Jinggoy decries ‘unfair’ reporting, delayed probe
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Jinggoy Estrada criticized delays in the Senate blue ribbon committee’s investigation into the Malampaya fund scam, saying he wants to join the hearing before he is arrested.
In interviews and a manifestation on the Senate floor, Estrada asked what is taking the Senate long to start its probe into the P900 million Malampaya fund controversy.
“Eh kung makulong na kami, ‘di na ako makaka-attend,” Estrada told reporters on Monday, May 26. “Most probably, [I will attend] kasi ‘di naman ako involved doon eh so ‘di ako makakaimpluwensiya di ba?”
(If we get imprisoned soon, I won’t be able to attend anymore. Most probably, I will attend because I am not involved there so I won’t be able to influence the investigation.)
Estrada was referring to his likely arrest after his plunder indictment in the pork barrel scam case. He is accused of endorsing bogus non-governmental organizations of scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, and receiving millions of pesos in kickbacks in exchange. He inhibited himself from the Senate probe into the scam.
The senator has been calling for an investigation into the Malampaya fund scam, a separate scandal where P900 million in government profits from its natural gas project off Palawan was supposedly siphoned off to Napoles NGOs.
The Senate hearing on the Malampaya fund scam was supposed to start last week but Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III postponed it because of the unavailability of resource persons, and the World Economic Forum.
Estrada took to the podium on Monday to ask Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, a member of the blue ribbon committee, about the delay.
“I remember him (Guingona) giving interviews to the media and stating he will soon investigate the alleged Malampaya scam even without the affidavit of Mrs Napoles regarding the Malampaya scam when the alleged PDAF hearing wrapped up …. Can’t he just open the investigation based on the COA audit report?”
Cayetano responded that Guingona told him that the chairman wants to wait to receive Napoles’ affidavit first, and decide when to schedule the hearing. Napoles’ affidavit reportedly also covers the Malampaya scam.
Guingona was absent in the session, sending word that he was on official business.
Estrada retorted, “I’m having a difficult time asking questions. Why is he not attending sessions? He’s been absent for a long time.”
‘Inquirer reporting unfair’
Estrada said should Guingona decide to reopen the probe into the pork barrel scam, he should summon principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, Luy’s files, and the files that Luy’s family gave the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The senator lamented the supposed selective reporting of the newspaper, focusing only on him, and co-accused Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Juan Ponce Enrile.
“Based on the information I gathered, from day one, the former lawyer of Benhur [Levito Baligod] and Benhur himself submitted their digital files to the Philippine Daily Inquirer but unfortunately, only the 3 senators implicated in the scam were tagged as those involved in the PDAF scam. However, there were a lot of legislators, hundreds of legislators also listed in the files of Benhur Luy which was (sic) submitted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.”
He added, “Eh bakit 3 lang kaming senador ang na-publish sa diyaryo? Mukhang unfair sa aming 3.” (How come only the 3 of us were published in the newspapers. That seems unfair to the 3 of us.)
Estrada said it was the same concern of lawmakers who took exception to their inclusion in the published list of officials Napoles implicated.
“We cannot just allow a newspaper publishing photos left and right, pictures, names without solid pieces of evidence …. Us legislators we also have an honor, name to protect. I pity legislators who are not really involved in the scam,” Estrada said.
With Guingona absent, Estrada grilled Cayetano about his complaints on the conduct of the investigation. He again questioned the “selective” investigation that focused only on the non-Napoles NGOs.
Cayetano responded, “There is a process. The [Commission on Audit] report names certain legislators but the report itself distinguishes between those with whistleblowers, additional evidence versus those which have dealings fully liquidated.”
“The only solution for me is to have a hearing, and for COA, and the Department of Budget and Management to come up with documents,” the majority leader added.
Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III raised his own concerns about Luy’s files, where he was named as one of the senators Napoles allegedly transacted with. He said the Senate committee on science and technology should look into the use of Luy’s files, saying this might have violated the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
“Over and above the discussions of the so-called computer data, there might have been violations of Section 4 of the Cybercrime Act. I’m not saying it’s the Benhur files per se. It’s the use of any files without the permission of the owner,” Sotto told Rappler.
Sotto was referring to the denial of Luy’s lawyer Raji Mendoza that his client authorized the release of the Inquirer report.
‘Send Senate doctors to Napoles’
Cayetano said the Senate still cannot schedule a hearing because Napoles and her doctors invoke her medical condition. Last week, Napoles suffered from vaginal bleeding following a surgery in April to remove her uterus and ovaries.
Her doctors said Monday she can be discharged from the hospital this week.
Cayetano said his suggestion to Guingona was to order Senate doctors to visit Napoles, and determine whether or not her illness will prohibit her from testifying.
“Iba yung ‘di ka dapat mastress at iba yung mamamatay ka o magkakasakit ka pag nag-appear ka sa Senado.” (It’s one thing for to be advised not to get stressed, and another for you to fall ill or even die if you appear in the Senate.) – Rappler.com