MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Jinggoy Estrada believes critics cannot rule him out as a vice presidential bet in the 2016 polls despite being linked to the country’s biggest corruption scandal in recent history.
Estrada said he has yet to decide on his 2016 plans but he still has the mass support should he decide to seek higher office.
Asked if he has the support and machinery to mount a vice presidential bid, Estrada said, “Modesty aside, I think so.”
In a press briefing on Thursday, March 20, Estrada said he initially stopped reading newspapers and shied away from public events in Metro Manila when the pork barrel scam broke out in July 2013.
Eventually, the actor-turned-politician decided to accept invitations to visit provinces and found that “nothing changed.”
“After a few days, few months, [sabi ko], bakit ako magkukulong sa bahay? I have to test the waters. So ginawa ko, I went out of my way to go to the provinces, accept invitations, go out and [mingle] with people. Wala naman ding nabago. The reception of the people towards me was warmer than before so okay lang.” (It was okay.)
Estrada said that while he had to explain to people his alleged involvement in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam, it was a “non-issue” to them and he was not “ostracized” in his visits.
Asked if this made him feel confident about 2016, he said, “Of course, definitely.”
“I am not a hypocrite to tell you I’m not affected by these issues hounding me. Of course, we will have to weigh everything. I have been making the rounds all over the country and the reception is still warm.”
Estrada faces a plunder complaint for allegedly funneling his pork barrel funds to fake non-governmental organizations of scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in exchange for P183,793,750 in kickbacks.
Watch this report below.
Yes to a possible Binay VP offer
He was initially reported to be the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay but observers said the scam dashed his political ambitions.
Yet Estrada said he will still run for vice president if Binay offers him to be his running mate. “Most likely. Kung hindi, anong magagawa ko? Wala tayong magagawa. (If not, what can I do? There is nothing I can do.)
Estrada said he will be a private citizen if Binay does not give him the offer.
The senator also lashed back at Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano for criticizing Binay after naming him as a potential running mate despite his alleged involvement in the scam. Cayetano declared he wants to run for president, and got into a heated exchange with Estrada last week over the pork barrel scam.
Estrada said, “Eh alam mo kaming nasa oposisyon, nasa kabilang partido, sana wala nang nakikialam sa mga taga-labas dahil ‘di naman siya kasama sa amin. Wala naman siyang pakialam sa desisyon namin, sa desisyon ni vice president. Eh ‘di tumakbo na lang siya. ‘Wag na lang niyang banggitin nang banggitin ang pangalan ni Vice.”
(For us in the opposition, we hope no one from the outside will meddle with our plans because he’s not party of our party. He has nothing to do with our decision who will be the vice presidential candidate. He should just run for president. He should stop mentioning the name of the Vice President.)
Estrada also commented on the remarks of his half-brother Senator JV Ejercito expressing willingness to help him in the 2016 polls despite their rivalry.
“Salamat. Salamat po. Next question,” he retorted. (Thank you.)
Dinner with Cynthia Villar in Tuason mansion
Estrada also maintained that self-confessed bagman Ruby Tuason could not afford to buy her mansion in Dasmariñas Village, Makati, which he claimed was bought using her supposed P242 million kickbacks from the Malampaya fund scam.
He reiterated that the so-called Malampaya mansion cost more than the $2 million (about P90 million) that Tuason’s lawyer said she got in insurance proceeds from the death of her estranged husband Carlos “Butch” Tuason in 2008.
“That house is more than P100 million, more than even P200 million. Even the furniture was first class. There was a swimming pool. I’ve been there. I saw how big Mrs Tuason’s house was in Dasmariñas.”
Estrada revealed that he and another senator visited the mansion during the 2013 campaign and had dinner with Tuason. He refused to name the senator, saying he does not want to drag other people’s names. He only hinted that the lawmaker was a neophyte senator from the majority bloc.
“It was just a dinner in her house. I wasn’t able to attend the blessing of the house so she invited us for dinner. There’s nothing wrong if we had dinner. It doesn’t mean that just because we had dinner, there were already dealings there,” Estrada said.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Senator Cynthia Villar admitted she was the senator who had dinner with Tuason and Estrada.
“I have known Ms Ruby Tuason since she was the social secretary of former President Joseph Estrada. My husband Manny Villar was then the Speaker of the House. I had dinner with Ms Tuason and Sen Jinggoy Estrada, but it was purely social. She was trying to bring me closer to Sen Jinggoy since he is planning to run for a higher position,” Villar said.
Estrada added that he found out that Tuason has another “gated” property worth $500,000 in Las Vegas, which he was unable to include in his privilege speech. He said the property is under the name of Tuason’s children, and was again funded by her alleged Malampaya kickbacks.
‘Ready to rumble’
Estrada said he had no objections if the Senate blue ribbon committee will summon former National Agribusiness Corp (Nabcor) officials Rhodora Mendoza and Vic Cacal to its investigation after the two gave media statements saying he and 82 other lawmakers coursed P1.7 billion in pork barrel funds through the agency to questionable NGOs.
“I do not know Rhodora Mendoza, Cacal. I do not know them. I haven’t met them,” he said.
Estrada also echoed the statement of Senator Francis Escudero that TV5 anchor Erwin Tulfo and DZBB’s Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang should be invited to the hearing for allegedly receiving payoffs from Nabcor.
“According to reports, they received money from the government. Of course, that’s public funds. We should know the truth.”
Estrada said the committee can already release a report on the scam, and he will not bother giving his side. He added that he “does not care” about the committee report, and does not expect it to be fair.
“Was it fair when they conducted hearings before? Was it fair when the chairman of the blue ribbon committee already made a conclusion? Was it fair for other senators to use that forum at our own expense? You be the judge. That hearing was supposed to be in aid of legislation. It was already in aid [of the] 2016 elections.”
Estrada said he is “expecting the worst” as the Ombudsman is about to file charges against the accused before the Sandiganbayan.
“We’re ready. Ready to rumble.” – Rappler.com