta added that PAO only conducted autopsies on children whose parents sought their help and that the agency has retained the support of the DOJ.
A health official has warned that the row over Dengvaxia is affecting other vaccination programs of the government, with many parents refusing to get their children immunized.