Jinggoy slams COA chief
Exposes P50-M Incentive For Each Senator Who Voted To Convict Corona
Manila, Philippines – Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Ejercito Estrada yesterday denounced Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Grace Pulido Tan for her alleged bias and selective report on alleged irregularities involving pork barrel as he took a swipe at colleagues and named some members of the House of Representatives in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel fund scam.
P50M Given For Each Convict Vote
He likewise revealed that after the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, those who voted to convict him were given P50 million each as “incentive.” He declined to name who distributed the extra perk, but added that he was sure Budget Secretary Florencio Abad knows the source. The incentive, he said, was on top of their annual P200-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allotment.
In his scathing and lengthy privilege speech titled, “The Untold Story of the PDAF that the Public Should Know,” Estrada turned the tables on administration allies and showed an alleged “private and confidential” memorandum letter of Senate President Franklin Drilon, then Senate Finance Committee chairman, approving the release of an additional P50 million for each senator who voted to convict Corona.
Estrada, along with Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., is currently facing plunder charges in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly orchestrated by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
Who’s Somebody From Palace?
When Enrile asked Estrada if there was anybody who approached him or any member of the Senate to vote for the impeachment of the Chief Justice in consideration of a reward after the trial, Estrada admitted there was somebody from Malacañang who called him up.
“There was somebody who approached me but did not promise me any reward, to be fair, and to be honest about it. There was somebody who approached me,” he said.
But he clarified that the P50 million was not a bribe.
“No it was not a bribe. It was never a bribe. Kumbaga, walang suhol,” Estrada told Drilon after the latter asked if he can categorically consider the additional allotment as a bribe.
I will let the people come up with their own conclusion and decide whether this is true or not but I will add this to the story, Estrada said.
“Saan galing ang pinamigay na pondo? I am sure alam ni (Budget) Secretary (Florencio) Abad ang sagot sa tanong na ito. At sigurado din ako na hindi unilateral decision ni Senate President Drilon ang pamimigay ng 50 million pesos kada senador,” Estrada pointed out. (Where did the funds come from? I am sure Secretary Abad knows the answer. And I’m sure that giving out P50 million was not a unilateral decision of Senate President Drilon.)
Vindication For Corona?
Corona felt vindicated by Estrada’s revelation. It only confirms what we and the public know all along, he said.
Since the beginning, I maintained that there was no truth to the accusations against me by Malacañang, Corona added.
With Estrada’s revelations, Corona said that it is now clear that he was illegally removed as Chief Justice.
Hypocrites In Barong
Estrada took the opportunity to lambast “hypocrites in barong,” or colleagues who, during the course of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation, repeatedly tried to pin down members of the Senate opposition bloc in the scam.
The senator took issue with the “snide remarks,” continuous reference to “campaign slogans” and repeated attempts to mention his name, Enrile, and Revilla’s during the public inquiry. Estrada, Enrile, and Revilla had opted to inhibit themselves from participating in the Senate hearing.
“Why play this up when there have already been reports in the media on this and which I had vehemently denied? Why play up this issue? He even referred to a known campaign slogan of a fellow senator. Bastusan na ba ito?” Estrada quipped.
At that moment, Estrada played a tape recording of a portion of a Senate inquiry where Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Teofisto “TG” Guingona III’s voices were heard compelling witnesses invited to the hearing to confirm the identities of the senators who allegedly coursed their PDAF to non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to Napoles.
Estrada also lamented the apparent “selective” investigation of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Commission on Audit (COA), and the Senate.
371 Lawmakers Covered
Although the 450-page COA report covered pork barrel releases to 371 legislators during the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, Estrada said Tan repeatedly mentioned his name and Senators Enrile, Revilla, and Gregorio Honasan II.
Estrada added that when Sen. Nancy Binay, a member of the Senate minority bloc, asked Tan during the hearing whether she could identify other legislators involved in the PDAF scam, the COA chairman “suddenly excused herself, biglang nahilo at umalis sa Senado.” (She suddenly developed fainting spells and left the Senate building.)
P1.2B PDAF-Funded LGU Transactions
He said that based on the COA special audit report there were also P1.2 billion worth of local government unit (LGU) transactions funded from PDAF that also failed to comply with the government procurement law. Some of these P1.2-billion funds came from the pork barrel of Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Alan Peter Cayetano, and former Senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr.
“Why are these not mentioned? Is it because they are allies? But I am not saying they made any irregularities. This is based on the COA report that said it found irregularities in how their funds were used,” Estrada said in Filipino.
Apart from the four senators, Estrada also mentioned Rep. Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales Jr. and party-list Representative Florencio Noel as among the legislators whom state auditors found had irregularities in the use of their pork barrel funds.
P338.3M ‘Pork’ Transactions
“The COA report was likewise, peppered with information on anomalous transactions like the P338.3-million PDAF-related transactions of Mandaluyong, Taguig, Tarlac, and Las Piñas, considered questionable as purported suppliers were not legally and/or physically existing, cannot be located or have issued questionable receipts,” Estrada said.
“Those I mentioned are just some of those who had questionable transaction or irregularities indicated in the COA special report and they are not even included in the current investigation,” he explained.
Power Over PDAF
Estrada maintained that he stood by his decision to vote to convict the former Chief Justice during his impeachment trial despite the alleged P50-billion incentive for senators.
He emphasized the fact that even former Budget Secretary and now Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. confirmed that the annual allocation of P200-million for each senator and P70-million for each congressmen are “only minimum.”
“Andaya said in the past that there was no rule setting a maximum amount that a legislator can receive in pork barrel funds. It all depended on the leadership of the Senate and the House and of course, Malacañang. What we had was a minimum amount. These were Andaya’s own words, not mine,” he quoted.
The seemingly vague system and secret tradition of indicating the amount of PDAF for lawmakers are probably the reason the DBM refuses to render a complete account of releases to all lawmakers as requested by the COA, Estrada said.
Estrada, then called on the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO), which is in charge of providing research and staff support to the Senate Finance Committee, to disclose in full not only the PDAF allocations but all “budgetary amendments or insertions and extra amounts” authorized by Senate Finance chairman for each senator over the years starting from the 12th Congress to the present.
Likewise, Estrada challenged Secretary Abad to submit to the COA the documents to complete its audit on the P115 billion that was released during 2007, 2008, and 2009.
He also challenged Abad to reveal to the public the documents regarding “additional, rewards, or bribe” for lawmakers. (With a report from Rey G. Panaligan)