Enrile: Pork not on Corona trial menuBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
That’s Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s challenge to people insinuating that the senators accepted “pork” from Malacañang in exchange for their votes that convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona last month.
Enrile was reacting on Sunday to reports quoting Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago as saying that the senators who voted to convict Corona after a 44-day impeachment trial may have been given “other considerations” by Malacañang.
Enrile said that as Senate President, he would have been the first to know if this were true, especially where it concerned the pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Fortunately, it is not, he said.
“There would be public records about pork released to us,” Enrile said in an interview over dzBB radio. “Why not disclose it to the public?” he said in Filipino.
Open to scrutiny
Enrile maintained that he only received the pork barrel regularly given to senators. Each senator is allotted P170 million a year in the PDAF, which channels public funds to lawmakers’ projects.
“I only get my ordinary pork that is issued regularly,” Enrile said. “Anyone is free to scrutinize how I used it. I assure everyone that it was used for projects that helped the needy.”
Corona’s lawyers started the talk of Malacañang using the pork barrel to secure the removal of Corona. They called a news conference just before the impeachment trial resumed in May after the congressional break for Lent and claimed that officials close to President Benigno Aquino who were responsible for governmental funding were offering senators P100 million each in “soft projects” in exchange for votes to convict Corona.
20 guilty votes
Corona’s trial ended on May 29 with 20 of the 23 senators finding him guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution by not declaring $2.4 million and P80 million in bank accounts.
He was dismissed, permanently barred from holding public office, and all of his benefits were forfeited by the government.
The Judicial and Bar Council is screening at least 38 candidates to find three to five nominees to recommend to President Aquino for Corona’s replacement.
Two weeks ago, Santiago said some of the senators who voted to convict him had met two days before judgment day. One of those who was at the meeting was Enrile.
Santiago was one of the three senators who voted to acquit Corona.
“I am not upset by these reports because they are not true at all,” Enrile said. He added, “Even those senators who voted to acquit also got their pork.”
‘Who made the offer?’
Enrile explained that the outcome of the impeachment trial was a result of the individual judgment of the senators who assessed the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense.
“So anyone who insists that there were other considerations is wrong,” he said.
Then he threw down the gauntlet: “If there is anyone who made an offer, say so. Name the one who offered and who was offered.”