MANILA, Philippines – “Pare-parehong dokumento. Parang nagkopyahan lang sila!” (They have the same documents. It looks like they just copied from each other!)
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said the testimony of potential state witness Dennis Cunanan showed a conspiracy among the 3 senators to pocket billions of pesos in pork barrel funds.
Santiago grilled the director general of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) about his statement in his affidavit that the pork barrel documents of Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile had similar formats.
Cunanan told her they even had the same typographical errors.
“Sa wrong spelling ng ‘project description,’ ang ‘e’ naging ‘i,’ pare-pareho pa sila,” Cunanan told Santiago in a Senate hearing on Thursday, March 6. (In the wrong spelling in the word “project description,” where “e” became “i,” they had the same mistake.)
Santiago laughed at Cunanan’s comment. In a press briefing, the senator said Cunanan’s testimony showed the guilt of the 3 senators.
“What’s important is there’s conspiracy as seen in the documents. In all 3 offices of the senators, the format, phraseology was exactly the same. It looks like they just copied from each other, they had a template and agreed to follow a certain modus operandi as evidenced by the uniform use of supporting documents,” she said.
Cunanan said he personally called Revilla and Estrada to verify their signatures in pork barrel documents. In Enrile’s case, he talked to the senator’s former chief of staff, lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.
Santiago said that while Cunanan did not talk to Enrile, the guilt of her archenemy was clear. She asked Cunanan about this.
Cunanan said, “It’s hard to believe he did not know what was going on in his office …. There was a letter [the Commission on Audit] sent to Enrile’s office. Senator Enrile verified and accepted the signatures as valid.”
Santiago responded, “That’s right! It goes against the grain of common sense. Enrile, Enrile, Enrile, para marinig ng mga botante!” (So the voters can hear.)
She later told reporters, “My question was pivotal: Did Enrile do anything to give the impression to Cunanan that he disapproved and wanted to stop the practice of receiving kickbacks? [He said] never.”
Innocent? Let it go!
Santiago said she found Cunanan’s testimony on the 3 senators credible but not his claim that he did not receive kickbacks. She said he was also liable for the scam.
The senator criticized Cunanan for merely calling the offices of the 3 senators as a means of verification when he was deputy director-general of the TRC from 2004 to 2010.
“I find the practice of calling for verification barely capable of passing the minimum standard test. Why did you not do the maximum like going to the offices of the senators with a photographer, taping their voice or asking them for a power of attorney?”
“Tumawag ka. Ano ba naman iyon? Napaka-childish device! You were deputy director-general.” (You just called them. Is that right? What a childish device!)
Cunanan though said doing other forms of checks was an “extra effort” on his part. He insisted that then TRC director general Antonio Ortiz limited his involvement in processing pork barrel documents.
A frustrated Santiago used a line from the popular song from the movie “Frozen.”
“Sabi ko sa iyo (I told you) let it go! You keep insisting your innocence. This is not a hearing about you. We want to plug the holes in the system.”
“You were at a moral crossroads: to join the conspiracy or resign and expose it. It’s hard to believe you did not accept kickbacks.”
Turning stern, Santiago told Cunanan, “I debate you on this issue you keep repeating you were only undertaking a ministerial duty. Ministerial duty has no immunity from suit. Drop this argument.”
Yet the senator conceded that Cunanan’s testimony is enough to pin down the 3 senators and make him qualified as state witness.
She said, “You only talked to the phone, how can you claim direct evidence? Answer: For lack of a Philippine case, American courts tell us telephone conversations are considered as direct evidence.”
‘Cunanan inconsistency acceptable’
While she shared Senator Grace Poe’s observation that Cunanan’s testimony had contradictions, Santiago said she still finds him credible.
Santiago said Cunanan’s testimony was much complex than that of self-confessed bagman Ruby Tuason.
“What muddles the issue is he’s trying to prove he’s innocent but in my judge’s mind, it’s possible a witness may be false on some aspects of his testimony but might be credited with truth-telling in the major aspects of his testimony, in other words telling not the whole truth. That does not cancel his entire testimony,” she said.
“That he says he’s innocent is for him to prove in court but it does not distract from his credibility. Once a witness is caught lying, there is no rule that you can’t be trusted in your testimony. Many cases prove the witness can still be an eyewitness and basis for judgment even if in certain parts, he appears to have told a lie.”
With the guilt of the 3 senators clear, Santiago called on the Senate blue ribbon committee to move on to non-governmental organizations not linked to alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles.
“My worry is the TV public, the public may be suffering from pork barrel fatigue. The public is more interested now in moving on to other NGOs, to see the extent of the scam.” – Rappler.com