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Atienza to Aquino, Abad: Who ordered Dengvaxia funding?

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As the House of Representatives resumed its inquiry into the controversial mass vaccination of children with the Dengvaxia vaccine, Buhay partylist Rep. Lito Atienza demanded an explanation as to where the money came from in the implementation of the dengue vaccination program.

“There are many ongoing investigations into the medical aspect of this critical issue. But aside from the medical aspect, we should investigate more deeply into where did the money come from that enabled the Department of Health (DOH) to embark on such a program,” he said during the hearing.

“And more importantly who authorized the release of the said funds since these were not included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2016? Who conceived this program and ultimately approved the release of these funds? We must pinpoint who is accountable for the release of these funds. Who can we point to as the real brains behind this program?” the senior deputy minority leader said.

“Was it the DBM? Or the Office of the President?” Atienza said during the joint hearing of the House committees on good government and public Accountability, and on health.

Atienza said former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and representatives of then President Benigno Aquino III should be invited to the next hearing to shed light on these questions.

“Former Budget Secretary Abad should be invited to the next hearing, as well as lawyers or representatives of former President Aquino, since this program was implemented in April 2016, one month before the elections,” he said.

“We want to find out the legality or illegality of the funds used at that time. Wala po akong alam na appropriations na dumaan sa Kongreso in the amount of P3.5 billion to be spent for any vaccination program. The Supreme Court declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as illegal, stating that the allocation and use of all monies can only be done through the approval of Congress,” Atienza added.

Upon Atienza’s motion, which was seconded by Congressman Eugene De Vera and several other lawmakers, the good government committee chairman, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, agreed to invite Abad to the next hearing.

“I will reserve my questions for Sec. Abad so we can get to the bottom of this matter. Even after many hearings in the Senate, other government agencies and now in Congress, there is still no clear answer as to who is accountable,” Atienza said.