MANILA, SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 (MANILA STANDARD) By Alejandro Del Rosario - I was expecting to be underwhelmed by Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s much- awaited “bombshell” speech on the Senate floor.

The embattled senator, nevertheless, stirred up a storm when he revealed that an additional P50-million in pork barrel allotment was given to senators who voted to convict impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.

Senator Estrada has admitted he received an additional P50-M in pork barrel funds, confirming what Manila Standard columnists Kit Tatad and Jojo Robles wrote about the Palace financing of Corona’s conviction.

By saying Budget Secretary Florencio Abad knew where the money came from, Estrada suggested Malacañang as the source of the fund or the President gave instructions for the additional allotment.

Estrada has raised the specter of an impeachable offense committed by President Aquino. But even if Estrada can prove his allegation, mustering the votes in the House of Representatives where any impeachment process starts, is another matter since Aquino has control of all three branches of government.

Whether bonus or bribe, the possibility the President had used development funds for an unlawful purpose is an impeachable offense. Estrada claims possession of a confidential note signed by then finance committee chairman and now Senate President Franklin Drilon releasing an additional P50-million PDAF for the senators’ infrastructure projects.

After initially denying Estrada’s claim, Drilon has admitted additional allotment was given to the senators who convicted Corona even as DBM Secretary Abad insisted the Palace did not bribe the senator-judges.

Release of congressional pork, according to Estrada, was also used as leverage by Malacañang for the passage of the sin tax bill on cigarettes and alcoholic drinks.

Estrada slammed media, the Commission on Audit, DBM and the Senate Blue Ribbon committee currently investigating the pork barrel scam for portraying him and other opposition senators as “the worst kind of thieves and scoundrels.”

“What makes us so special to be singled out by the Commission on Audit?” asked Estrada, referring to the charges of plunder filed by the justice department against him, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla, Jr. in connection with the pork barrel scam masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles.

Estrada’s lamented that “selective justice is injustice” as he pointed out that only opposition senators are being prosecuted, The COA audit only covered the period from 2007 to 2009 and left out Aquino administration allies.

To make the plunder charges more inclusive, Estrada named fellow Senators Francisco Pangilinan, Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes, Miriam Defensor Santiago and former Senator Manuel Villar whose disposition of pork barrel funds was also questioned in an unfinished COA report.

Newspapers earlier reported the misuse of pork barrel funds by two other senators for endorsing their PDAF to a Napoles NGO for the purchase of deodorizers for garbage dumps in Antipolo and San Mateo, Rizal.

Former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco, Jr has also filed a case of plunder against Senate President Franklin Drilon in the alleged overprice of a Hall of Justice in Iloilo when he was justice secretary. At the rate plunder charges are being filed, the Senate could be decimated, leaving only newcomers Grace Poe, Paolo “Bam” Aquino and Nancy Binay who have yet to get their fill or feel of “pork.”

Former congressmen now senators, Juan Edgardo Angara and Estrada half- sibling J.V. Ejercito, have not been cited in the COA report on how they used their pork barrel funds.

Estrada made special mention of House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II, who had allocated all of his P420 million PDAF (P70 million a year in pork barrel during his six years as congressman) to his bailiwick of Mandaluyong, He said 28 suppliers denied being beneficiaries of Gonzales’ PDAF allocations.

He also found out Gonzales paid fast food chain Jollibee P6.6-M to feed supporters during public events held in Mandaluyong.

Estrada asked COA what happened to the P92.5 million PDAF allocated to Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, the wife of DBM Secretary Florencio Abad . Batanes island is the country’s smallest province with a land area of 219 square kilometers and a population of only 16,000.

Lashed by typhoon Odette recently, the pork-endowed province of the Abads still sought financial assistance for relief and rehabilitation.

In defending himself, Estrada said not a single disallowance was made by COA resident auditors assigned to implementing government agencies.

“Perhaps COA chairperson Gracia Pulido Tan could not concentrate on her job because of jet lag,” Estrada twitted as he pointed out that Tan was often traveling abroad—five times in 2010, nine in 2011, ten in 2012 and nine times more in 2013.

“We are all victims of a flawed and broken system,” Estrada said in his closing remarks

Well said, senator, but some are seen as perpetrators.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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