Senator Estrada tells PLM grads: I didn’t steal a single centavo
Take it from Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, an actor-politician facing plunder charges.
You can be a senator, but stay away from any scam, said Estrada to graduates of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) on Tuesday.
Estrada, who flew back on Monday from a holiday trip to the United States, however, expressed confidence he’d crawl out of the hole he’s found himself in, insisting on his innocence and predicting the dismissal of the case against him in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel racket.
Given the quality education in the university operated by the city of Manila, Estrada said it was not far-fetched that the graduates would end up running the government someday.
“Who knows there’s a future congressman or senator in our midst in this hall. But be careful not to be involved in the pork barrel scam,” he chuckled in a speech replete with references to the alleged racket, drawing cheers during commencement exercises in the Philippine International Convention Center hall.
The Ombudsman has ruled that there is merit in charging Estrada, along with Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, with plunder in the pork barrel racket. The senators could face arrest and detention should the Ombudsman deny their motions for reconsideration and file the charges in the Sandiganbayan.
Caveat for the future
His father, then President Joseph Estrada, was impeached in late 2000. The impeachment trial was aborted, but he was ousted by a military-backed people’s revolt in January 2001 on charges of incompetence, inefficiency and corruption.
The elder Estrada was charged and convicted of plunder in September 2007 but was pardoned shortly after by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He’s now the mayor of Manila.
“I am very confident that in due time the charges against me will be dismissed. In the meantime, I just hope and pray that the people will let the wheels of justice take its due and legal course,” he said, turning serious.
“Before the graduating class of 2014 of this great institution and before all of you today, I deny all allegations against me.”
He insisted he had no knowledge of the transfer of funds of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to anyone other than the “legally intended beneficiaries.”
‘I did not steal’
“I never received or pocketed any amount from Mrs. [Janet Lim] Napoles, Mrs. [Ruby] Tuason or any other person associated with her or the nongovernment organizations,” he said.
“I did not steal a single centavo from public funds or from my PDAF. I did not conspire with anyone nor took undue advantage of my position to enrich myself or my family using public funds.”
Rebuffing calls for his resignation, Estrada said he intended to serve the remainder of his term until 2016.
“Perhaps there are some of you who agree with the call. I will not take that against you; that’s your right. In the same way, I have the right to say ‘No, I will not resign,’” he said.
Estrada said the charges against him were part of early politicking by some of his colleagues aspiring for higher public office in the 2016 national elections. “But do they have to do it at our own expense? Do I have to be the whipping boy of their misguided ambitions?”
Ideal school for senators
He said the resolution by the Senate blue ribbon committee recommending the filing of charges against him, Enrile and Revilla was not unexpected since its chair, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, had been biased from the start.
“And when a report was made unilaterally by the chairman and released on April Fools’ Day, I was no longer surprised because the committee has transformed itself as part and parcel of a lynching mob. It has become a hanging party which does not hear both sides and reeks of bias and partiality,” he said.
“PLM, your university, showcases its strength in promoting the virtues of ethics and morality. And this is the most valuable education we can get,” he said. “My colleagues should enroll here so they’ll understand the meaning of ethics, selective justice and the principle of fair investigation.”
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