MANILA, Philippines — The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), formerly headed by Martin Diño, who became instrumental in paving the way for President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2016 candidacy, wants former President Benigno Aquino III and other ex-public officials charged with plunder in connection with the allegedly irregular purchase of P3.5-billion worth of an anti-dengue vaccine developed by Sanofi Pasture.
On Thursday, during the resumption of the Senate’s investigation into the government’s Dengvaxia vaccination program, VACC counsel Ferdinand Topacio said Aquino, along with former Department of Budget and Management chief Florencio Abad, Department of Health chief Janette Garin, and other DOH officials, could “have elicited kickbacks” when they allowed the vaccine to be “administered to school children indiscriminately when clinical trials were still incomplete.”
Also, Topacio told the Senate blue ribbon and health committees that two former presidents, whom he did not name, informed the VACC that the “release of such magnitude could not have occurred without presidential imprimatur.”
“The release happened after Aquino met twice with Sanofi officials, thus leading to the reasonable conclusion that President Aquino extended favors to the company,” Topacio said.
Last August, VACC members pushed for the ouster of then Commission on Elections chief Andres Bautista through an impeachment complaint filed by Topacio and another VACC lawyer, former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto “Jing” Paras.
Also in August, VACC founding chair Dante Jimenez filed an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
This was followed by another impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales that VACC members led by Paras submitted to the House of Representatives last Wednesday, December 13.
Duterte was able to join the presidential race after VACC’s Diño, a member of the current ruling PDP-Laban party, withdrew his candidacy in October 2015 and named the then Davao City mayor as his substitute.