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Erap: Jinggoy just careless with ‘pork’ funds

MANILA, Philippines – For former President Joseph Estrada, his son’s impending arrest is like déjà vu but he does not blame his eldest and political heir for the alleged diversion of millions of pesos in taxpayers’ money to ghost projects.

The convicted plunderer turned Manila mayor echoed the argument of Senator Jinggoy Estrada that he is not to blame for the supposed loss of development funds to the bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of Janet Lim Napoles.

“He was just careless but he does not have that intention to take advantage of his PDAF,” the elder Estrada said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart on Thursday, June 19.

Estrada said he believes his son did not know that the Napoles NGOs were fake despite a Commission on Audit report showing that the senator repeatedly endorsed the foundations.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada faces impending arrest after he was charged before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan for plunder and 11 counts of graft. Estrada is implicated in the pork barrel scam, the country’s biggest corruption scandal in recent history, where he allegedly connived with Napoles to funnel his pork barrel or discretionary funds to her dummy NGOs in exchange for kickbacks.

The elder Estrada said that Senator Jinggoy was only doing what he himself did when he was in the Senate from 1987 to 1992.

“As a senator – I’ve been a senator – he just gave it when they ask for your pork barrel and they apply. Okay, just leave it to your secretary. That’s what I did when I was a senator,” Estrada said.

Estrada also supported his son’s statement that it is the implementing agencies and the budget secretary that should determine the legitimacy of NGOs

“Because they are the ones handling the money, they should see to it first where the money will go. That’s their duty, not the senator’s.”

The former President dismissed the testimonies of Napoles and principal whistleblower Benhur Luy that his son received 50% to 60% in kickbacks from the ghost projects.

“This could be a set-up. Even the DOJ can talk to these people and blame all the senators, ‘Name them, name them.’ You see? We can’t be assured of that. I was watching the TV statement of Secretary [Leila] de Lima, who’s supposed to be the secretary of justice. She presumed all these senators are already guilty.”

Estrada also rejected the allegation of his former social secretary and family friend Ruby Tuason, a socialite who turned state witness and testified that she gave bags of cash to Senator Jinggoy representing his “commissions” from Napoles.

“She wants to save herself so she has to do it. I know her from the start. She’s a poor lady. She has nothing. Why does she have a house in Dasmariñas from nowhere? She just wants to save herself that’s why she did that.”

“She was already coached, I would say, to save herself,” Estrada added.

When asked if he was only blind to his son’s faults, Estrada said, “My eyes are very clear. In any case, an accused is always presumed innocent unless proven guilty.”

‘Like me, Jinggoy can stage pol comeback’

Estrada compared his son’s second plunder case to the first that they faced in 2001 for allegedly receiving payoffs from the illegal numbers game jueteng.

“We had that experience, father and son; we were both incarcerated. We were both accused but after two years, he was acquitted.”

Senator Estrada was cleared of the plunder charge while the former President was convicted in 2007 but quickly pardoned by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 

“While me, I stayed for 6 years and a half, they were not able to show I stole a single cent from government coffers, except that P200 million coming from jueteng, which I did not benefit [from]. I gave it to the ERAP Muslim Scholarship Foundation. I did not benefit from it,” Estrada said.

Estrada justified his decision to run for president in 2010 and Manila mayor in 2013 despite a promise he made not to seek public office when pardoned.  

“Assuming I promised, I can change my mind. That’s only in the whereases [of the pardon]. What’s important is in the dispositive portion,” he said.

The former President said that while his son is now embattled, Senator Estrada can soon stage a political comeback.

“He’s still young. Once you get over all these problems, he can still go back. Just like me.”

Asked if the senator can still be the running mate of opposition presidential bet Vice President Jejomar Binay, Estrada said, “It depends. Hopefully, this case will not drag [on].”

Been there, done that

The former President added that his son does not turn emotional in front of him an does not show how he feels about the case.

“I just give him encouragement. We’ve been there. ‘You saw it, you experienced it. As long as you say, you are not in any way involved in that, okay fight it out.’ So I believe in him,” Estrada said.

Asked if he was disappointed that the family is again facing a similar controversy after his colorful return to power, Estrada said, “That’s life.”

 “You have to experience all these kinds of trial in life, you know. In human life, failure is inevitable but giving up is unforgivable. That’s why he should not give up. Like me, I haven’t given up.” –