MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “Selective justice is injustice.”
Senator Jinggoy Estrada dragged Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II, and Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Grace Pulido Tan into the pork barrel controversy, decrying what he called was the selective “trial by publicity” against opposition senators.
Estrada though did not address the allegations linking him to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, saying he and his colleagues have already been judged in the public’s mind. Estrada, Sen Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen Bong Revilla face a plunder complaint for allegedly endorsing Napoles NGOs as recipients of their pork barrel in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.
In an hour-long speech, the senator blasted Drilon for allegedly using discretionary funds to influence the impeachment proceedings against former Chief Justice Renato Corona. President Benigno Aquino III openly pushed for Corona’s conviction.
Estrada also repeated his and the opposition’s earlier complaints that investigators had been downplaying state audit findings that administration allies were also found to have misused their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Estrada said Drilon, as Senate finance committee chairman in 2012, facilitated the release of P50 million to each senator in exchange for Corona’s conviction. Twenty out of 23 senators including Estrada voted to convict the then Chief Justice in an impeachment trial last year.
“After the conviction of the former Chief Justice in May 2012, those who voted to convict were allotted an additional P50 million as provided in a private and confidential letter memorandum of the then chair of the Senate finance committee,” Estrada said.
Estrada said the executive branch was complicit in the supposed reward.
“Ang tanong: Saan galing ang pinamigay na pondo? I am sure alam ni [Budget] Secretary [Florencio] Abad ang sagot sa tanong na ito. At sigurado din ako na hindi ito unilateral desisyon ni Senate President Drilon ang pamimigay ng P50 million kada senador.” (The question is, where did the funds come from? I am sure Secretary Abad knows. I am also sure that this is not a unilateral decision of Senator Drilon to give P50 million to each senator.)
Estrada then held up the supposed letter from Drilon and showed it to the gallery.
Upon questioning from Enrile, Estrada later clarified that the amount was not a bribe.
Yet when Rappler later asked for a copy of this letter, Estrada’s staff said the senator “declined” to provide copies.
PDAF as carrot-and-stick tool
The senator said all former chairpersons of the finance committee know that their negotiations with the Department on Budget and Management and House of Representatives were not just about the pork barrel but also “budget insertions” and “congressional initiatives.”
“Am I accurate so far, Mr President?” Estrada taunted Drilon.
Estrada added, “Our very own Senate President also acknowledged in an ambush interview that the release of the legislators’ PDAF lies solely [with] the discretion of the executive [branch].”
During the impeachment trial, Drilon was accused of pushing for Corona’s conviction, and of lawyering for the prosecution. The Senate President is a staunch ally of President Benigno Aquino III and a stalwart and campaign manager of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Estrada said the use of the PDAF to bribe lawmakers to support the administration’s initiatives is also an open secret.
The senator said he did not receive any special allotment release order (SARO) for his PDAF after voting against pet bills of the administration like the sin tax reform and reproductive health laws.
“[Here] are some ugly facts and information on the PDAF that our people must know and which I challenge anyone in this chamber to deny,” he said.
“Huwag kayong magmalinis at lalong lalo na, huwag naman kayong masyadong ipokrito!” (Don’t be holier than thou, don’t be hypocrites!)
In a text message to Rappler, Budget Secretary Abad denied bribing senators, and said he was not privy to the letter being quoted by Estrada.
“We absolutely deny the accusation of Senator Estrada that this administration bribes senators. Estrada based his allegation on a note allegedly passed on to him by Sen Drilon. We are not privy to that note. And for Estrada to jump to conclusion that that is bribery and that we are involved in it is flimsy at best, not to mention being irresponsible. Isn’t he himself guilty of rushing to judgment without any basis?” Abad said.
Gonzales and Jollibee ‘sarap’
Estrada also trained his guns at Gonzales, another key Aquino ally and the number two officer in the House of Representatives.
The senator lengthily quoted from the COA report that found instances of Gonzales’ PDAF being misused from 2007 to 2009. He pointed out: Gonzales was not charged with plunder.
“Sa sariling niyang distrito, nilagak ni Congressman Gonzales ang halos lahat ng kanyang PDAF. Sa madaling salita, opisina niya mismo ang implementor ng kanyang PDAF. Eh kaya naman pala isa si Congressman Gonzales sa masigasig na nagsusulong na mapanatili ang PDAF.
(In his own district, Cong Gonzales allotted almost all is PDAF. His office was its own implementor of the PDAF. Maybe that’s why he is one of the strongest supporters of retaining it.)
