Parents Seek Judge’s Recusal in Dengvaxia Case

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A group of parents, whose children’s deaths were linked to the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, has taken a significant step in their pursuit of justice. They have filed a motion for voluntary inhibition against a Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) judge, citing “lack of impartiality and trust.” This move comes after the judge granted a motion filed by the accused, effectively quashing or rejecting 34 out of 35 new Dengvaxia cases.

The Samahan ng mga Magulang ang mga Anak ay Biktima ng Dengvaxia (SMABD), led by its president Sumachen Dominguez, decided to take action and file the motion before Judge Maria Luisa Gonzales-Betic of RTC Branch 229. They expressed their frustration with the slow progress of the case and their lack of confidence in the judge’s impartiality. The parents have stated that they will no longer wait for any order the judge may issue in connection with the motion for reconsideration filed by the prosecution panel.

The prosecution panel, led by Deputy City Prosecutor Irene Resurreccion-Medrano, had requested the court to reconsider its joint order dated December 7, 2023, regarding the splitting of charges. Additionally, they sought the denial of the motion to quash filed by the accused, which included Melody Samudio, Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding, Dr. Rosalind Vianzon, Carlito Realuyo, Conchita Santos, and former Department of Health (DoH) secretary and current Iloilo Representative Janette Garin.

The judge’s decision to quash the majority of the cases was based on Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code, which states that there should be no splitting of charges and “that only one information shall be filed regardless of the number or severity of the consequences of the imprudent or negligent act.” Consequently, only one case remains to be handled and tried by the judge, specifically related to the reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and serious physical injuries.

The SMABD members, assisted by their lawyers, have taken the bold step of filing a motion for voluntary inhibition against Judge Gonzales-Betic. They firmly believe that the judge has already demonstrated partiality in favor of the rich and influential accused. The parents argue that the judge’s decision goes against the Supreme Court’s ruling, which designated the family court in QC as the exclusive venue to handle and try all Dengvaxia-related cases. They assert that the judge has disobeyed the high tribunal.

The parents’ lawyers have criticized the joint order issued by Judge Gonzales-Betic, stating that it lacked a factual and legal basis. They argue that it is contrary to law and jurisprudence, as it applied the “Ivler and Morales doctrines” inappropriately. The lawyers contend that these rulings are not applicable to the facts of the case since there are multiple counts of reckless imprudence and numerous victims who were inoculated with Dengvaxia on different occasions, dates, and places.

The parents highlight the long-term effects of the Dengvaxia vaccine, as testified by Dr. Mary Ann Lansang, an internist and professor at the University of the Philippines. Dr. Lansang stated that five years of surveillance might not be sufficient for children who received the Dengvaxia vaccine. The parents raise concerns about the fate of other children who have been inoculated with Dengvaxia and may suffer similar consequences to those in the 35 cases currently under consideration.

The SMABD members express their loss of trust and confidence in the judge and believe it would be better if she voluntarily recused herself from handling the case. They are calling for a replacement judge who will listen to both sides and ensure fairness and impartiality throughout the proceedings.

The motion for voluntary inhibition filed by the parents marks a significant moment in their quest for justice. It is a testament to their determination to hold those responsible for their children’s deaths accountable. As the legal battle continues, the international community watches closely, hoping for a fair and just resolution that will provide closure for the grieving parents and restore faith in the judicial system.

Source: The Manila Times

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