Poe wants lifestyle check on senators
MANILA, Philippines—“While we’re at it, why not include the other respondents as well?”
Sen. Grace Poe on Thursday suggested that others implicated in the pork barrel scam, including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., also be made to undergo lifestyle checks along with provisional state witness Dennis Cunanan who had volunteered to open his bank accounts to investigators.
Cunanan on Wednesday said he was willing to waive his bank secrecy rights and submit to a lifestyle check to prove that he didn’t benefit from the alleged P10-billion scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of legislators.
“I hope he’s telling the truth so that the case may soon be resolved,” Poe said in a text message.
“In fact, all those allegedly involved, including the senators named, should subject themselves to a lifestyle check if they are truly innocent,” she added.
In his sworn statement, Cunanan, the director general of the Technology Resource Center, said Estrada and Revilla both called him to press him to release their pork barrel to nongovernment organizations linked to alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
All three senators have staunchly denied any involvement in the scam.
Estrada on Thursday doubted any good would come from a lifestyle check on Cunanan.
“That would be game-fixing,” he said in a phone interview, again using a basketball term to indicate a stage-managed outcome.
Estrada believes Cunanan’s bank records may have already been altered to show a more modest lifestyle than he actually has.
Asked if he knew that Cunanan actually benefited from the scam, Estrada said, “Wasn’t he implicated by [whistle-blower] Benhur Luy?”
Earlier, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III called the testimony of suspect turned witness Ruby Tuason against Estrada a “three-point shot” that was not only a buzzer beater but the winning shot.
Tuason testified in a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing that she personally delivered kickback money from Napoles to Estrada and Enrile’s then chief of staff Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.
Estrada had countered that Guingona had committed an “offensive foul” with his statement, adding that the committee chair had prejudged his case.
Poe said she “cautiously” welcomed Cunanan’s voluntary submission to a lifestyle check but it was his testimony that should tell the whole story.
“Bank accounts are only a piece of the puzzle on the wealth and assets of an individual. The people, through us in the Senate, should be able to see for themselves the extent of his complicity in the scam and his real motives for coming out,” Poe said in a text message.
She nonetheless said that this was Cunanan’s chance “to come clean without any criminal consequences.”
“It’s better that we dispel all doubts about possible kickbacks so that the case submitted in the Sandiganbayan will be strong,” Poe said.
Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, meanwhile, would not say if her agency was doing a lifestyle check on Cunanan but she revealed that an investigation was ongoing of those charged who belonged to the legislative branch of the government.—With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
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