Duterte thinks Dengvaxia purchase done in 'good faith' – Roque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — President Rodrigo Duterte believes the previous administration's purchase of the now-controversial dengue vaccine was done in "good faith," his spokesperson said Thursday.

"He understands why the prior administration implemented the dengue vaccine. Thousands were afflicted with dengue, it's a deadly disease, there is a vaccine that they knew in good faith would be able to help and they implemented it," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.

He was asked to clarify Duterte's statement on Wednesday where he refused to condemn anyone for the purchase of P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia in 2016.

"If I were the President and there's a vaccine that was already paid for and the studies show according to the clinical studies of that company, I as President, ako rin, sabihin ko (I will also say) 'You implement it if it would save lives,'" Duterte told reporters.

'Duterte would have done the same'

In 2016 under former President Benigno Aquino III's watch, the Philippines implemented the use of Dengvaxia, the world's first dengue vaccine.

TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy

Roque said Duterte would have allowed the use of Dengvaxia if he were President then, thinking it would protect children.

"He would have done the same thing because he himself has suffered from dengue and you can't deprive the people of what they thought would be protection against a deadly disease when it existed," Roque said.

More than 830,000 children were vaccinated through a school-based dengue immunization program in 2016.

The vaccine's manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur on November 29 revealed Dengvaxia may lead to more severe forms of dengue for those with no dengue history prior to vaccination. The Department of Health (DOH) said around 10 percent or 80,000 of vaccinated children are at risk.

This has alarmed lawmakers, health officials, and thousands of parents whose children received the vaccine, prompting both houses of Congress and the Justice Department to investigate the matter.

Investigating Dengvaxia mess

Roque said anyone, including Aquino, would not be spared from liability if found guilty of wrongdoing.

"Basta ang sabi ni Presidente ituloy ang imbestigasyon ng DOJ, ituloy ang imbestigasyon ng Senado at kung mayroon dapat managot pananagutin yan," Roque said.

[Translation: "The President said investigations of DOJ and Senate should continue and those accountable must be punished."]

Aquino faced the Senate probe on Thursday and said he was told by experts Dengvaxia passed through safety and efficacy tests, and that it was even cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The former President added no one advised him against using the vaccine.

Related: Ex-President Aquino: No one advised me against Dengvaxia

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this report.