MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said he is aware of the graft charges filed against two of his allies, Liberal Party senatorial bet Nereus Acosta and current Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino.
In an interview, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino was appraised of the facts surrounding the graft charges against Tolentino and that the President even talked about it before appointing the former Tagaytay mayor as MMDA chairman. "The President is fully aware of the cases," Lacierda said.
Aquino earlier said he was informed by Tolentino that the graft case was a form of harassment since it was filed 6 years after his term as a local executive of Tagaytay.
Meanwhile, Acosta on Monday pleaded not guilty to graft charges filed with the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.
In an interview, Acosta said he intends to follow the process to clear his name against allegations that he unduly favored certain nongovernment organizations in Bukidnon for the release of government aid and lease of agricultural equipment.
The accusations were made in 2001 toward the end of his first term as Bukidnon 1st District representative, but it was only last year that the Ombudsman filed a case against him.
Acosta said the charges are politically motivated because of his support for the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Lacierda said Malacañang is taking a hands-off approach on the graft case against Acosta. "We leave it up to him, he can very well defend himself," he said.
Lacierda said Acosta’s graft case was filed during the term of the Arroyo administration, when Acosta was still with the opposition.