Aquino admits mistake over claim that Ona attended Sanofi meeting

Former Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has admitted that he made a “mistake” when he claimed that former Health Secretary Enrique Ona was present during his meeting with Sanofi Pasteur executives four years ago.

During a Senate hearing last month, Aquino confirmed that Ona was present during his meeting with officials of Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, in Beijing in November 2014.

But on Monday, January 22, the former president declared that he made a wrong claim.

The former president explained that he has to rely on records provided to him as he pointed out that  the meeting happened years ago. According to Aquino, he was given a briefer that Ona was present during the November 2014 meeting.

“I have to rely on the records that we possessed and unfortunately, sometimes there’s a mistake. Di ba, it’s human to err (It’s human to err, right)?” Aquino told Inquirer.

He also noted that he had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the records.

“Parang pwede ko bang sabihin sayo lahat ng ginawa ko on that day in a period of six years? Remembering sinong kausap, saan kayo nag-usap, anong oras kayo nag usap, anong pinag-usapan nyo? (It’s like, would I be able to tell you all about everything I did on that day in a period of six years? Remembering who you talked to, where you talked, what time you talked, what you talked about?),” Aquino remarked.

He went on to say, “I will have to rely on what records tell me and these records were looked at by people who were helping me and somebody made a mistake.”

While clearing Ona from attendance allegations, Aquino maintained that it was the former health secretary who first brought up the anti-dengue vaccine to him.

“I reiterate my position that this matter [Dengvaxia] was brought up… by Ona  in a letter or memo dated August 23, 2010.  And up to that time that he resigned, he was the one giving me updates on this new weapon against dengue,” Aquino said.

The Senate is currently conducting a probe on the controversies hounding the Dengvaxia, following an analysis which found out that the vaccine could cause a more severe case of dengue when administered on a person who has not been infected with the virus.

The analysis prompted the Philippine government to halt its massive dengue immunization program, which was first launched in early 2016 under the Aquino administration and former Health Secretary Janette Garin.

Garin served as the Department of Health (DOH) chief until June 2016 after Ona resigned in December 2014.

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