February 2, 2019

Parents: DOH bangkay chasers “buy evidence” from Dengvaxia victims

A child holding a Dengvaxia Card.
It’s been over a year since the Dengvaxia Scandal erupted in November 2017. Since then, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) with its chief Atty. Persida Acosta has autopsied the bodies of over a hundred vaccinees, a vast majority of whom are school-age children who received the vaccine through the botched 2016 school-based vaccination program of the Department of Health (DOH), led by then Secretary Janette Garin.

PAO has already filed a number of criminal, civil, and administrative cases against the perpetrators of what could possibly be the biggest case of medical practice in Modern History.

Justice, however, remains elusive, as several of the victims’ parents came forward and accused today’s Department of Health of attempting to “buy evidence” from them, which would make it more difficult for the victims’ families to secure convictions against the culprits.

Today’s Health Department is headed by Secretary Francisco Duque, who previously was a DOH consultant reporting directly to Noynoy Aquino-era DOH Sec. Janette Garin.

The Basics of Filing a Dengvaxia Case

President Rodrigo Duterte tasked the Public Attorney’s Office was tasked by to handle Dengvaxia cases of any affected family who requests for assistance.

To initiate a formal complaint, PAO logically asks every complainant to submit medical records that shall be used as supporting evidence, including:
1. Dengvaxia Card – A small card issued by the DOH at the time of vaccination, detailing the who was vaccinated, where the vaccination took place, and when the recipient received Dengvaxia doses. This serves as prima facie evidence that the child indeed received Dengvaxia.
2. Death Certificate – This document states the date and cause of death.

3. Medical Abstract – A concise summary of the Dengvaxia recipient’s condition, usually issued by a qualified medical professional around the time of the recipient’s death.
Without these basic documents, winning a Dengvaxia case will be severely prolonged, if not impossible.

But there’s a problem.

Several Dengvaxia parents recently told PAO that the Department of Health has been attempting to get their original records in exchange for Php 50,0000 medical assistance. While it’s true that President Duterte instructed DOH to extend financial assistance, the President DID NOT order DOH to take away evidence from the victims’ kin.

But that’s what DOH did. 

“DoH buys evidence”

Here are excerpts from 17 sworn testimonies of Dengvaxia complainants:

Witness No. 1: Aileen Teves

Victim/Casualty: Jose Balacano
Dengvaxia Case No. 15
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Sabi ng [taga-DOH], ang kailangan daw po nilang makuha ang orihinal na kopya ng Death Certificate ng aking anak at ang Dengvaxia Card kapalit ng halagang Php 50,000 cash.”
TRANSLATION: DOH said they need to get my child’s original Death Certificate and Dengvaxia Card in exchange for Php 50,000 cash.

Witness No. 2: Argelsam Racuya

Victim/Casualty: Kianah Mae Racuya
Dengvaxia Case No. 56
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
"Ikalawang linggo ng Hunyo 2018, kami ay linapitan ng mga empleyado ng DOH upang kausapin… tinanong ako kung may utang ako sa hospital… (at) inalok [na] kanila itong babayaran… Kung ako ay papayag, hihingan nila ako ng mga document… tulad ng… death certificate, Dengvaxia card, at Medical Abstract… daw… para mabayaran ang hospital bills…"
TRANSLATION: On the second week of June 2018, a DOH employee approached us for a conversation, asked me if I still have debts with the hospital, and offered to pay them off. If I agree, they asked me for documents like death certificate, Dengvaxia card, and Medical Abstract, supposedly as a requirement for them to pay the hospital bills.

Witness No. 3: Corazon Malagom

Victim/Casualty: Rolando Malagom
Dengvaxia Case No. 32
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Bigla akong hinarang ng... nagtratrabaho sa San Rafael Rural Health Center na kung saan ang aking anak ay tinurukan ng Dengvaxia vaccine... Sabi nila, kukunin nila ang… Dengvaxia Card… kapalit ng limampung libong piso (Php 50,000.00)."
TRANSLATION: Workers from San Rafael (town) Rural health center, where my child was vaccinated with Dengvaxia, suddenly approached me. They said they’ll get the Dengvaxia card in exchange for Php 50,000.

