Former president Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday questioned the process followed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in recommending him criminally charged over the P3.5-billion procurement of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
At a chance interview with reporters at the Department of Justice where he faces a separate Dengvaxia-related complaint, Aquino said he found the NBI's method in arriving at its findings unclear, claiming he was only required to present his evidence once, and vaguely at that.
The NBI earlier recommended the filing of technical malversation charges against Aquino, former Health secretary Janette Garin and former Budget chief Florencio Abad before the Office of the Ombudsman over the multi-billion vaccinie purchase.
But Aquino said he was only summoned by the NBI once using a filled-in template for a subpoena that commanded him to appear at the bureau headquarters in Manila to submit his evidence for the case last May 25. He sent his lawyers, whom he said were also not clearly informed about the details of the case.
"Wala nang further communications from them," he said.
"Parang pag tinitingnan ko 'tong prosesong nangyari sa NBI di ko matanggal sa aking kaisipan [na] pinapunta mo, dalhin mo lahat ng ebidensya, parang walang tinanong, at sinabing mali yung sagot natin," he said.
"Siguro mahirap lang na sagutin kapag hindi ka tinatanong, at sa dulo meron kang conclusion. 'Yun ang medyo ... 'di ko naintindihan kung paano nagkaroon ng due process dun, para bang bago ka pa napadalhan ng subpoena eh ano ba [ang] ibig sabihin nun, tapos na yung kanilang pagsusuri ng issue," he added.
The former Philippine leader said he would answer the complaint if required by the Ombudsman, but also maintained the P3.5 billion used to purchase the vaccine was provided for in the General Appropriations Act of 2015 because it came from savings off of the Miscellaneous Personal Benefits Fund.
"Hindi naman puwede magkaroon ng savings kung walang in-appropriate to begin with. in-appropriate na hindi na kailangan o hindi na nagamit or natapos na yung proyekto. 'Yun yung mga kategorya kung san pwedeng ideklarang may savings," he said.
He also said the procurement of Dengvaxia was covered by the government's expanded program on immunization, once it was approved by the agencies tasked to check its safety and efficacy.
The NBI said Aquino "declared the use of savings from the 2015 Mutual Benefit Personnel Fund and use the same to 'augment' a non-existent anti-dengue immunization program of the Department of Health."
Aquino showed up at the DOJ Tuesday morning to subscribe to his rejoinder-affidavit in connection with another Dengvaxia-related complaint, ahead of the document's scheduled submission on Friday.
He insisted in his rejoinder that no medical expert findings pointed to any link between the vaccine and reported deaths, that the act of approving the request to augment the funding was legally and validly done, and that the bidding process was aboveboard, explained one of his lawyers.
Noynoy Aquino questions Dengvaxia raps filed by NBI
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent