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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jinggoy drops Senate bombshell. Most revolting of all gory details he revealed was allegation of P50 million payola for each of convicting senators during Corona trial. Why? Because CJ’s trial was supposed to be a grand morality play, a matter of tough individual conscience---yun pala, pera-pera lang. Transactional politics at its worst.


Senator Jinggoy Estrada
I can compare the size of the TV and radio audience across the nation that listened earlier this afternoon to the privilege speech of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to the audience that sat in rapt attention across the country on that fateful day in May 2012 when the Senate voted to oust Chief Justice Renato Corona.  

Most damaging in Estrada’s nearly 1 1/2 hour speech was the revelation that the administration is so corrupt and prone to bribery (“suhol”) of politicos, and throwing away public funds to pork-hungry members of Congress as though these were going out of style.

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It's impossible not to juxtapose the image of wanton spending of public funds on members of Congress, as painted by the opposition senator, against news reports in the recent budget hearings about severe budget cuts---e.g., how this administration has cut down on essential public services to the people, such as the budgets of public hospitals (e.g., charging the poor now for urinalysis and blood chem) and state colleges and universities.

Every detail in Estrada’s speech was revolting. But perhaps, to many people, particularly appalling was his revelation about how the administration, through the Senate finance committee, allegedly gave each senator who voted to convict and oust Corona an extra P50 million each.

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The Corona trial was supposed to be a matter of personal and deep-seated, and even agonizing, decision for each senator---a matter of conscience, a modern morality play. But the Estrada revelation about payola makes one feel frightfully sorry for the country because that celebrated trial became a grand money game---pera-pera lang pala.

Estrada waved a supposed “private and confidential letter” from then finance committee chair, now Senate President, Franklin Drilon allegedly stating offer of that kind of money for each conviction vote. Estrada stuffed it right back into his pocket afterwards, but one doesn’t have to be brilliant to realize that he couldn’t afford to lie about this matter.

Either there was a letter from Drilon to each of the convicting senators or there was none, as simple as that---but the former would be the last person to call Jinggoy’s bluff. What amazes no end, however, is how Drilon could have become so confident as to leave evidence of the wanton bribery. 

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Estrada went on to reveal how pera-pera lang also played a role in the impeachment of Arroyo Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez (who resigned ahead of certain conviction), in the vote on the sin-tax bill and on the passage of the RH bill.

The allegation of payola recalls the front-page Standard story on the allegation by ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio about a very fat lobby fund for the representatives to vote on the RH bill late last year---which the Palace never denied.  

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exculpating Jinggoy Estrada from guilt here---he does not succeed in making himself or Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla any less guilty of abusing public funds or disabusing the public mind about their involvement.

What Estrada succeeded in doing today, however, was to drive the last nail on the coffin of the P-Noy administration’s moral claim to daang matuwid. The matter of bribery of the senators damages the administration and will further strengthen the call in the streets for his resignation.   

To be sure, as Estrada’s colleagues and Palace minions are saying now, Jinggoy has destroyed the Senate as an institution with his revelations.  But the Senate has for some time now been a damaged institution, and all Jinggoy did was put an exclamation point to its self-destruction.  

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Another point he succeeded in achieving was the conspiracy of “selective justice” among government agencies that should be acting with more judicial detachment and fairness toward the PDAF issue---namely, COA which used select media as its information agent, the DOJ, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the fund-releasing agency, the DBM.

“Selective justice is injustice,” as he rightly observed.  

To begin with, COA’s 450-page special audit report zeroed in only on the Arroyo years 2007-2009 and got stuck there. Despite the promise of Secretary Leila de Lima to release a “second batch” of implicated names ,after the sensationalizing of the case of the three senators there’s not much hope.

Note that this morning’s media carried reports about a conspiracy among Senate President Drilon, the Ombudsman and De Lima to block the appearance of Janet Napoles in the coming Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing.  Luckily committee Chair Teofisto Guingona Jr. raised a howl and Drilon was forced to sign the summons order for Napoles.  

