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Neither are we thieves, say Revilla, Estrada

/ 01:56 AM November 01, 2013

They also claim they are not thieves.

“Perhaps the reason President Aquino has yet to hear anything was because he wasn’t listening,” Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. said in a statement a day after the Chief Executive’s “I-am-not-a-thief” declaration in an unprecedented radio and TV broadcast.

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Aquino said he had yet to hear from lawmakers accused of stealing their pork barrel funds meant to lift the nation from abject poverty.

“I am not a thief and I never stole anything from the national coffers,” Revilla said in a statement issued by his office on Thursday. “I am ready and I will face whatever investigation to clear my name of the lies told against me.”

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Revilla, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, has been accused of plunder in connection with an alleged P10-billion scam that diverted congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations into ghost projects the past decade.

“I am with his government in going after thieves in the government,” Estrada said over radio station dwIZ. “Even if I was implicated in the pork barrel scam, I want to tell you that I never stole from the public coffers.”

Enrile has yet to issue a reaction on the President’s speech but has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He earlier said he was willing to part with his wealth and that of his family’s if it could be proven that he pocketed taxpayer money.

It was unclear if Aquino was referring to the 89-year-old Enrile when the President, smarting from the label “pork barrel king” for holding on to hundreds of billions of pesos in discretionary funds, said that critics resorting to squid tactics were heeding the advice of “an old politician.”

“Definitely, that’s not me,” said Estrada, 50.

He suggested that Aquino could also be referring to retired Sen. Joker Arroyo, 86. The feisty human rights lawyer has likewise declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) illegal, pointing out the constitutional prohibition against juggling savings from one department to another.

“I don’t know if it’s Senator Enrile or Senator Arroyo,” said the son of former President Joseph Estrada, now the Manila mayor.

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A movie-actor-turned-politician just like Revilla, Estrada welcomed Aquino’s explanation about the DAP, an impounding mechanism for government savings whose legality has been questioned in the Supreme Court. Aquino, in his statement on Wednesday night, insisted the DAP was “constitutional.”

In a privilege speech, Estrada claimed that additional pork barrel funds were given to senators as “incentives” following the conviction last year of Chief Justice Renato Corona for his failure to include his dollar bank accounts in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad later acknowledged that the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona received from P50 million to P100 million in additional pork that was taken from the DAP, taking the wraps off the little-known facility in the midst of public outrage over the PDAF scandal and sparking the filing of petitions in the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional.

“It’s good that he explained the legality of the DAP. I just hope I was not the one being referred to by President Aquino when he mentioned people who are trying to muddle the issue,” Estrada said. “If you recall in my privilege speech, I never referred to the DAP.”

Estrada said he learned about the additional P50-million pork allocation when he received a letter from Senate President Franklin Drilon asking him to identify projects worth P50 million. Drilon was then chair of the Senate finance committee, the pork barrel gatekeeper.

“If the President believes that the DAP is constitutional, so be it. But there is still the Supreme Court. That is the final arbiter of the law,” Estrada said.

SEE ALSO:

Estrada, Revilla: We didn’t steal too

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TAGS: Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Jinggoy Estrada, Politics, Pork barrel, Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Ramon Revilla Jr.
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