MANILA, Philippines – The senator whose privilege speech triggered the controversy surrounding the administration’s spending program does not feel alluded to in the President’s primetime address.
Sen Jinggoy Estrada said the President cannot accuse him of distracting the public from the pork barrel scam because it was the administration that admitted coursing through funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to senators.
In an interview with radio DWIZ on Thursday, October 31, Estrada said it was Budget Secretary Florencio Abad who first raised the issue of DAP.
“Sana hindi naman ako ang pinapatukuyan ni Pangulong Aquino na nagma-muddle ng issue na nililipat ang galit sa DAP,” he said. (I hope I am not the one President Aquino is referring to as muddling the issue and diverting public anger to DAP.)
“Wala akong binabanggit na DAP. Natisod lang dahil inamin ni Secretary Abad na ang ipinamimigay niyang pondo sa mga senador ay galing sa DAP. Pati kami ay hindi alam. Karamihan ng mga senador, I think majority of us don’t know the term DAP dahil wala nga sa GAA.”
(I never mentioned DAP. We just stumbled across the issue because Secretary Abad admitted giving away funds to senators coming from DAP. We senators, majority of us do not even know the term DAP because it is not in the GAA.)
In his speech last month, Estrada accused the administration of giving P50 million each to senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Abad later admitted releasing the money but said it was not a bribe and was meant to boost government spending. He said the funds came from DAP, which legal experts criticized to be unconstitutional.
Amid a dip in his survey ratings, President Benigno Aquino III sought to address the fallout from the issue in an address to the nation Wednesday night. Aquino blasted “corrupt officials” implicated in the pork barrel scam and accused them of muddling the issue.
Instead of feeling alluded to, Estrada said he is even one with the President in prosecuting corrupt officials.
“Kaisa ako ng gobyerno niya sa paghahabol ng magnanakaw sa gobyerno. Kahit ako’y nasangkot sa PDAF scam, gusto ko sabihin sa inyo na kahit kailan ay ‘di ako nagnakaw sa kabayan ng bayan,” Estrada said. (I am one with the government in going after thieves in government. Even if I was implicated in the PADF scam, I want to say that I never stole from the public coffers.)
Sen Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr echoed Estrada, taking exception to the President’s statement that those implicated never denied the charges against them.
“Baka kaya siya walang naririnig ay dahil ayaw niyang makinig at hindi siya nakikinig. Senator Revilla from the beginning has maintained na hindi siya magnanakaw at wala siyang ninakaw sa pondo ng bayan,” said Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon in a statement.
(Maybe he hasn’t heard anything because he does not want to listen and he is not listening. Sen Revilla from the beginning maintained that he is not a thief and he never stole from public funds.)
Estrada, Revilla, and Senate Minority Juan Ponce Enrile face a plunder complaint for allegedly siphoning off their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.
Enrile’s staff said he will not comment on Aquino’s speech.
‘DAP is presidential pork’
The President again defended DAP, saying it was sourced from savings and is used for programs like disaster preparedness, scholarships and livelihood.
Yet for Revilla, the speech raised more questions than answers.
“The DAP is presidential pork and that is a fact. It is not in the national budget. Only he knows where it comes from and only he will continue to say where it will be spent,” Bodegon said.
“At least the President has owned up to it and it is now clear who will be made accountable for whatever consequence that may arise from it,” he added.
Estrada said it was “good” the President explained the DAP but it is already the subject of petitions pending before the Supreme Court.
“If the President thinks DAP is legal, so be it but we have the Supreme Court. That is the final arbiter of the law. Let us just let the Supreme Court decide on the constitutionality of the DAP,” he said.
Who is the old politician?
Estrada was also asked about the “old politician” from the opposition camp that Aquino said advised his allies to muddle the issue and “make everyone else stink.”
“Definitely, hindi po ako iyon. At hindi ko ho alam kung si Sen Enrile o Si Sen [Joker] Arroyo sapagkat si Sen Enrile ay ‘di naman po kumikibo, ‘di naman po nagku-kumento, nagsasalita. ‘Di naman natin alam sino ang pinatutukuyan ni Pangulong Aquino kasi si Sen Arroyo was very vocal nung lumabas ang DAP.”
(Definitely, it’s not me. I don’t know if it is Sen Enrile or Sen [Joker] Arroyo because Sen Enrile is quiet and does not comment or speak. We don’t know who the President is referring to because Sen Arroyo was very vocal when the DAP issue came out.)
Estrada also said his lawyer Estelito Mendoza asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to extend to 20 days the period given to him to comment on the justice department’s request to cancel his passport.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) requested the DFA to cancel the passports of those implicated in the scam even without charges filed against them in court.
Still, Estrada said he plans to fly to the US to seek a medical opinion on the lump and cysts found in his wife’s breast.
Asked if he will leave this week or next, he said, “It depends on the booking. I am waiting for the availability of the doctor and I will have to check the medical records of my wife.” – Rappler.com
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