MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Senator Jinggoy Estrada called her to clarify that he never said he will block her confirmation at the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Earlier on Friday, February 28, De Lima reacted to reports that Estrada made the threat.
“If non-confirmation with the CA is the price that I have to pay for doing my job, so be it,” she said.
De Lima said she is rendered “helpless and defenseless” by the reported threat but vowed to carry on with her job of investigating the pork barrel scam, where Estrada is among the respondents in a plunder complaint.
The justice secretary said Estrada’s statement was “practically blackmail.”
“I serve at the pleasure of the President, and I will continue to serve and do what I’m doing for as long as I have the trust and the support of the President and the general public. Iyon ang importante sa akin, hindi ‘yung isang naghahari-harian lang sa Senate or sa CA,” De Lima said. (That’s what is important to me, not someone who lords it over the Senate or the CA.)
Estrada, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr face a plunder complaint for allegedly funneling funds meant for infrastructure and development programs to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks.
‘Why will I show up?’
De Lima said she does not mind addressing issues during her confirmation hearing but questioned the value of the deliberations if Estrada will make good on the reported threat.
“If I answer their questions sufficiently or the issues they raise against me, if any, that will still be of no use if a member invokes Section 20, so why will I be wasting my time there?” she said.
Asked if she will no longer attend confirmation hearings, De Lima said: “It depends. If that member of the CA continues to threaten me with that, that is practically blackmail, so why will I show up?”
De Lima said she will just focus on her work because “these things (threats) are not important to my anyway.”
“As much as possible, I don’t let it bother me at all for as long as I do my work.”
De Lima said ever since her appointment 4 years ago, the CA has yet to schedule her confirmation hearing and invite her to an inquiry.
Earlier in February, CA chairman Senate President Franklin Drilon said De Lima has not yet submitted all the documents that the commission requires. He said he reminded her about this when he saw her during a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on February 13.
De Lima has had a tough time at the CA. In 2011, then Senator Panfilo Lacson said he would grill the secretary after De Lima ordered a manhunt for Lacson over the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.
Lacson went into hiding for 14 months and questioned De Lima’s stand that the court decision clearing him was not yet final and executory. Lacson is now Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery.
‘Undermining Cunanan credibility’
De Lima also commented on reports that possible state witness Dennis Cunanan did not declare some properties in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
An ABS-CBN report quoted sources as saying that Cunanan owns a house in an upscale, exclusive subdivision in Quezon City and a vehicle but these were not declared in his 2012 SALN. His lawyer said he was renting the house from his brother.
Cunanan has said he is willing to undergo a lifestyle check to prove he did not accept kickbacks from the scam.
De Lima dismissed the report as part of moves to discredit Cunanan.
“This is probably part of the ongoing demolition job against him in an effort to undermine his credibility as a provisional state witness. Actually, Dennis Cunanan’s lawyer reported that to me. A few days after I announced him [as witness], there were sightings of surreptitious filming of a supposed house owned by the family of Mr Cunanan, so we anticipate these kinds of efforts,” she said.
“As I told you, he’s bracing himself psychologically for more of this demolition job.”
De Lima also said she was unaware of reports that two more witnesses surfaced but directly approached the Ombudsman.
She took exception to a reported comment of the whistleblowers’ lawyer Levito Baligod that witnesses approaching the justice department are named in public.
“Maiiwasan ba natin iyan? Tinatanong ninyo eh, and then si Atty Baligod din nagsasalita din palagi on his own. Minsan nga… di ko na lang sasabihin.” (Can we avoid that? You are asking me, and then Atty Baligod always speaks on his own. Sometimes… nevermind.)
A director general (on leave) of the Technology Resource Center (TRC), Cunanan is the second respondent in the scam to offer to turn state witness.
Socialite Ruby Tuason returned after 6 months in hiding in the US to admit that she delivered bags of cash to Estrada and Enrile’s resigned chief of staff, lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.
This time, Cunanan said he personally called senators to verify their signatures in pork barrel endorsement documents. Revilla and Estrada denied the charge. – Ayee Macaraig/Rappler.com
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