By Dane Angelo M. Enerio
JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Wednesday said former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III and two of his former officials will have the chance to “controvert” the graft charges filed against them by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at the Office of the Ombudsman last Monday, July 16.
“[T]he 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 (Department of Justice,)” Mr. Guevarra told reporters in a text message in response to Mr. Aquino’s remarks last Tuesday questioning the merits of the complaint.
The NBI recommended that the Ombudsman file technical malversation charges against Mr. Aquino, former health secretary Janette L. Garin, and former budget secretary Florencio B. Abad for their alleged illegal purchase of Dengvaxia vaccines to be used in the government’s P3.5-billion anti-Dengue program.
Mr. Aquino on Tuesday questioned the NBI’s actions as he claimed his party had not received a copy of the complaint, raising concerns due process was not being followed.
In response, Mr. Guevarra said “the directive to the NBI to conduct the Dengvaxia investigation came from the previous DoJ secretary,” Vitaliano N. Aqurre II.
“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,” Mr. Guevarra added.
Sought for comment, NBI chief Dante A. Gierran told reporters in a text message, “allow them (Mr. Aquino, et al.) to say that, after all it’s their perfect right to say it.”
“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,” Mr. Gierran said.
Incumbent Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is set to retire on July 26, with 10 nominees vying to replace her.