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CAVITE, Philippines – The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) linked the Liberal Party to the release of a Commission on Audit (COA) report critical of its leaders.
In a press statement on Thursday, February 28, UNA campaign manager Navotas Rep Tobias “Toby” Tiangco branded as a “demolition work” the COA report showing that UNA leaders Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and Senate President Pro-tempore Jinggoy Estrada used their pork barrel to help what turned out to be a dubious non-government organization.
The 2011 COA report had the same finding for Sen Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and former Buhay Rep Rene Velarde. COA found questionable the release of a total of P194.7 million of Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF) to a certain Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc (PFI).
Enrile said it was the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture to make sure that the funding goes to the rightful beneficiaries.
"The Senators’ offices are merely asked to indicate our confirmation regarding the intended recipients and beneficiaries of the projects we have identified. We routinely confirm this because it is the DA’s responsibility to ascertain the capability, competence or qualifications of these recipients and to accredit them accordingly," Enrile said in a statement.
"There is no layering of transactions that would perhaps allow us to personally or financially benefit from them without being found out," Enrile added.
Estrada had said he wanted the case investigated. Estrada's brother, San Juan Rep JV Ejercito, is an UNA senatorial bet along with Enrile's son, Cagayan Rep Jack Enrile.
In a separate statement, Revilla challenged the Department of Agriculture and the allegedly bogus NGO to explain.
Calling it a “supposed audit report,” Tiangco accused the ruling Liberal Party (LP) of having a hand in its release as a form of political harassment.
“This is clearly an act of desperation. The demolition work against UNA leaders has intensified because the LP cannot deny what is happening on the ground: big crowds are attending UNA rallies and sorties, while their political events are ‘nilalangaw’ (not well-attended).
Quimbo: Don't blame us
Team PNoy spokesperson and Liberal Party member Romero "Miro" Quimbo dismissed the allegations of Tiangco, his colleague in the House of Representatives.
"There's no truth to that statement," Quimbo said.
Quimbo said UNA should not blame the Liberal Party for its problems. "I respectfully suggest that they stop blaming others for the problems that they face. When the survey two days ago showed that Team PNoy had overtaken their candidates, they start blaming the survey for being inaccurate. This is the same survey company they praised a month ago when the results favored them," Quimbo said.
"It's absurd. I wonder what else they will blame the President's team for in the coming months. Huwag sana lumindol, baka pati 'yun masisi pa tayo," he added.
Liberal Party spokesperon Lorenzo Tañada III added: "I think my friend Rep Tiangco misses the point. It is not a question of who is behind the disclosure to the media of the COA report. The point is whether the COA report is true or not."
Tiangco’s statement comes after former President Joseph Estrada and vice presidential daughter Nancy Binay decried what they called attacks against UNA’s top leaders meant to discredit UNA and bring down its candidates in the surveys.
UNA’s 3 top leaders are Estrada, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Enrile. The trio have children running in the UNA slate.
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released on Tuesday, February 26, showed only 3 out of UNA’s 9 candidates in the magic 12. Many of the UNA bets except for Nancy Binay also saw their numbers slide down.
Toby revives controversy vs Drilon
Tiangco again hit LP for supposedly dragging its leaders into the fray, even if they are not running for office.
“Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada are not candidates. But they are leaders of UNA, and the clear intent is to hit our leaders hoping it would affect UNA candidates.”
Tiangco also lamented the mudslinging and quality of the campaign but at the same time stopped short of throwing mud against the LP's campaign manager.
“Is this what they call campaigning on issues? We could just easily ask Sen Franklin Drilon, their campaign manager, to answer the long-festering questions about his purchase of a property in Forbes Park but we won’t because he is not a candidate.”
Tiangco said the LP is engaging in discredited practices of the Arroyo administration like harassing political enemies.
“Without fail, COA reports are released to media during the election season for obvious political purposes. Without fail, complaints are filed before the Ombudsman against political personalities and candidates based on COA reports.”
But it is UNA that Quimbo is accusing of mudslinging. He said it is Team PNoy's strategy not to engage in black propaganda, personal attacks, and mudslinging because he said it disappoints voters.
"This team is the President's and he will not tolerate anything related to black propaganda. In fact, that is the reason why Team PNoy has been dominating in the ratings is precisely our refusal to go down to the old style of personality attack politics that Rep Toby has been engaging," Quimbo said.
Trend against UNA?
On Wednesday, February 27, Nancy Binay criticized attacks against UNA’s top leaders. She said it is unfair for Enrile to be dragged into the importation of used cars in Port Irene, Cagayan despite a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting this.
Nancy Binay also said Estrada was being linked to the Sandiganbayan’s request for him to pay in full P189.7 million judgment cost of his 6-year plunder trial.
Binay said she expects her father to be the next target.
“Kasi nakikita niyo naman ang trend. We have our 3 kings, ang 2 doon binabantan na nila. It’s a process of elimination, ang 2 nasimulan na, isa na lang natitira and that is my father.” (You can see a trend. We have our 3 kings, 2 of whom are being attacked. It’s a process of elimination. They began with the two, the only one remaining is my father.)
Asked what issues she expects to come up about her father, Binay said. “These graft cases, the usual issues that come up every election. It keeps repeating and getting revived during elections but dies down after.”
“My mother (former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay) is already 70 years old. I ask that they don’t drag her into my candidacy. Attack me, don’t attack my family, especially my mother.”
Binay’s mother is also facing a graft case before the Sandiganbayan over the bidding of supplies when she was mayor of Makati. – with a report from Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com