Probe on Dengvaxia libel suits postponed

THE scheduled preliminary investigation on the libel cases filed by Iloilo Rep. Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr. and his wife, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, did not push through, on March 20, 2018.

Richard sued former health secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial for libel punishable under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code and/or violation of Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The case was filed before the Iloilo Provincial Prosecution Office on Jan. 26, 2018.

On the same day, Janette also slapped a similar charge against Ubial’s consultant, Dr. Francisco Cruz.

Both cases were raffled to Associate Prosecution Attorney II Radney Garcia which he received on Feb. 9, 2018.

Garcia said Ubial’s lawyer asked to reset the preliminary hearing to April 12, 2018.

On the other hand, a representative of Cruz filed a motion for a 15-day extension to file their counter affidavit.

Garcia said he could not reveal the names of the lawyers for both sides as they have yet to formally enter their appearance in the case.

“We usually grant the extension since both respondents are not from here,” he added.

Richard Garin sued Ubial after the latter claimed that the congressman allegedly pressured her to allocate funds and buy more Dengvaxia vaccines in 2018.

Janette Garin was the health secretary when the controversial P3.5-billion anti-dengue vaccination program using Dengvaxia was implemented. She sued Cruz after the latter claimed that an alleged “mafia” controls the health department.

Cruz earlier claimed that Garin and at least 17 other incumbent and former officials profited from the government’s dengue vaccine program.

Almost a month after filing the cases, Janette again filed another libel suit against Ubial, Cruz, health advocate Anthony Leachon, and former Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa.

Garcia, who is also handling the latest libel suit, said he has yet to issue subpoenas to the respondents.

Janette said she filed the cases as the respondents have been “persistently maligning not only me but other officials of the DOH.”

“It’s not good just because they have interest in so far as… we don’t know what they really want but they create confusion to the public. You make accusations and be part of the hysteria. If you tolerate panic and disrupt public health programs, the impact is very huge,” she added.

“My conscience is clear. Wala problema if we will be investigation but it is a mortal sin to use these issues to confuse the public and in effect the public health program,” she added

The problem with the Denvaxia issue, Janette added, is that many children and mothers are afraid to undergo vaccination because the immunization program has been tainted.

She said her lawyers are now studying other possible charges against their critics.

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