Witness No. 4: Florante Ocfemia

Victim/Casualty: Kenchi Ocfemia
Dengvaxia Case No. 80
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Humihingi [ang DOH] ng requirements para makuha yung tulong… Humingi siya ng… Dengvaxia card… pakapalit ng Php 50,000.00 na ‘burial assistance’.”
TRANSLATION: The DOH has requirements before they extend assistance. He asked for the Dengvaxia Card in exchange for Php 50,000.00 burial assistance.

Witness No. 5: Jennie Mae Elipane

Victim/Casualty: Melvin Karl Elipane
Dengvaxia Case No. 21
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Noong lumabas sa telebisyon na ipina-autopsy… ng Public Attorney’s Office ang labi ng aking kapatid ay pumunta sa aming bahay ang mga nagturok ng Dengvaxia vaccine… Sinabi nila… sa aking nanay na magbukas ng bank account dahil may ipapasok daw sila doon na pera basta tumigil lang siya sa pakikipag-ugnayan sa Public Attorney’s office at bigay niya sa kanila ang mga dokumento kaugnay sa pagkaka-ospital at pagkamatay ng aking kapatid. Dinig na dinig ko ito dahil katabi ko ang aking nanay habang sinasabi nila ito sa kanila.”
TRANSLATION: “The persons who vaccinated my brother visited our home after the Public Attorney’s office autopsy of my brother’s remains came out on TV. They told my mother to open a bank account because they will deposit an amount on the condition that she stops communicating with PAO and that she hands over documents related to my brother’s hospitalization and death. I heard this clearly as I was beside my mother when they were talking.”

Witness No. 6: Jennifer delos Santos

Victim/Casualty: Lea delos Santos
Dengvaxia Case no. 22
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Pinuntahan kami ng barangay captain kasama ng mga taga-DOH na hinihimok (kami) na tanggapin ang Php 50,000 kapalit ng pag-urong ng reklamo.”
TRANSLATION: The barangay (village) captain and DOH workers approached us and tried to convince us to accept Php 50,000 in exchange for withdrawing the case.

Witness No. 7: Judelin Apa and Erwin Apa

Victim/Casualty: EJ Christian Apa
Dengvaxia Case no. 30
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“…Pumunta (kami) sa Rural Health Unit (Health Center) at pagdating naming doon ay kinausap kami ng isang nars at tinanong kami kung gusto ba raw naming mag-avail ng financial assistance na Php 50,000.00 kapalit ng… Dengvaxia Card.”
TRANSLATION: We went to the health center and upon arrival, a nurse approached us and asked if we want to avail of Php 50,000 assistance in exchange for the Dengvaxia Card.

Witness No. 8: Leonila Sibayan

Victim/Casualty: Ronald Sibayan
Dengvaxia Case no. 85
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Sinabi sa akin [ng mga taga-DOH] na kailangan naming pumunta sa [DOH-Tayuman] at ibigay ang aking Dengvaxia Card upang makuha ko ang pinansyal na tulong na nagkakahalaga ng P50,000.”
TRANSLATION: DOH officials told me that I need to go to DOH-Tayman and surrender my Dengvaxia Card before I can get the Php 50,000 financial assistance.

Witness No. 9: Luzviminda Cortes

Victim/Casualty: Joaniña Cortes
Dengvaxia Case no. 58
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Pagdating ko ng aming bahay ay inabot sa akin ni Jimmy ang listahan ng dokumento na kailangan naming… isumite sa DOH upang makatanggap kami ng financial assistance… na… Php 50,000. Ang listahan ng dokumento na isisumite naming na hinihingi… ay parehong-pareho sa listahan ng dokumento na isinumite naming sa Public Attorney’s Office kaugnay ng kasong isinampa namin. Ilan po sa mga… hinihingi… ay Dengvaxia Card at Death Certificate ng aking anak na si Joaniña.
TRANSLATION: After coming back to our home, Jimmy (witness' son) handed me a list of documents that we need to surrender to the DOH in order for us to receive a financial assistance of Php 50,000. The list of documents to be submitted is totally identical to the list of documents we submitted to the Public Attorney's Office in relation to the case we filed. Among the documents listed is the Dengvaxia Card and Death Certificate of my daughter Joaniña.

