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Aquino on plunder raps: What did I supposedly gain?

President Aquino: Why me? Photo by RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—Why me?

President Aquino on Wednesday shrugged off plunder cases filed against him and two of his Cabinet secretaries, saying they never benefited from the pork barrel scam and the alleged misuse of the Malampaya Fund.

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“In case you are right that they filed a plunder case, really, I’m just curious: What was my supposed gain here?” he asked in Filipino, noting that the crime of plunder should involve “personal gain.”

The President said the same argument should be raised for Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who were also included in the plunder charge filed by the peasant group, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

“So, what did I, Secretary Abad or Secretary Alcala gain?” he asked. “But besides the technical aspect here, perhaps part of the democratic process is to show how extreme their (critics’) views really are.”

Aquino is facing plunder charges in the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly using the proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project to programs not related to energy.

Last year, the same group also filed a plunder complaint against the President and 12 others for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

The President enjoys immunity from criminal suits during his incumbency.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was haled to court after her term for alleged election sabotage and plunder. She is out on bail on the election case but is under hospital arrest on the plunder charge, although her lawyers claim there is no evidence showing she personally gained from the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds.

In the case of Alcala, who was also being linked to rice smuggling, the President said he was “balancing” the allegation with what the Cabinet official “has done” in his department. He commended Alcala for the “stable price” of rice.

“He has done positive [things] and there are accusations. But like anyone else, he should be accorded presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” he said.

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Aquino also rejected allegations of an administration cover-up in the ongoing investigation of the alleged P10-billion racket involving the siphoning of congressional allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost projects and kickbacks.

He called attention to the list of people charged so far and asked: “How many people would have thought that this person, who is supposed to be [one of] the most powerful people in our society, would be charged?”

The President said he wanted to make sure that cases filed would eventually lead to convictions.

“Once you reach the courts and you file a weak (ampaw) case and it’s dismissed, perhaps we would be blamed again,” he said. “So we’re making sure that once we file a case, the evidence is strong and there would be a right decision.”

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. are among 38 people under investigation by Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged PDAF scam. The three have denied wrongdoing.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Florencio “Butch” Abad, Malampaya fund, plunder charge, Proceso Alcala
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