Wenceslao: Disinformation

Bong O. Wenceslao

I REMEMBER those times when the Volunteer Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) was still active in Cebu. Victims of criminal acts were so organized they became familiar fixtures in hearings at the old Palace of Justice, ubiquitous in their uniforms. They were honestly supporting each other, mainly through their presence. And their usual silence spoke volumes.

But that was then. Even as the VACC in Cebu has gone moribund, the mother organization in Metro Manila has gone noisy, mainly because its leaders, like Dante Jimenez, the former congressman from Negros Oriental and that lawyer, are. The organization has become an instrument of the political ambition of its leaders. Jimenez has recently been gifted by President Duterte with a post in government.

VACC is linking up with Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta in raising what can be called a Dengvaxia scare in an effort to make the previous administration look bad, in keeping with the “blame the Dilawan” line. In a recent Senate hearing, parents wearing VACC uniforms wailed and confronted former health secretary Janette Garin, who was instrumental in the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine in the country.

PAO and VACC are trying to paint a bleak picture of the Dengvaxia vaccination, claiming that some of the vaccinated children have died because of it. Even if proof in that accusation have been hard to come by, they are making a spectacle out of parents mobbing past health officials. The VACC members that confronted Garin made it appear initially they were parents of those who died from dengue affliction but later admitted they weren’t.

Health experts have warned of the effect of the PAO and VACC effort in the government’s overall vaccination campaign. What would happen if parents no longer want their children to be vaccinated by the government? Decades of campaign to raise awareness on vaccination would be negated. I am sure former health secretary Juan Flavier, one of the figures in those campaigns, is turning in his grave.

That is why I laud Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for speaking out on this matter and even President Duterte for not stopping Duque from doing so. Duque recently told lawyers to focus on the legal aspect of the Dengvaxia issue and leave the health aspect to health experts. This is because the lawyers and VACC have been exposing their ignorance and in the process spreading false notions on the issue.

Duque reacted to the following statements attributed to lawyers and VACC: one, that the children vaccinated with Dengvaxia would eventually end up dead; two, that the Department of Health has reneged on its promise to distribute medicines to Dengvaxia and dengue victims; and three, that the number of dengue cases nationwide shot up because of Dengvaxia. This has gone to the point that Duque has to tell the lawyers and VACC on what many people already know: that there is no medicine for dengue.

This is what has become tragic in the highly polarized and toxic setup we now have. Even persons who know better spread disinformation for personal and political gains. Or are they really ignorant but refuse to acknowledge it?