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Aquino bucks NBI push for malverse raps on dengue

Former President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday slammed the recommendation of the National Bureau of Investigation to the Office of the Ombudsman to prosecute him and two former Cabinet members for technical misuse of public funds in connection with the implementation of the P3.5-billion anti-dengue immunization program by his administration.

He slammed the bureau even as the Education department on Tuesday it and the Health department had pledged to cooperate in the development of two systems that would allow the government to monitor the condition of pupils and students previously administered with the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia®.

The NBI earlier asked the Ombudsman to indict Aquino, former Health secretary Janette Garin and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. for technical malversation under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code.

Aquino said the NBI violated his right to due process when it did not get his side or answer during its fact-finding investigation before coming up with its findings.

“It’s not clear to me if the NBI followed the process to come up with their findings... We don’t know what evidence they have... Was there really an investigation conducted?” Aquino said at the Justice department after filing his rejoinder in the charges against him. 

He is being held responsible for the deaths of schoolchildren inoculated with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine that he has previously denied.

He said he was summoned by the NBI to appear before the bureau on May 25 and he sent his lawyers, but they were not given the specifics of any complaint.

“They didn’t give us a copy of any complaint... We were just surprised by the reports of the filing of the case by the NBI,” Aquino said. 

“I really don’t understand this because the right of the accused to know the accusations and face the accusers is supposed to be fundamental.”

In its complaint, the NBI sought the indictment of the three officials over the “use of savings from 2015 to augment an alleged non-existent anti-dengue immunization program.’’

Aquino vowed to answer the charges before the Ombudsman upon getting copy of the NBI complaint.

He said there was nothing irregular or illegal in the funding used for the P3.5-billion project.

“The General Appropriations Act of 2015 allowed the use of savings to fill in the lack of funds for appropriated items,” Aquino said.

He said he did not commit technical malversation, which refers to the use of funds appropriated to specific items but were used for another specified item.

Topics: Benigno Aquino III , National Bureau of Investigation , Office of the Ombudsman , Janette Garin , Florencio Abad Jr , Dengvaxia
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