Witness No. 10: Lyngin Alcantara and Erwin Alcantara

Victim/Casualty: Clarissa Alcantara
Dengvaxia Case no. 28
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
Ang nurse na nagturok ng dengvaxia vaccine sa aming anak at isa pang tao na nagpakilalang director ng DOH ay nagtungo sa aming bahay. Inalok po nila kami ng Php 50,000 kapalit ng pag-surrender ng mga original copy… Dengvaxia Card.
TRANSLATION: The nurse who vaccinated my child and another person who claimd to be DOH Director visited my home. They offered Php 50,000 in exchange for the original Dengvaxia Card.

Witness No. 11: Marilyn Casona

Victim/Casualty: Trish Anne Casona
Dengvaxia Case no. 66
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Bilang kapalit ng Php 50,000 na tulong ay kailangan kong isumite ang Dengvaxia Card, Death Certificate… Hindi ko tinanggap ang tulong…”
TRANSLATION: In exchange for the Php 50,000 assistance, I was required to submit the Dengvaxia Card, Death Certificate… I didn’t accept it.

Witness No. 12: Mary Ann Palumbarit

Victim/Casualty: Angelica Palumbarit
Dengvaxia Case no. 16
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Ipinaalam ng [DOH] na may binibigay na tulong ang pamahalaan sa halagang Php 50,000.00 ngunit bago ko matanggap ang nasabing tulong ay kailangan ko na ibigay sa kanila ang orihinal na kopya ng Dengvaxia Card at Death Certificate ng aking anak na si Angelica.”
TRANSLATION: The DOH told us the government is extending assistance in the amount of Php 50,000 but before I receive the said assistance, I would have to surrender the original Dengvaxia Card and Death Certificate of my child Angelica.

Witness No. 13: Rowena Malana Villegas

Victim/Casualty: Michael Villegas Tablate
Dengvaxia Case no. 9
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
"Sinabi [ng Health Center Nurse] na ‘Naparito po ako para ialok sa inyo ang tulong galing sa gobyerno sa halagang Php 50,000.00… ang kapalit lang po nito ay Dengvaxia Card, Death Certificate, at Clinical Abstract… Pagkalipas ng halos ng isang buwan, bumalik si Nurse Janine sa bahay namin. Sa pagkakataong ito ay kasama niya na ang isang mataas daw na opisyal ng DOH, kagawad ng barangay… at iba pang kasama niyang nurse… Tinanggihan kong muli ang alok. Kahit magdildil ako ng asin ay hindi ko tatanggapin ang pera na iyon. Hustisya ang hinahanap ko para sa pagkamatay ng anak ko.”
TRANSLATION: The health center nurse said, “I am here to offer you assistance from the government in the amount of Php 50,000.00 in exchange for the Dengvaxia Card, Death Certificate, and Clinical Abstract. After a month, Nurse Janine visited me again. This time, she was with a supposedly a high ranking DOH official, a village councilor, and other nurses. I rejected the offer again. I’d rather starve than accept that money. I seek justice for my child’s death.

Witness No. 14: Vilma Hinayon

Victim/Casualty: Aldrin Hinayon
Dengvaxia Case no. 42
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Di naman sila nag-atubili na itanong sa akin kung nasa aking pag-iingat ang dengvaxia card… nang nalaman nila na nasa PAO ang mga dokumento ay kanila namang akong hinimok na kuhanin aito para ibigay sa kanila… upang maging katibayan ng halagang P50,000 na financial assistance…”
TRANSLATION: The didn’t hesitate to ask me if I have the dengvaxia card with me. After they found out that PAO has the documents, they tried to persuade me to retrieve it and hand it to them… as proof of the Php 50,000 financial assistance.

