MANILA — The respondents in the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) before the Office of the Ombudsman, in connection with the Dengvaxia controversy, will be given a chance to defend themselves during the probe set to be conducted by the latter, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday.
Guevarra made the statement in response to the remarks of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who said he was surprised over the findings of the NBI that recommended his indictment for technical malversation under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
“The former President and the other respondents will be given the opportunity to controvert the charges during the formal investigation to be conducted by the (Ombudsman), in much the same way that they were accorded due process when a similar complaint was filed earlier with the DOJ,” Guevarra said in a text message sent to Philippine News Agency.
Guevarra noted that the fact-finding investigation conducted by the NBI was done in compliance with the order issued by his predecessor Vitaliano Aguirre II.
The DOJ is currently conducting a preliminary investigation over the complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Inc. (VPCI) against Aquino and his co-respondents over the Dengvaxia controversy.
“The NBI performs a fact-finding function only. It’s the Ombudsman/DOJ who does the preliminary investigation, where respondents are given their day in court,” Guevarra added.
For his part, NBI Director Dante Gierran said he respects Aquino’s remarks, noting that it is now up to the Ombudsman to determine whether the charges have probable cause.
“Allow them to say that. After all, it’s their perfect right to say it. The important thing is, we consistently applied the standard elicitation in the most objective and fair fact-finding investigation, securing those pieces of voluminous evidence from different equally independent but relevant sources, invited those persons of interest to participate in our investigation, and they came. It’s not the end of the line for them, there is still an independent and honorable Ombudsman who will evaluate our findings whether there exist probable cause for the next legal process,” Gierran said in a text message to reporters.
In a letter addressed to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the NBI recommended the conduct of preliminary investigation against Aquino and his co-respondents, including former budget secretary Florencio Abad and former health secretary Janette Garin, for conniving to introduce the Dengvaxia vaccine in the country by circumventing procurement and other government processes.
The NBI said Aquino, Abad, and Garin should be held liable for technical malversation for conspiring to unlawfully effect the release of savings from the fiscal year 2015 Mutual Benefit Personnel Fund and use the same to augment the anti-dengue immunization program.
Also named respondents in the NBI complaint are health officials Maria Joyce Ducusin, Julius Lecciones, Maria Wilda Silva, Mario Baquilod, and Rosalinda Vianzon.
Aquino recounted that he only received a subpoena once when he was summoned to the NBI on May 25.
He said his right to due process was violated as the NBI did not get his side or answer during its fact-finding investigation in coming up with such findings.
The former president, meanwhile, said he is ready to face the charges filed against him. PNA-northboundasia.com