Aquino hits Topacio over plunder claims in Dengvaxia controversy

Camille Elemia
Aquino hits Topacio over plunder claims in Dengvaxia controversy
Former president Benigno Aquino III says lawyer Ferdinand Topacio can be sued for slander for making accusations without evidence

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III slammed Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lawyer Ferdinand Topacio for accusing him of plunder over the government’s P3.5-billion dengue vaccine purchase.

Topacio on Thursday, December 14, urged the Senate blue ribbon committee to probe Aquino for plunder, saying the funds for Dengvaxia were released after Aquino met with Sanofi Pasteur officials.

For Aquino, Topacio’s move of hurling accusations without evidence is tantamount to slander.

“Kilala natin lahat kung sino siya. Parang napansin ‘nyo after sinabi lahat ng charges, sinabi sa committee, ‘Imbestigahan ‘nyo ‘to.’ Parang ‘di ba kung mag-aakusa ko, may pruweba ako. Doon, mag-aakusa sila, pinapahanap kila Senator [Richard] Gordon at sa committee on health na kayo maghanap ng ebidensya namin. ‘Di kaya may mali do’n?” Aquino told reporters after the hearing.

(We all know who he is. If you noticed after he stated all the charges, he told the committee, “Investigate that.” If I am the accuser, I should have proof. There, they accused us and they’re asking Senator Gordon and the committee on health to find evidence for them. Isn’t that wrong?)

“Ngayon siyempre, gusto mo sabihin: ‘Alam mo, sinisiraan mo reputasyon namin, puwede ka [kasuhan ng] slander, ‘di ka covered ng parliamentary immunity, makabitaw ka gano’n na lang….’ It is the duty of the accuser to prove the accusation,” the former president added.

(Of course you’d want to say: “You know, you’re ruining our reputation, you can be sued for slander, you’re not covered by parliamentary immunity and yet you just throw accusations like that….” It is the duty of the accuser to prove the accusation.)

Asked what could be Topacio’s motive, Aquino said he would rather not speculate.

“Mahirap naman magsalita. ‘Di ako katulad nila – mag-aakusa na walang pruweba,” Aquino said. (It’s difficult to speak. I’m not like them – I don’t make accusations without proof.)

During the hearing, Topacio alleged that Aquino conspired with other officials in the procurement of Dengvaxia. (READ: Noynoy Aquino defends rush in buying dengue vaccine)

“In order to reveal the money trails, there is a need to check the bank accounts of the above persons,” Topacio said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, an Aquino ally, cut Topacio and pointed out that he is not a resource person and should present his charges in the proper forum.

“People come here as a resource person, you come up with charges of plunder. I don’t think it is proper,” Drilon said.

Topacio replied he wasn’t making any accusations but was just making “suggestions” to the panel.

Topacio was a former lawyer of ex-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was detained during the term of Aquino.

The VACC, meanwhile, is a known supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte. It also filed cases against Duterte’s fiercest critic, Senator Leila de Lima, another ally of Aquino. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, 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