Jinggoy blasts Guingona: I will fight prejudgment
MANILA, Philippines – “If he chooses that battle, I will give him that battle.”
Senator Jinggoy Estrada took to the Senate floor to decry Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III’s statements prejudging the outcome of the Senate probe into the pork barrel scam.
On his birthday on Monday, February 17, Estrada made a manifestation criticizing Guingona’s statement during a Senate hearing last Thursday that the testimony of socialite Ruby Tuason was a “3-point, buzzer-beater, winning shot.” Guingona made the statement even before Tuason testified, and then repeated it at the end of the hearing.
“I feel so hurt by the parting statements made by the chairman of the blue ribbon committee. If that’s the case, if he chooses that battle, I will give him that battle. No problem with me. Magkakasama tayo dito lahat pero para husgahan ako na ako’y guilty, hindi ako papayag diyan. Lalabanan ko iyan dahil wala po akong kasalanan sa taumbayan,” Estrada said.
“I think that’s so unfair,” he added.
(We are colleagues here but to judge me as guilty, I cannot allow that. I will fight that because I have no sins against the Filipino people.)
Estrada questioned Guingona's handling of the investigation. He said, “I almost fell of my seat” when he heard Guingona make the remark.
“When we conduct hearings, it is all in aid of legislation. I’ve been here in the Senate for 10 long years. I haven’t prejudged any outcome of the hearing. Is it right for the chairman of the committee to prejudge the outcome of any committee hearings….What is the reason to call for another hearing, if he already judged me as guilty?”
While he criticized Guingona for making statements on the case, Estrada said it is all right for his close ally Vice President Jejomar Binay to air his views on the matter. Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano questioned why Binay reportedly called Tuason’s testimony a dud.
“The Vice President is not a chairman of any committee here in the Senate. He can express his views as long as he wants to. My colleagues here in the Senate can express their views as long as they want to, but not the chairman who has already prejudged the outcome of the committee hearing,” Estrada said.
Guingona was on leave on Monday and was not yet immediately available for comment.
Estrada first complained about Guingona’s basketball reference last week, calling it an “offensive foul.”
‘Ethics committee is proper venue’
Estrada again lamented what he called the trial by publicity against him and his co-accused, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
The 3 face a plunder complaint for allegedly funneling their pork barrel funds to fake non-governmental organizations of supposed pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in exchange for kickbacks. In the hearing, Tuason testified that she personally delivered bags of cash to Estrada amounting to P8 million to P10 million.
“If you or anybody here in the Senate has any goods against me, the proper forum is for the Senate to convene the Committee on Ethics. It is really unfair for me, for Senator Enrile here, [for you] to prejudge the outcome of the committee hearing. I have been demonized in the newspapers. I keep hogging the headlines almost every day,” Estrada said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said Sunday that the leadership has yet to convene the ethics committee because senators could not agree on who the chairperson should be. Senators admitted they do not want to lead the committee, calling it “sensitive.”
Estrada, who has inhibited himself from the Senate investigation, said he can respond to the charges against him in the “proper forum.”
“Never did I ask any help from my colleagues here, never. That you can attest [to], I have never sought any help, any assistance even [from] Malacañang. Never did I do that because I know my conscience is clear and I can defend myself in court,” he said.
‘History will judge’
Drilon asked Cayetano to respond to Estrada’s manifestation. Cayetano said Estrada raised “valid points” but added, he will leave it up to Guingona to address his concerns.
“We’re a collegial body so we know when we investigate something that involves a member, and even if it’s the ethics committee, there’s going to be some emotions, some complaints on how it’s handled,” Cayetano said. “Let’s let history judge.”
Estrada’s ally in the minority, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, also took the podium to compare the blue ribbon investigation to his experience of facing investigation in the Senate.
Sotto said that in the 10th Congress, when he was being asked to run for vice president, there was “black propaganda” linking him to a suspected drug lord. He said a select Senate committee headed by the late Senator Marcelo Fernan then investigated the allegations against him. Fernan eventually became Chief Justice.
“There were numerous hearings conducted but in comparison, not a single member of the Senate said anything against me. I did not hear anyone. Everything was presented in the committee, discussed in the committee,” Sotto said.
Sotto said despite the issue, there was no “disharmony” in the Senate then.
“I hope we can look back. In the 16th Congress, we should avoid these kinds of events.” – Rappler.com