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Senators: There was P50M, but not for Corona conviction

MANILA, Philippines – At least two administration senators acknowledged on Thursday, September 26, that P50 million was released to them after the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012, but it was not a reward for convicting him.

A former senator, meanwhile, confirmed the claim of Senator Jinggoy Estrada and said that the amount was announced by then Senate finance committee chair Franklin Drilon as an incentive for colleagues to declare Corona guilty.

Estrada delivered a privilege speech on Wednesday, accusing the administration of also misusing discretionary funds, like how he is being accused of personally benefitting from his pork barrel.

“After the conviction of the former Chief Justice in May 2012, those who voted to convict were allotted an additional P50 million, as provided in a private and confidential letter memorandum of the then chair of the Senate finance committee,” Estrada said in his privilege speech.

He later clarified the amount was not a bribe, but an appeal. When Rappler asked for a copy of the letter, Estrada's staff said the senator declined to provide copies.

Given to all?

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, a party mate of President Benigno Aquino III who wanted Corona impeached, said he received an additional P50 million that year.

This, however, was in December – "much later" after Corona’s impeachment trial.

"If the issue of additional P50 million was to link it to the vote, it is not connected," he told reporters on Thursday.

He said he does not know anything about the alleged letter of Drilon that Estrada said was distributed to senators.

Former Senator Panfilo Lacson confirmed the offer of a convict-Corona incentive was made, but this was announced by Drilon in a caucus, not through a letter, according to an Inquirer report.

Lacson said he did not avail himself of Drilon’s offer.

Sen Alan Cayetano meanwhile could not immediately confirm if there was extra money released last year, but insisted that if there was, everyone must have received it, not just those who voted to convict Corona.

"Kasi ang sistema sa Senado, sasabihin sa inyo this year 100 million so mag-request na ng 50 soft, 50 hard. Tama rin ang sinasabi ng senador na di papangalanan na towards the end of the year, or after budget hearing minsan, nagsasabi may extra P50 million or extra P100 million," he said.

(The system in the Senate is, they will say this year, you get 100 million, so senators will request 50 for soft projects, and 50 for hard. What the senator who should not be named said was also correct: towards the end of the year, or after budget hearing, sometimes they say there's extra P50 million or extra P100 million).

Cayetano insisted it had nothing to do with the impeachment.

He said he does not remember the alleged caucus Lacson was talking about.

"Kung merong natanggap, it’s because lahat binigyan (If money was received, it's because everyone was given), not because it’s for the RH bill, sin taxes, or for the impeachment. And as I said, 100% sa tao napupunta ito," he said.

Twenty of the 23 senators then voted to convict Corona.

'It's impossible'

In a phone patch with reporters also on Thursday, Estrada said he could not confirm that the money was only given to those who voted for conviction.

"I suppose. Why don't you ask the senators who got a letter because I talked to other senators who got a letter," he said.

When told other senators did not know of the letter, Estrada said, "Then why was I given? Others were given. It's impossible [they weren't]." – Rappler.com