WE LIKE the vigorous defense that Persida Acosta, chief of the Public Attorney’s Office, usually puts up for plain folk who do not have the means to protect their rights when caught in an undeserved disadvantage in criminal situations.
But we find rather premature, and a bit exaggerated, her televised intrusion into the forensic investigation of the possible connection of the Dengvaxia vaccine and the death of some children who had been given the now controversial vaccine.
Acosta is leading a search for more parents claiming that their children had died because of Dengvaxia. She has vowed to file a class suit against former health officials and executives of Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of the vaccine injected into some 800,000 kids.
Multi-national drug firm Sanofi has released a global advisory to regulatory agencies on the limitations of Dengvaxia. It said that the vaccine has proved effective 95 percent of the time for those who have had dengue, but could cause severe dengue to those who have not had the disease.
Several pediatric disease experts, such as Dr. May Montellano and epidemiologists of the National Institute of Health, received the information with professional calm. Others went to town boasting how right they were all along about the vaccine. A brother of a politician fanned panic reactions when he declared that 80,000 kids would die due to Dengvaxia.
Informing the public of impending danger is one thing. Raising alarm without good reason is another — it is plain gimmickry and irresponsibility.
In one of her TV interviews, Acosta lambasted health and Sanofi officials for reportedly denying that there is a severe dengue epidemic in the country. Apparently, she has concluded that dengue has afflicted a substantial number of the 800,000 kids vaccinated in the last two years.
We are still awaiting official reports of identified children – out of the total thousands vaccinated — confirmed by the proper authorities to have died as a result of their having received the anti-dengue shots. Pending that, prudence dictates that we withhold assigning criminal liability.
For background, Dengvaxia is the only anti-dengue vaccine created after 20 years of research. It was released in the Philippines reportedly after its safety and efficacy were proven in large-scale clinical trials. Licensed in 19 countries, it is commercially available in 11 of them.
The World Health Organization, updating its guidelines, has acknowledged that the dengue vaccine can have “significant population-level benefits in highly endemic areas.” It recommends continued vaccination of individuals who have started taking the shots.
With Acosta taking center stage in the investigation of the claims of some parents that their children may have been innocent victims of Dengvaxia vaccination, we are wont to ask if the lady lawyer is a medico-legal expert or a pathologist.
With her taking a high-profile role in the inquiry, maybe she should avoid blood and thunder dramatic effects to ensure that her statements do not cause undue alarm. Showing class and sobriety may even enhance her projection as Senate material.
She should not fall into the same trap – of overacting – that has all but killed the senatorial chances of the head of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
When Acosta was mentioned recently by President Rodrigo Duterte as a candidate for the Supreme Court, she did not hide her eagerness. Sadly, she bombed the public hearing conducted by the Judicial and Bar Council. Another lesson for her?
• Clark handlers loot OFW bags
AT THE CLARK Freeport in Pampanga, executives of Clark International Airport (CRK) moved this week to nip the thievery rearing its ugly head in the aerodome being developed as the gateway twin of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila.
Criminal complaints were filed at the Mabalacat City prosecutor’s office by CIAC authorities against six employees of ground handler Miascor linked to the reported pilfering of passenger baggage at the airport.
Miascor dismissed the workers after also filing separate charges of qualified theft against them. They allegedly looted passenger bags right inside the Miascor holding area at the terminal.
Herman Reyes, Miascor president, said: “After a thorough investigation with CIAC, we have served a notice of termination to our passenger service agents who admitted pilfering the baggage of Jovenil dela Cruz, an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) of Pandi, Bulacan.”
Assistants of CIAC acting President/CEO Alexander Cauguiran said he personally confiscated the IDs and access passes of the six Miascor workers and directed CIAC authorities to ban them from airport premises.
Miascor is the ground handler under contract with airlines flying in and out of Clark. Pending the hearing of the cases, Miascor compensated the passenger P82,824 for the stolen items.
Airlines, tourism and business executives planning to expand their operations in Clark have been watching for signals from the Duterte administration, meanwhile, as to government plans for the airport whose world-class facilities are under-utilized.
Since the term of then President Fidel V. Ramos, Malacañang and economic planners have been blowing hot and cold as to their vision for Clark, which used to be home of the 13th US Air Force, then the biggest air base outside the continental US.
Studies have shown the comparative advantages of Clark over other sites being mentioned. Its only drawback seen is its being 80 kilometers away from NAIA. The distance, however, can be negotiated in 40 minutes by a dedicated express rail line.
Many modern international airports servicing capital cities in the region are also located some distance from the capital – some of them even father than Clark is from Manila – but the travel time has not stopped their development as alternative gateways.
It looks more like some vested interests close to Malacañang have been objecting because they see Clark as a serious competitor.