'Minority wanted no names mentioned in Senate PDAF probe'
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Franklin Drilon revealed that the Senate Minority had asked that no names be mentioned in the Senate probe into the pork barrel scam.
In an interview with radio DZBB, Drilon was asked about reports that the bloc of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile asked to stop the Senate blue ribbon committee investigation and that no names be mentioned.
The request was reportedly relayed during a caucus two weeks ago.
“Hindi po hiningi na itigil dahil sa alam naman nila na hindi kayang itigil iyan dahil merong resolution. Ang hiningi ay ‘wag naman banggitin ang mga pangalan,” Drilon said on Tuesday, September 17.
(They did not ask that it be stopped because they know this is not possible as there is already a resolution. What they asked was that no names be mentioned.)
Two members of the minority – Enrile and Sen Jinggoy Estrada – along with Sen Bong Revilla on Monday faced a plunder complaint that the justice department filed before the Ombudsman over the multi-billion peso scam.
The minority senators’ wish though was not granted as their colleagues eventually asked resource persons in the Senate hearings to name names.
In the last hearing on September 12, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano even asked principal whistleblower Benhur Luy the slogan of the senator he visited years ago, saying “Baka gusto niya happy ka,” mentioning Enrile’s 2010 campaign tagline.
Sen Francis Escudero also said that it would be best for Luy to name names to erase the perception that all senators were involved in the scam. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima agreed to present Luy to the Senate on the condition that he would not name names so as not to compromise the case her department was about to file.
Upon prodding from the senators, other witnesses in the hearings named Revilla, Estrada, and Enrile as among those who endorsed the fake non-governmental organizations of alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles as the recipients of their pork barrel.
In the radio interview, Drilon was also asked about reports that the minority threatened to bring down everyone ("damay-damay") if the names of the members were mentioned in the scam.
“Not in the caucus” was Drilon’s response.
Estrada’s ‘surprise privilege speech’
On the day the plunder case was filed before the Ombudsman, Estrada and fellow minority member Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto III admitted that their group had been meeting regularly.
Just last Saturday, Sotto said the minority held a meeting and only Enrile was not able to attend because he was then rushed to the hospital due to high blood pressure.
The close Enrile ally said the minority discussed “probabilities and problems” including the conflict in Mindanao and “many things under the sun.”
Asked about the plans of the group, Sotto said: “This is just the submission of the complaint. Until we see how things go and how the cases will be assessed and the actions taken by the Ombudsman, there’s nothing else we can do.”
Estrada told reporters Monday he will deliver a privilege speech possibly on Tuesday, September 17.
“You want to know the contents of my privilege speech? Surprise,” he said.
Estrada has lamented why the Commission on Audit (COA) nearly finished auditing his pork barrel and that of the two other senators while the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of other lawmakers was just audited up to 20% at most.
He also asked why the Senate probe was focused on the 8 Napoles NGOs when the COA said there were 82 questionable NGOs.
Estrada said, "The other senators may have used those other NGOs. Why focus only on the Napoles ones?"
Drilon reiterated that it was former COA Chairperson Reynaldo Villar who ordered the audit in 2010 to cover the years 2007 to 2009, and the opposition lawmakers were not singled out.
Estrada took a swipe at Drilon in his Monday press briefing, alluding to reports that the Senate President received an expensive Montblanc pen from Napoles.
“[Tingnan natin] kung aaminin ng senador na siya’y tumanggap ng Montblanc pero ako regular ballpen lang ang gamit ko, Bic. 'Di ako sanay pumirma ng mamahaling ballpen,” Estrada said. (Let’s see if the senator will admit that he received the Montblanc, but I just use a regular ballpen, the brand is Bic. I am not used to signing papers with an expensive pen.)
In the Tuesday interview, Drilon again said he has not seen the supposed gift.
“Hindi ko po nakita 'yung ballpen na sinasabi na iyan,” Drilon said. – Rappler.com