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Revilla, Estrada: Don’t judge us

MANILA, Philippines – “I appeal to the public. Do not judge us.”

Actors-turned-politicians Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Jinggoy Estrada used different tacks in responding to the plunder complaint the justice department filed against them before the Ombudsman over the pork barrel scam.

While Revilla was teary-eyed, Estrada even cracked jokes about the case. The two separately talked to the media on the sidelines of the Senate session on Monday, September 16.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, also a respondent, was absent after being rushed to the hospital over the weekend due to high blood pressure.

Holding back tears and with his voice cracking, Revilla told reporters, “Hiling ko lang sa sambayanang Pilipino, huwag kaming husgahan. Ipapaliwanag namin sa kahuli-hulihan. Masakit ang nangyari pero ganoon talaga. God knows.” (I ask the Filipino people, do not judge us. We will explain until the every end. What happened is painful but that is life.)

Haharapin natin ang lahat. Hiling ko lang sa sambayanang Pilipino, kilala niyo ako. ‘Di ako ganoon. The truth will come out. God knows. Pana-panahon lang,” said the action star. (We will face everything. I ask the Filipino people. You know me. I am not like that.)

The senators are among the respondents in the plunder case for allegedly endorsing bogus non-governmental organizations as recipients of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in exchange for hefty kickbacks.

Janet Napoles is the alleged mastermind of the scam.

NOT CRIME. Sen Jinggoy Estrada is confident he will be acquitted, saying endorsing an NGO is u0022not a crime.u0022 He is photographed during the prayer at the start of session on Monday, September 16.

Photo by Rappler/Ayee Macaraig

Estrada: I will be acquitted again

While initially evasive, Estrada eventually agreed to hold a press briefing.

Like Revilla, he said he will face the charges against him but Estrada was defiant. Estrada is the son of former President now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

Ako ay walang kinalaman sa anumang kamalian o katiwalian sa paggamit ng PDAF allocation sa Senado. Handa ko pong sagutin at ipaliwanag sa lahat ang mga ito sapagkat kailanman ay ‘di ko dinungisan o balak dungisan ang pangalan ng ating pamilya.” (I have nothing to do with whatever wrongdoing or corruption in the use of the PDAF allocation of the Senate. I am ready to answer and explain everything because I never destroyed and will never destroy the name of my family.)

Estrada first faced plunder charges 13 years ago along with his father for alleged corruption during the Estrada administration. Unlike the former President, he was cleared.

He said, “I am not a lawyer but this is a serious charge against us or against me and I’ve been through this. I’ve been charged with plunder 13 years ago. Eventually I was acquitted and if in case the Ombudsman will file plunder charges against me at the Sandiganbayan, I am very confident I will be acquitted.”

Estrada belittled the case against him, saying the evidence was just the Commission on Audit (COA) report and the endorsement letters. Witnesses have said that Estrada and the other two senators signed endorsement letters identifying Napoles’ fake NGOs as recipients.

“I think the COA report should not be a basis for filing a plunder case against me or us because the COA report are also prone to mistakes, errors like what happened to Cong Way Kurat [Zamora].”

He reiterated his stand that it is the implementing agencies that are liable for screening the NGOs. He cited the General Appropriations Act (GAA) to argue his point.

PARTY TIME. Janet Lim-Napoles, left (standing), rubs elbows with senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla in this photo taken during a party in Estrada's favorite hangout in San Juan.

“It is not the duty of the senators or any legislator for that matter to determine whether an NGO is bogus or not …. Who determines the legitimacy of the NGO? Us or the implementing agency? The NGO seeks accreditation with the implementing agency so it should exercise due diligence.”

He added, “If the sole basis for plunder [is] the endorsements, the COA report, I don’t think endorsing an NGO is a crime.”

The senator said he will deliver a privilege speech in the Senate in the coming days but refused to disclose the details.

‘I’m sexy, not epal’

Despite facing a non-bailable case that carries a penalty of life imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office, Estrada was in a humorous mood.

Asked about his health, he stood up, touched his body and exclaimed, “Sexy!”

The word was in reference to the term used by principal whistleblower Benhur Luy to refer to one of the senators he visited in the Senate years ago.

He later said, “Bakit ako magwi-wheelchair, sume-sexy na ako? Wala lang akong muscle, paano ako magiging sexy?” (Why will I use a wheelchair, I am getting sexy? I just have no muscle, how will I be sexy?)

On why only 3 opposition lawmakers faced charges, Estrada said, “Di ko alam. I am not in the position to determine [why]. Ako naman yung senador, yung tao na hindi nagpapaepal, ‘di katulad ng ibang senador, paepal nang paepal. You can judge doon sa mga hearing [sino].” (I do not know. I am a senator who does not grab credit unlike others who keep grandstanding. You can judge from the hearings who.)

Estrada also denied that he plans to leave the country, saying he owes it to those who voted for him to stay and attend the session while he is able to do so.

The senator said the Senate minority has constantly been meeting to discuss their plans.

Asked about the statement of Senate President Franklin Drilon that the Senate will be passive in the case against its 3 members, Estrada said, “’Di naman ako humihingi ng tulong niya eh. Kaya kong depensahan ang sarili ko.” (I am not asking for his help. I can defend myself).

"They are conditioning the minds of the public that we are worst thieves and that I cannot accept."–