Aquino admin liable for MRT3, Dengvaxia, Mamasapano? Senate bets weigh in

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senatorial candidates gave opposing views on the liabilities of former president Benigno Aquino III and his administration.

Opposition senatorial candidate Florin Hilbay defended Aquino on the Mamasapano and Dengvaxia controversies during "Harapan 2019: The ABS-CBN Senatorial Town Hall Debate."

In the "fast talk" portion of the debate, the former solicitor general of Aquino said the latter should not be blamed for the mistakes of his subordinates.

"Nagbigay siya ng isang utos sa kanyang subordinate; 'di nagawa ng subordinate ang utos na 'yun. 'Di puwedeng managot ang pinuno sa kamalian ng subordinate," Hilbay said.

(He gave an order to his subordinate; his subordinate did not follow it. A leader cannot be held liable for the mistake of his subordinate.)

But Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, who is running with Hilbay under the opposition slate, had a different view. Alejano explained his position in the second installment of "Harapan 2019" on Sunday, February 24.

Alejano said Aquino had shortcomings after the Mamasapano tragedy.

"Dapat inako niya ang lahat ng responsibilidad doon bilang tatay ng bansa (He should have taken responsibility for that as the father of the nation),"Alejano said during the fast talk portion of the second installment of "Harapan 2019."

Aquino had repeatedly blamed former Philippine National Police-Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas Jr, who led the planning and execution of the botched Mamasapano operation. Aquino maintained Napeñas lied to him.


Hilbay also defended Aquino on the Dengvaxia controversy and said the court should be the one to decide on Aquino's liability for the dengue vaccination program.

Some 837,000 Filipino grade-schoolers had already been vaccinated under the immunization program, which began under Aquino's term, before vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur announced in November 2017 that Dengvaxia may lead a person to get severe dengue if he or she had not been infected by the virus before immunization.

"'Yan po ay isang usaping legal. Hindi po natin masasagot dahil 'yan po ay nasa korte. Kung may responsibilidad ang presidente, dapat ang korte ang magsabi," he said.

(That's a legal issue. We can't answer that because it's pending with the court. Whether or not a president is liable should be up to the courts.)

MRT3 mess

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte's former political adviser Francis Tolentino blamed the Aquino administration for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) mess.

Tolentino, whom Aquino appointed as Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chief, said former transportation chief Joseph Emilio Abaya is responsible for the railway system's problems.

"I think the former DOTr (Department of Transportation)," Tolentino said in Filipino.

Asked for names, he said: "Si Abaya, 'yung mga dati magkakasama sila doon (Abaya and his companions before)."

Various Aquino Cabinet officials are facing plunder complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman over the allegedly anomalous MRT3 contracts during their time.

In a different segment of the debate, Tolentino maintained he is not a political turncoat despite being a former ally of Aquino. Tolentino is now part of Duterte's PDP-Laban party. –