MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson vouched for the integrity of former president Benigno Aquino III immediately after Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon recommended graft charges against Aquino over the Dengvaxia mess.
“Having worked closely with ex-PNoy both in the Senate and Malacañang, it is difficult for me to believe that he was capable of committing graft and corruption,” Lacson said on his Twitter account.
Lacson and Aquino served together in the Senate. In 2013, Aquino appointed Lacson as Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation czar.
Some senators have refused to comment, saying they have yet to read the report before making a statement.
Liberal Party stalwarts also came to Aquino’s defense and questioned the timing of the release of draft report, which still has no signature of other senators.
Former Quezon representative Erin Tañada, LP’s vice president for external affairs, said it could be a move to cover up controversies hounding the Duterte administration, such as the closure of Boracay Island and the impeachment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
"Why was the committee report released to the public before it has been filed or sponsored? Are not the signatures of majority of the committee members required before the report can be filed?" Tañada said.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat questioned the fairness of Gordon’s report, as it focused mainly on the past administration and did not even touch the current government, which expanded the now-suspended vaccination program.
“Was there a panel? It seemed that it was a solo act. Anyway, in legislative inquiries that I participated in, the process is [to] gather facts then arrive at a conclusion. The Dick Gordon show started with a conclusion and tried to produce facts to support it,” Aquino told Rappler in a text message.
It was not the first time Gordon was accused of monopolizing inquiries. Even other senators have given up attending Gordon-led hearings because they could not speak or ask questions to resource persons.
In his report, Gordon recommended filing of criminal charges against Aquino, former Health secretary Janette Garin, and former Budget chief Florencio Abad for violation of the anti-graft and corruption law for the apparent haste in the procurement of vaccines.
Gordon also recommended filing of charges against several Department of Health officials. He, however, cleared former Health chief Paulyn Ubial, who ordered the expansion of the program under the Duterte administration. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org