Jinggoy Estrada happy ‘unlucky’ 2013 over
Noting how the number 13 has been particularly unlucky for his family, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada on Wedneday seemed happy to say goodbye to the year just past, probably his worst as a politician since his father, the country’s 13th President, Joseph Estrada, was ousted in 2001 and convicted of plunder in 2007.
In a New Year’s Day statement, Estrada said he was looking forward to 2014 after spending half of 2013 defending himself against charges that he helped himself to fat kickbacks from his pork barrel entitlements that were made to appear to have gone to what turned out to be fictitious projects and dubious foundations.
“This year has been a very challenging time for me and my family. I, together with my two colleagues in the chamber, have been unfairly accused in connection with the so-called pork barrel scam,” he said in a statement.
Estrada said the number 13 was “especially controversy-laden, not only for [him] but for [all] the Estradas.”
He said his father, who’s now mayor of Manila, became the 13th President of the Philippines in 1998, “but the term was cut short by an impeachment in 2000 and unconstitutional removal from office in 2001.”
“Thirteen years after, I am now the one charged by the Department of Justice,” Estrada said.
The Department of Justice in 2013 filed plunder charges against Estrada, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. and many others in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam in which the lawmakers were accused of pocketing their pork allocations in a kickback scheme allegedly orchestrated by another coaccused, detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
He said he was looking forward to 2014 “as a more productive year in terms of meaningful legislation and public service, and a more auspicious period marked with resolution and absence of controversies.”
“I trust that in due time, the truth will come out and my name will be cleared,” he said.
Still performing his job
Estrada claimed that the accusations against him have not deterred him from performing his job and carrying out his propoor advocacies.
The senator, who chairs the Senate committee on labor in both the previous and present Congress, said he steered the passage of several administration-backed legislative measures.
These included the Kasambahay Law that set minimum salaries and specific benefits for domestics and that President Aquino signed into law in January 2013.
Estrada said that before the conclusion of the previous 15th Congress, President Aquino also signed two more priority measures that were steered by the Senate committee on labor—Republic Act No. 10395, or an Act Strengthening Tripartism, and RA 10396, or an Act Strengthening Conciliation-Mediation as a Voluntary Mode for Dispute Settlement for all Labor Cases.
“I hope to carry on with the healthy cooperation and productive collaboration with the Department of Labor and Employment and active stakeholders in the labor sector in crafting and pushing for the passage of beneficial laws and policies in the years to come,” Estrada said.
Priority labor measures
Estrada vowed to support and act on the priority labor measures in the present Congress, including the proposed magna carta for seafarers, the apprenticeship bill, a bill aimed at strengthening the Public Employment Service Office and nine other bills.
Before the Senate blue ribbon committee investigated the pork barrel scam that implicated Estrada and the two other senators, the panel investigated DOLE officials involved in the alleged “sex-for-flight” scandal in the Middle East.
It was Estrada who brought the issue to the attention of the Senate in a privilege speech.
Estrada said he also called for a public hearing for a new charter of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration “in an effort to effectively address the growing concerns of the millions of overseas Filipino workers.”
In yet another privilege speech after his name was dragged into the pork barrel scam, Estrada disclosed that 20 senators, including himself, who voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona in early 2013, got from Malacañang additional pork barrel funds in amounts ranging from P50 million to P100 million, a few months after Corona’s Senate trial.
Malacañang eventually admitted that the money came from its hitherto unheard of Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the constitutionality of which is now being questioned before the Supreme Court.
“I am fully committed to making the best out of my remaining two years in office as a senator. I shall continue to become the representative of the masses in the Senate, as I have introduced myself to the electorate in earning my mandate. I will work even harder and double and triple my efforts to serve the people and the masses,” Estrada said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.