Estrada said 28 suppliers in Gonzales’ city of Mandaluyong denied undertaking 167 transactions amounting to P28.74 million, according to COA. He also said the COA found that P263 million in Gonzales’ transactions were considered questionable because the suppliers were “not legally or physically existing.”
Yet Estrada drew special focus on Gonzales’ P6.6 million worth of transactions with fastfood chain Jollibee. He said the amount was questionable and, at P40 per hamburger, could have purchased around 200,000 hamburgers.
“Ano ito, hamburger, Chickenjoy, jolly hotdog? …. Aba, langhap na langhap ang sarap!” (What is this hamburger, Chickenjoy, jolly hotdog. How delicious indeed!)
It was a play on the tagline of the fastfood chain.
TG’s repetitions, Alan’s slogan
Estrada also devoted a bulk of his speech to blasting his colleagues for what he called their biased Senate blue ribbon committee investigation.
The senator came ready with a video presentation, showing how chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III asked witnesses to repeat his name and that of Enrile and Revilla.
“’Hindi ko pipigilan ang resource persons na dumalo at magbanggit ng pangalan kung ito ay kasama sa paglahad nila ng mga pangyayaring naaayon sa kanilang nalalaman. Ngunit kailangan bang ulit-ulitin ang aming mga pangalan na para bang bingi o tanga ang mga kausap? O kaya ay parang isang sirang plaka?!”
(I will not stop the resource persons from speaking if that is part of their narration, but do you really have to ask them to repeat it as if you are deaf or stupid? Or it’s like a broken record?!)
Estrada also took a swipe at Sen Alan Peter Cayetano for his role in the probe.
He said, “One of our colleagues even tried to play to the gallery by making snide remarks by asking witness about identity of alias ‘sexy.’ Why play up this issue? He even referred to a known campaign slogan of fellow senator. Bastusan ba ito?”
In one hearing, Cayetano asked witness Benhur Luy if the senator alias “sexy” had the slogan, “Gusto ko happy ka,” referring to his rival Enrile.
‘Stop travelling, start working, Chair Tan’
Estrada did not spare COA Chairman Grace Pulido Tan.
He attacked her agency’s alleged selective and biased audit report. He reiterated that the pork barrel of administration lawmakers were not fully audited while that of the 3 senators were nearly completed.
Estrada said the COA was only able to audit 58% of the PDAF for 2007 to 2009 and should complete its report.
“Kaya ba P2 million lang ang na-audit kay Congresswoman Henedina Abad? P178 million kay Congressman Niel Tupas? P197 million kay Congressman Isidro Ungab? P351 million lang kay Senator Alan Peter Cayetano? P5 ang na-audit kay Dating Senator Roxas? P3 million lang kay Trillanes? Samantalang kay Enrile, Revilla, Estrada binusisi at tiningnan ang kabuuan ng kanilang PDAF? What makes us so special Chairman Pulido-Tan? Napakaespesyal naman kami.”
(Is that why only P2 million was audited for Congresswoman Henedina Abad? P178 million for Congressman Niel Tupas? P197 million for Congressman Isidro Ungab? P351 million was for Sen Cayetano? P5 million for former Sen Mar Roxas? P3 million for Sen Trillanes? While Enrile, Revilla, Estrada’s funds were meticulously audited? How special we are!)
The lawmakers Estrada mentioned are all administration allies. Batanas Rep Henedina Abad is the wife of Secretary Abad.
Estrada also criticized Tan for allegedly violating the COA’s own resolution barring its officials from commenting on its audit to avoid casting doubt on its impartiality. He quoted her as saying that the audit report was “kahindik-hindik” (shocking) during a press conference on the findings.
He also made a litany on the travels Tan made: “Sa 2010, 5 beses umalis; sa 2011, 9 na beses; 2012, 10 beses. Halos buwan-buwan wala sa bansa si Chairman Pulido Tan. At sa kasalukuyang taon lamang, as of August 2013, 9 na beses umalis.”
(In 2010, she travelled 5 times; 9 times in 2011; and 10 times in 2012. Almost every month, Chair Tan is travelling. Just this year, she left the country 9 times.)
“Kahindik-hindik, di po ba? At mukhang mapapahagulgol din tayo dito. Kaya po siguro mukhang ‘di ninyo natutukan at nababantayan nang husto ang paggawa ng special audit report kasi panay ang travel ninyo.”
(Isn’t that shocking, too? Maybe that’s why you aren’t able to focus on your audit report, because you keep travelling.
In Malacañang, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters: “We respect the desire of Senator Estrada to voice his opinions concerning the issues he raised in his privilege speech. What is important at this point are the ongoing investigations – and that it is the evidence that will determine where accountability lies.” – Rappler.com