Drilon confirms P50M pork barrel
Neither a bribe nor a reward.
Senate President Franklin Drilon on Thursday said the P50 million worth of pork barrel projects made available to senators after the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona last year was part of the senators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was withheld during the entire Corona impeachment trial.
Drilon stressed it was not a bribe.
“What I remember was during the four-month Corona trial no PDAF was released by Malacañang precisely to avoid suspicions that funds were being peddled to influence the trial. The PDAF that Senator Estrada was talking about was released after the trial,” Drilon told the Inquirer.
After the trial, he said the senators were asked to submit a list of their projects so that their PDAF could be released.
Drilon vehemently denied that the P50 million pork per senator was a bribe, noting that even Sen. Jinggoy Estrada clarified this to him immediately after the latter’s speech on Wednesday.
Estrada himself admitted that he accepted the P50-million “incentive” after the Senate convicted Corona.
“I have yet to see that letter mentioned by Senator Estrada. But if the insinuation is that the Department of Budget and Management and I gave out additional PDAF funds as incentives to those who voted to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona, that is not true,” Drilon said in an earlier statement, adding senators voted according to their conscience and their own evaluation of the evidence presented during the trial.
Pressed on whether he did write a letter as claimed by Estrada, Drilon on Thursday said he might have.
“If there is a letter, it only said submit your projects worth P50 million,” said Drilon, who was Senate finance committee chair last year when the Corona trial took place.
“I cannot determine with accuracy if that was the additional PDAF because I do not keep track of releases as finance committee chair. I only relay the request of the senators for fund releases of their proposed PDAF projects. DBM releases the funds, and I am not informed of the total releases per senator,” Drilon said.
Drilon could not say who among the senators got or did not get the P50 million allocation.
The Senate in 2012 voted 20-3 to convict Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. The three who voted against his impeachment were Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Joker Arroyo.
‘Incredible leap in logic’
“I cannot say this enough and with any more clarity: The accusations that Senator Estrada leveled against me and the administration are not true. I have absolutely no knowledge of this letter, nor am I privy to its contents or circulation,” said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
“His conclusion—that I would somehow be involved in the distribution of the letter and the course of action outlined in it—requires an incredible leap in logic that is ill-justified by fact,” said Abad.
The budget chief stressed that the Aquino administration “does not and will not bribe any group or individuals—whether these ‘bribes’ are offered officially or otherwise—all for the sake of getting our way, or for the sake of gaining political leverage over parties that may oppose us.”
Told about the caucus of senators wherein the amount was mentioned, he said that the executive was “not privy to what happened in that caucus.”
“Second, we deny that there was a P50-million bribe to induce the senators to convict Corona,” said Abad.
When the Inquirer pointed out that several senators, including Senators Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile and former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, had already validated Estrada’s claim, Abad said: “Let me check our facts and get back to you.”
He later sent a text message to say that the process would take “some more time.”
Call it ‘incentive’
On Thursday, Estrada said the P50 million worth of projects distributed to senators after the conviction of Corona might not have been a bribe but it was an “incentive” that the executive should do away with just the same.
“That was not a bribe because that came after the fact or after the conviction… You may call it an incentive,” Estrada told reporters in a telephone interview.
Estrada said he used the allocation because there were many requests for assistance from among local government units.
“I availed [myself] of it. It’s part of the infrastructure projects. If there are senators who say they can’t remember, they should check their files if there was really a letter given them, whether they [accepted it] or not,” Estrada added.
Asked if there was anything wrong with an incentive after the Senate convicted Corona, Estrada said, “I said in the latter part of the speech there is a flawed system already that’s why we have to fix the system.”
“It can’t be that whenever there’s a crisis in Malacañang, the executive will use pork barrel funds as bribes or rewards. That happened during the time of GMA [former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo], that’s why she wasn’t impeached,” Estrada said.
On Abad’s challenge for him to reveal the contents of the confidential and private memo presented by then committee on finance chair Drilon, Estrada said, “I think he just has to check the records of the (DBM).”
“[After] the conviction of Chief Justice Corona, senators availed [themselves] of additional P50 million,” Estrada said.
No selective persecution
Administration senators on Thursday used the Senate inquiry into the pork barrel scam—ironically one of the forums that Estrada said were being used to vilify him and other opposition senators—to debunk his claim of selective investigation and prosecution.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano even mocked Estrada by referring to the opposition lawmaker as the “one who should not be named”—a paraphrase of the description in the Harry Potter series of the devilish villain Voldemort.
Cayetano said Estrada and his allies were being singled out by the government investigation of the PDAF scam. He asked why only Estrada and a few others were charged when there were many lawmakers that figured in the COA special report on PDAF misuse.
“It doesn’t mean that if your name is in the COA report, that will already be the subject of an investigation by the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation],” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said during the hearing.
“As I always say, the scope of the NBI investigation is only on the Napoles component of the PDAF scam and the Malampaya Fund, meaning the information coming from the whistle-blowers and validated and verified by the paper trail,” De Lima said.
Even some personalities already named in the whistle-blowers’ affidavits aren’t charged unless the documentary support are completed, she said. Once the case documents are completed against those implicated by the whistle-blowers, De Lima said they will be charged.
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