MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “There’s something fishy.”
Senator Jinggoy Estrada accused Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima of flip-flopping on the possibility of accepting alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles as a state witness.
Estrada questioned De Lima’s decision to meet with Napoles for 5 hours on Monday, April 21, when the justice secretary initially said she never considered Napoles as state witness. De Lima said Tuesday that Napoles is offering to turn state witness.
Watcth this report below.
“I do not know why the statements of the DOJ keep changing. Before, they said she’s not eligible to turn state witness. Now, they want her to become a state witness. I don’t understand because as I read in the newspapers before this came out, they said Mrs Napoles is not eligible to turn state witness,” Estrada told reporters on Tuesday, April 22.
In February, De Lima rejected the possibility. She was quoted as saying, “I never considered her as a state witness because in the first place, she never admitted her participation in the crimes….She denies everything like the last time when she appeared here in the Senate. Definitely she will never qualify.”
Estrada said he got information from sources he refused to identify that the meeting between De Lima and Napoles was a sign that the DOJ is bent on pinning down the three senators implicated in the scam–him, and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
He said it was possible the administration has threatened Napoles of rotting in jail to convince her turn against the opposition senators.
“I am concerned if the DOJ and NBI will really force her to mention our names. But if there is no influence, if Secretary de Lima will not influence Mrs Napoles, we don’t have anything to worry about. But if they impose on her to implicate the 3 of us, there’s something going on,” Estrada added.
Revilla agreed, saying any change in Napoles’ initial statement that he had no involvement in the scam will betray the government’s hand in implicating him.
“If ever she gives [a] statement to the contrary, that would mean that she was forced to do so at the sacrifice of the truth – what with all the cases filed against her and her family and whatever other pressures that have been brought to bear upon her. This gives credence to the saying, “Ang taong ginigipit kahit sa patalim kumakapit,” Revilla said.
Estrada, Revilla and Enrile face plunder charges for allegedly conniving with Napoles to funnel their pork barrel funds to her bogus non-governmental organizations. In return, they supposedly pocketed millions of pesos. Napoles is also a respondent in the plunder case.
‘My colleagues should learn ethics’
Fresh from his return from the United States, Estrada used his commencement speech before graduates of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) on Tuesday to defend himself, and to lambast the administration and his fellow senators.
In a combative and at times humorous speech, the senator said his colleagues who recommended plunder charges against him must “learn ethics.”
“PLM showcases the virtues of ethics and morality … kaya dapat siguro mag-enroll dito ang ilang kasama ko sa Senado nang maintindihan nila ang kahulugan ng ethics at patas na imbestigasyon.” (Some of my colleagues in the Senate should enroll here so they will know the meaning of ethics and a fair investigation.)
Without naming them, Estrada again criticized Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III and Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano for allegedly promoting their political ambitions at the opposition’s expense.
“Ang aga naman nilang pumosisyon. Ngayon pa lang, mainit na ang pulitika, kasing-init ng panahon natin. Ang inaakala nilang malakas na kalaban nila, kailangang siraan nang husto.” (They are positioning themselves too early. This early, politics is heating up; as hot as the weather. Those they believe to be formidable opponents, they need to destroy.)
In the same breath, Estrada advised the graduates to learn the lesson that his father, former President Joseph Estrada, taught him: forgiveness.
“Kahit tinitira ako ng kapwa senador at ang ilan sa kanila ipokrito, nilalapitan ko sila at kinakamayan. Sa loob ko, ‘May araw ka rin!’ Joke lang.” (Even if my fellow senators attack me and some of them are hypocrites, I shake their hands. Deep inside me, I say, ‘I’ll get back at you someday!’ Just kidding.)
Estrada also hit De Lima for supposedly refusing to respond to his privilege speech questioning the credibility of “provisional state witnesses” Technology Resource Center head Dennis Cunanan and socialite Ruby Tuason.
“Di ba dumadami na ang whistlelbowers? Pwede na siguro sila magtayo ng partylist sa susunod na eleksyon,” he quipped. (Aren’t there already so many whistleblowers? They can already form a partylist group for the next elections.)
He told the students to be proud to be PLM alumni despite the hierarchy among universities. “Huwag kayong mag-ala Dennis Cunanan na nandaya tungkol sa kanyang educational background.” (Don’t do a Dennis Cunanan who cheated about his educational background.)
‘Be lawmakers but…’
Estrada did not spare his other colleagues from his jokes. He again narrated how as a neophyte senator in 2004, he was intimidated after seeing former Senator Joker Arroyo, Enrile and Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Franklin Drilon intensely debating in English.
“Pero noong tumingin ako sa malayo, may dalawang naka-kurbata. Nakita ko si Senator [Lito] Lapid. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘Aba, kayang-kaya ko na ito.’ Tumaas ang confidence level ko,” Estrada said, drawing laughter from the audience.
(But when I looked at the far end of the room, I saw two senators wearing ties. I saw Senator Lapid. I told myself, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ My confidence level went up.)
Estrada became serious when he addressed the charges against him. “Before you, I deny all allegations against me. I have no knowledge of the transfer of pork barrel funds to those other than the legal recipients. I never pocketed money from Napoles. I will keep repeating that because that is the truth.”
He said his critics had a right to ask him to step down. “But it is also my right to say: No, I will not resign!”
Estrada expressed confidence he will be acquitted in his second plunder case. He said his experience of being detained for two years over plunder charges after his father’s ouster gave him strength. He was later acquitted.
“Isa ‘yun sa napakalungkot na yugto ng aking buhay ngunit marami ring magagandang ala-ala ang idinulot sa akin tulad ng napalapit ako sa Panginoon. Araw-araw akong nagdasal. Natuto akong magdasal. May panata ako: pakawalan mo ako sa kulungan, linggo-linggo pupunta ako sa Baclaran at magmimisa. Ngunit ‘pag nakulong ako ngayon, 3 beses na ata ako pupunta sa Baclaran!”
(That was one of the most difficult chapters of my life but I have many fond memories like getting close to the Lord. I prayed daily. I learned how to pray. I had a vow: that the Lord to release me from jail and in exchange, I will got to Baclaran weekly and hear Mass. But if I get imprisoned again, I think I’m going to Baclaran 3 times a day.)
Estrada said he was hopeful the graduates will have a bright future ahead of them. He gave them a hard-learned lesson.
“’Di na ako magtataka kung sa bulwagang ito, may future congressman o senador. Kaya lang huwag kayong ma-involve sa pork barrel scam!” (I won’t be surprised if there are future congressmen and senators in this hall. But don’t get involved in the pork barrel scam!) – Rappler.com
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