Bares pork deals between Palace and Congress
Opposition Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Wednesday denounced the administration’s “selective investigation” of pork barrel anomalies, in a privilege speech that tied Palace allies to questionable fund releases and that excoriated Commission on Audit chairwoman Grace Pulido Tan for bias and incompetence.
In a speech that lasted more than an hour, Estrada assailed what he called “selective justice” and the deliberate failure of the administration to question the irregularities of its supporters.
Retort. Senator Jinggoy Estrada holds up a letter that he said he received from the Budget Department as he answered the allegations he misused his pork barrel appropriations during a privilege speech he delivered at the Senate on Wednesday. Ey Acasio
He disclosed that Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, and former senators Manny Villar and Francis Pangilinan used their pork barrel without complying with the procurement law.
He also accused House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II of using pork barrel for ghost projects and former An Waray party-list representative Florencio Noel of anomalous transactions.
Estrada decried the COA’s failure to report on the total pork barrel releases of the President’s staunch supporters, including former senator and now Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Rep. Henedina Abad, wife of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad; and Reps. Niel Tupas and Isidro Ungab.
The incomplete audit report, he said, spared the President’s supporters from prosecution, while allowing the administration to go after opposition senators such as himself, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.
Estrada’s Senate staff, donning orange (his campaign color), appeared at the plenary to support the beleaguered senator who, along with Enrile and Revilla were slapped with plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman last week.
They were accused of funneling their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) put up by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Since the story broke, Estrada said, there has been a serialized and concerted effort to demonize him, Enrile and Revilla, which he likened to a telenovela. As members of the opposition, he said, they were marked and portrayed as “the worst theieves and scoundrels” in government.
Enrile and Revilla, who celebrated his birthday Wednesday, appeared saddened as they listened to Estrada.
In his expose, Estrada said Cayetano, Santiago, Villar and Pangilinan were among the senators who contributed to a total of P1.2 billion worth of transactions with local government units.
“Why was there no mention of this?” Estrada said, pointing out that the COA had cited irregularities in the allocation of their funds.
Estrada also focused his attacks on Gonzales for using part of his pork barrel for ghost projects, and the COA for failing to expose this.
“Why is he not being questioned? Is it because he belongs to the [President’s] Liberal Party?” asked Estrada.
Citing a COA report, he accused Gonzales of having P275 million in cash advances without any particular allocation, which means these were for ghost projects.
“Was the PDAF properly used? It seems it was not, based on the COA report,” said Estrada.
He also said Gonzales accumulated at least P440 million PDAF in six years in office but based on COA reports, most of the funds went to the congressman’s district.
But the COA report also showed that 28 suppliers in Mandaluyong denied having undertaken the projects, which supposedly received P28.74 million.
Estrada said the COA report also showed that Gonzales spent P6 million in the popular fast food chain Jollibee.
“What’s this, P6 million worth of hamburger, Chicken Joy and Jolly hotdog?” asked Estrada, who used the Jollibee slogan “Langhap sarap” to ridicule the expense.
He said the P6 million could buy about 2,000 hamburgers.
In the case of former An Waray party-list representative Noel, also a close ally of President Benigno Aquino III, P23 million of his PDAF did not follow the procurement law and P19.6 million was in transactions with questionable suppliers, Estrada said.
Estrada then revealed that senators who voted to convict impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 were alloted an additional P50 million in pork.
To prove his allegation, Estrada read from a private and confidential memo from Senate President Franklin Drilon, who at the time was the head of the Senate finance committee.
Estrada dared the Budget secretary, Abad, to disclose all “additional rewards” or “bribes” that were being given to legislators.
Estrada, who said he voted for Corona’s conviction with no regard for the “reward,” described Abad’s silence on the pork barrel issue as “puzzling.”
Estrada said questionable transactions indicated in the COA Special Report were excluded from the current pork investigation.
He also attacked the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee for limiting its investigation to the NGOs and foundations with links to Napoles, even though the COA report said these accounted for only eight of the 82 foundations that were said to be tainted with corruption.
“Are they deliberately turning a blind eye [to the other irregularities]?” Estrada said, pointing out that some legislators had even allocated their pork to their own corporations or NGOs.
“As blatant and as violative of a law as this and yet this does not even merit a mere mention in the Blue Ribbon investigation? Imagine putting the fund in your own NGO, or a foundation where you are an incorporator or board of director or stockholder? It’s like putting money from one of your pockets into the other.”
Estrada tore into COA’s Tan for joining the PDAF “telenovela” when she released the results of a special audit to media on Aug. 16, even though COA regulations prohibit the release of such reports without giving officials adversely affected by them sufficient opportunity to explain their side.
Despite having taken nearly three years to conduct the special audit, Estrada said, the COA issued an incomplete report that covered only 58 percent of the total PDAF releases from 2007 to 2009, and only 32 percent of the releases to the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Estrada blamed Tan’s poor performance on her frequent travels abroad – five times in 2010, nine times in 2011 and 10 times so far this year.
“Either Chairman Pulido Tan is too lazy to do her job or she is too ignorant of the main function of COA or just plainly clueless as to what are being done by her resident auditors,” Estrada said.