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In fact, as Jinggoy pointed out, and as Sen. Francis Escudero stressed during the third Blue Ribbon committee hearing earlier, the COA report cited 82 NGOs of questionable repute to which some P6.2 billion in PDAF funds were channeled by some nine senators and 18 representatives. But COA itself began to canalize reports toward only the eight Napoles NGOs and the three senators.

What happened to the 74 other NGOs and the rest of the PDAF gang?  To PDAF releases in P-Noy years 2010-2013?  

Lamely, De Lima said that DBM refuses to release pertinent documents. Obviously the intention from the beginning was to condemn the three opposition senators to trial by publicity---so that the pork barrel stench is dammed at their level and does not reach presidential allies and the Palace.

But Jinggoy already revealed juicy details in the COA report hitherto undisclosed. There’s the P450 million total in PDAF that Majority Leader Boyet Gonzalez dumped into his district over six years, in addition to cash advances of P276 million and another P263.76 million considered questionable by COA as there were no suppliers for projects. 

Then too, why were only P178 million in pork of prosecution leader Niel Tupas (of the Corona trial) and only P1 million of Rep.Henedina Abad audited? Why were Senators Miriam Santiago, Kiko Pangilinan, Alan Peter Cayetano and Manny Villar, implicated by the COA audit for "irregularities" to the tune of P1.2 billion, not cited. 

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More details from Jinggoy: Since 2004 the PDAF was included in COA audits, but how come its special audit report did not disallow even one peso of entry? Neither did it question any of the 79 resident auditors in various offices and agencies of government on the scam? P115.98 billion of PDAF were released in 2007-2009, but how come only P41 billion were audited?

Why this incomplete COA audit? Was it because COA Chair Grace Pulido Tan was spending more time out of the country than doing her job here? According to Estrada, Tan travelled abroad five times in 2010, nine times in 2011, 10 times in 2012 and nine times in 2013.  

Pulido-Tan---a known loyalist and former undersecretary of former GMA Finance Chief Cesar Purisima, who resigned with him and the Hyatt 10 in July 2005 at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal, and whom he installed in COA in the new Aquino administration---is campaigning hard to become a member of the UN Board of Auditors, a plum job.

Given her dismal performance in COA and how it contributed to the mess this country is in, her candidacy should be resisted by civic-spirited Filipinos.  




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5 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading this article! More Power to your writing activities.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you forgot to include the "incentives" offered to get the Guiterrrez impeachment, the sin tax and the RH Bill passed too. WE've long suspected that, Jinggoy just confirmed it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Transactional politics, all. Thanks for your comments. I have no figures on Gutierrez impeachment and sin tax bill passage, but as mentioned above, ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio claimed in a Manila Standard front-page article by MST ace reporter Christine Herrera sometime in December last year, that the Palace offered each representative P250 million to vote for the RH bill. This story was never denied by the Palace.
    Can I ask you to please viral this blog in FB and your own contacts? Salamat.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Transactional politics, all. Thanks for your comments. I have no figures on Gutierrez impeachment and sin tax bill passage, but as mentioned above, ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio claimed in a Manila Standard front-page article by MST ace reporter Christine Herrera sometime in December last year, that the Palace offered each representative P250 million to vote for the RH bill. This story was never denied by the Palace.
    Can I ask you to please viral this blog in FB and your own contacts? Salamat.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Transactional politics, all. Thanks for your comments. I have no figures on Gutierrez impeachment and sin tax bill passage, but as mentioned above, ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio claimed in a Manila Standard front-page article by MST ace reporter Christine Herrera sometime in December last year, that the Palace offered each representative P250 million to vote for the RH bill. This story was never denied by the Palace.
    Can I ask you to please viral this blog in FB and your own contacts? Salamat.

    ReplyDelete