PDAF senators: Include admin allies in lifestyle check
MANILA, Philippines – The 3 senators implicated in the pork barrel scam are “game” for a lifestyle check but only if administration allies will open their bank accounts, too.
Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile accepted the challenge of potential state witness Dennis Cunanan to submit themselves to a lifestyle check but said the dare should apply to all officials.
“For the sake of transparency and accountability, if they really need to do a lifestyle check outside of the SALNs and the Ombudsman, they should also check President Aquino, Secretary Butch Abad, Secretary Mar Roxas, and the whole Cabinet,” Revilla said on Tuesday, March 4.
Revilla again criticized the Aquino administration for its controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), whose constitutionality is now under question before the Supreme Court. (READ: Critics to Aquino: Issue is DAP legality)
"There are estimates that almost two trillion pesos in DAP and Malampaya funds have yet to be accounted. We should check who benefitted from these funds," Revilla said.
Cunanan issued the challenge to the 3 senators to prove their claim that they have nothing to hide in the multi-billion peso corruption scandal.
Cunanan voluntarily submitted himself to a lifestyle check before the justice department, and said he will sign a waiver on his bank accounts amid reports he did not accurately declare all his properties including a house in an upscale Quezon City subdivision in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
The director general (on leave) of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) said he personally called Revilla, Estrada, and Enrile’s resigned chief of staff lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes to verify their signatures in pork barrel documents. The two senators denied knowing him and talking to him.
Cunanan and the lawmakers face a plunder complaint for allegedly conniving to siphon off pork barrel funds to bogus non-governmental organizations, and splitting up the money intended for development projects.
Revilla and Estrada believe the government particularly the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is already looking into their bank accounts after they were implicated in the scam.
Revilla said he has been filing his SALN, which already authorizes the Ombudsman to look into his properties.
“My life is an open book…. Anong lifestyle check pa pinagsasasabi niya?” (What lifestyle check does he still want?)
Estrada echoed his fellow actor and friend in saying that the lifestyle check must be expanded to include all members of Congress.
“Bakit kami lang? Eh kami lang naman talaga ang tinuturo, kami ang idinidiin. Hindi ko alam kung bakit kami lang ang idinidiin. Ang dami-dami pang allegedly involved sa sinasabi nilang scam. Bakit kami lang? Ang mga congressman, bakit hindi nila i-lifestyle check? Iyong mga binanggit sa COA report. Ang dami noon.”
(Why limit it to us? We are the only ones being pinned down. I don’t know why it’s just us. There are so many others who are allegedly involved in the scam. How about the congressmen, why not do a lifestyle check on them? The ones mentioned in the COA report, there were a lot of names there.)
Responding to Cunanan’s challenge, Estrada said: “Include the lie detector test. Game! I’m game! I can even go to the NBI now.”
Enrile said he is also open to investigation, even if the government uses all sorts of agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Bureau of Internal Revenue, and even the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).
“I’ve no asset in my name except my shares of stock in the corporation,” Enrile said. “I’m always open every day to a check.”
The minority leader agreed that all officials should be subjects of the lifestyle check. He took a swipe at unnamed colleagues whose trips are supposedly questionable.
“I do not travel. There are many others who travel almost every month. You know, I do not go to flashy hotels when I go to the province. I sleep at the army cot,” Enrile said.
‘Prosecution is disintegrating’
Estrada also commented on principal whistleblower Benhur Luy’s decision to drop his counsel Levito Baligod for being “too busy.”
While admitting he does not know the cause of the problem, Estrada said the move further exposed the weakness of the prosecution.
“In my opinion, they are disintegrating. Of course, if they are not organized, that’s plus points for us. Good for us. But even if they were intact, it’s still good for us because their evidence against us is weak,” Estrada added.
The senator said he will not attend the Senate hearing on Thursday, March 6, where Cunanan, Luy, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will appear.
Instead, he will resort to a method he has been using to defend himself in public. “I plan to deliver a privilege speech next week.” – Rappler.com