Aquino to suffer same fate as De Lima? It crossed his mind

Camille Elemia
Aquino to suffer same fate as De Lima? It crossed his mind
'Hindi natin maiwasang mag-isip ng gano'n,' says former president Benigno Aquino III, when asked if he fears he would end up like his former justice secretary, detained Senator Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines – Amid numerous complaints against him, former president Benigno Aquino III said it has crossed his mind that he could also suffer the same fate as Senator Leila de Lima, who is currently detained over drug charges.

Aquino was responding to reporters’ questions in a press conference on Monday, June 4, after appearing before state prosecutors.

“Hindi natin maiwasang mag-isip ng gano’n,” said the former president. (I can’t help but think of that possibility.)

Aquino cited several questionable, controversial instances. First, he cited the use of drug convicts’ testimonies in the case of De Lima, who was his justice secretary.

“Mga taong convicted of crimes, normally ‘di kasama as a reliable witness. Ang problema, ‘yung taong ‘yun ‘pag convicted ng criminal offenses, para namang ‘di na mag-e-expect magsasabi ng whole truth and nothing but the truth. Pero ‘yun ang ginamit kay Leila,” Aquino said.

(Those convicted of crimes are normally not considered reliable witnesses. The problem is a convicted person is not expected to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But they used convicts’ testimonies against Leila.)

He also reiterated that the Supreme Court (SC) decision to oust former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom he appointed in 2012, was unconstitutional.

“May issue din tayo sa pagtanggal kay Chief Justice Sereno…. Masyadong pilit ‘yung naging desisyon, na ‘yung ‘may’ [in the 1987 Constitution is] permissive daw, may iba raw paraan [to remove an impeachable official],” the former president said.

(We also have an issue with the ouster of Chief Justice Sereno…. The decision was forced, their saying that the use of “may” in the 1987 Constitution is permissive and that there are other ways allowed to remove an impeachable official.)

He also slammed the forum shopping of the pro-administration group, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), for filing similar complaints before the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Commission on Elections over the P3.5-billion Dengvaxia program.

Aquino lamented how the National Bureau of Investigation is also investigating him over the dengue vaccine, even as the NBI is an attached agency of the DOJ. He also said that his case should be handled by the Ombudsman, citing the salary grade requirement.

“‘Yung DOJ, ‘di ko alam ‘pag natapos sila, ifo-forward ba sa Ombudsman lahat ng findings nila? Pero in the process, iimbestigahan ka ng Ombudsman, iimbestigahan ka ng DOJ. Tapos sa DOJ mismo, parang meron tayong summons from NBI eh…. So, magtatanong si NBI, malamang itatanong ng DOJ pareho…. Puwede ba makiusap isa na lang sa inyo?” the former president said.

(I don’t know if the DOJ will forward its findings to the Ombudsman. But in the process, the Ombudsman and the DOJ are both investigating me. At the DOJ level, we also got a summons from the NBI…. So the NBI and the DOJ will probably ask the same questions…. Can I request that only one of them investigate the matter?)

“At the end of the day, the only weapon we have is the truth. And the truth, with the help of God, we will overcome these challenges,” he added.

One of the complainants, Manuelito Luna, was the VACC’s lawyer who was later appointed to the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). (READ: Aquino camp hits VACC ‘pattern’: File cases vs ex-president, get gov’t post)

Luna did not attend Monday’s preliminary investigation and failed to secure the services of a counsel. However, the DOJ allowed lawyer-representatives of the VACC to make a manifestation on behalf of Luna.

“Si Attorney Luna kaharap namin do’n sa Comelec at counsel siya at the time of VACC. Tapos dito [sa complaint sa DOJ], inulit niya. Since he was appointed already, ‘di na sya counsel, [but] he’s still pursuing the case in his personal capacity,” Aquino said.

(We faced Attorney Luna at the Comelec when he was still counsel of the VACC. He again filed a complaint before the DOJ. Since he was appointed already, he’s no longer the counsel, but he’s still pursuing the case in his personal capacity.)

“And it’s so important to him that he failed to attend today and failed to secure the services of a representative pero important daw (but he said it’s important). ‘Di lang naman siya ang na-appoint na nagkakaso sa amin. This is the way na mapansin ka at ma-appoint ka (He’s not the only one who got appointed after filing a case against us. This is the way to be noticed and to get appointed),” Aquino added.

The VACC, along with the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Incorporated (VPCI), accused Aquino, former budget secretary Florencio Abad, and former health secretary Janette Garin of graft, technical malversation, criminal negligence, and “other violations of law” after the school-based dengue vaccination program was launched by the Department of Health (DOH) in April 2016.

Aquino denied the accusations and maintained he did nothing wrong or illegal. He also said there is still no proof that Dengvaxia directly caused the deaths of vaccinated children–

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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