Witness No. 15: Virgie Losanga

Victim/Casualty: Levie Losanga
Dengvaxia Case no. 88
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Ako ay sinabihan ng [DOH Mandaluyong]… na kailangang ipasa ang… Dengvaxia Card… Noong hawak ko na lahat ng orihinal na dokumento ng Dengvaxia vaccine… ay napag-isip-isip ko kung kayang matumbasan ng halagang P50,000 ang buhay ng aking anak. Imbes na pumunta sa DOH Main Office, ako ay lumapit at humngi ng tulong sa Public Attorney’s office para makamit ang hustisya para sa akin anak.”
TRANSLATION: DOH-Mandaluong told me that I need to surrender the Dengvaxia Card (among other requirements). After collecting all the original documents on the Dengvaxia Vaccine, I wondered if my child’s life is just worth Php 50,000. Instead of going to the DOH Main Office, I approached the Public Attorney’s office to ask for help so I can seek justice for my child.

Witness No. 16: Virginia Cariño

Victim/Casualty: Roshine Cariño
Dengvaxia Case no. 23
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Naipalibing naming ang aking anak. Makalipas ang… isang linggo... ay nagsadya sa aming bahay ang mismong tao… ng (health) center… upang alukin kaming mag-asawa ng halagang Php 50,000 na diumano’y tulong… subalit kapalit niyo ay nais nilang ibigay naming sa kanila ang Dengvaxia Card at Death Certificate at pagpirma sa isang kasulatan.”
TRANSLATION: We buried our child. After a week, a health worker visited our home to offer us Php 50,000 as supposed financial assistance but in exchange, they want us to surrender the Dengvaxia Card , surrender the Death Certificate, and sign a certain document.

Witness No. 17: Antonio Castroverde

Victim/Casualty: Adeline Castroverde
Dengvaxia Case no. 34
[Click here for copy of sworn affidavit.]
“Umattend ako ng conference tungkol sa Dengvaxia victims noong Setyembre 2018 sa DOH at doon ko napag-alaman na may Php 50,000 silang ibibigay basta kumpletuhin lang ang mga requirements [tulad ng] certification na na-inject ng Dengvaxia Vaccine (Dengvaxia Card).”
TRANSLATION: I attended a conference about Dengvaxia victims in September 2018 at the DOH and I learned from there that they have Php 50,000 to give out as soon as we complete the requirements like the certification that our child was injected with Dengvaxia.

DOH's efforts? Not only at the grassroots

The statements quoted in the previous section detail the Health Department’s attempts at the grassroots level to sabotage the cases of Dengvaxia victims. To add insult to injury, DOH used President Duterte’s own name to steal evidence away from the victims, even if helping the victims is the only thing President Duterte said.

In November 2018, the Public Attorney’s Office wrote to DOH Region 7, asking the latter for the Dengvaxia Card, death certificate, and other original documents that the latter received from a Cebu City complainant.

In response, DOH Region 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said he can’t provide the documents because they have already been sent to DOH Central in Manila,  as shown in the letter below:

In short, Dengvaxia victims who availed of the P50,000 assistance will find it even harder to file a case, let alone secure a conviction, because DOH is holding their evidence hostage… in exchange for a measly sum of Php 50,000.

But the DOH’s efforts do not end there. Several top-ranking government officials and even a very prominent Dengvaxia advocate have been attempting to persuade PAO Chief Acosta to exonerate DOH Sec. Duque.

This is despite their knowledge that such a proposal, aside from being a a ground for disbarment of PAO lawyers, is a shameless betrayal to the Dengvaxia victims who want nothing but justice for their dead children.

Fortunately, PAO has consistently and vehemently objected to these advances.

Thank you, PAO Chief Acosta. [RJ Nieto / ThinkingPinoy]


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