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Quarrel among thieves

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Sen. Jinggoy EstradaBy ELLEN TORDESILLAS

THE speech of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada may not be as explosive as expected but the public is benefitting from it because we are getting a bigger and more realistic picture of how rotten the system is, and how “tuwid na daan” is being drawn with crooked lines.

Estrada is one of three senators (the two others are Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Juan Ponce-Enrile) charged with plunder in connection with the anomalous use of their PDAF as allegedly operated by Janet Lim Napoles.

Estrada, in his 90 minute speech, never denied his involvement with Napoles’ scam. His complaint was, why only the three of us?

It is distressing because what we are seeing is a quarrel among thieves. But we console ourselves with the wise words of old folks that “When cattle rustlers quarrel, the farmer gets back his cow.”

Are we going to get back our cow? That all depends on the public’s vigilance.

We are most interested with the disclosure of Estrada that after the Senate overwhelmingly for the conviction of then Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, a priority crusade of President Aquino to reform the justice system in fulfillment of his campaign promise to eliminate corruption in government, those who voted to convict were given P50 million each.

Estrada related instances when the Priority Development Assistance Program was used as “carrot” by Malacañang under Aquino, just like what Gloria Arroyo did, whenever they want something from members of Congress like the ouster of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez (she was eventually persuaded to resign in exchange for not filing charges against her and for her to get her full retirement benefits); the Sin Tax bill, and the Reproductive Health bill.

Estrada said:” Here now, Mr. President, as our people must know, are some ugly facts and information on the PDAF that our people must know and which i challenge anyone to deny.”

His most important disclosure: “Hindi na tuloy tuloy nakapagtataka ng kumalat ang balita na ang mga kongresista at mga senador ay inalok din ng pdaf para siguraduhin ang impeachment at conviction ng dating Punong Hukom ng Korte Suprema.

“Hahayaan ko na ang taong bayan ang gumawa ng konklusyon kung ito ay totoo o hindi, pero ito ang aking maidadagdag sa kwento — after the conviction of the Former Chief Justice, those who voted to convict were allotted an additional 50 million pesos as provided in a private and confidential letter memorandum of the then chair of the senate finance committee. Saan galing ang pinamigay na pondo? I am sure alam ni Secretary Abad ang sagot sa tanong na ito. At sigurado din ako na hindi unilateral decision ni senate president drilon ang pamimigay ng 50 million pesos kada senador.”

Here are the names of the 20 senators who for the conviction of Corona: Edgardo Angara; Alan Peter Cayetano; Pia Cayetano; Franklin Drilon; Francis Escudero;

Jinggoy Estrada; Teofisto Guingona III; Gregorio Honasan; Panfilo Lacson; Lito Lapid;

Loren Legarda; Sergio Osmeña III; Francis Pangilinan; Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III; Ralph Recto;

Ramon Revilla Jr.;Vicente Sotto III; Antonio Trillanes IV; Manuel Villar; and Juan Ponce Enrile Jr.

The three who voted for the acquittal of Corona were Joker Arroyo;Miriam Defensor-Santiago; and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

P50 million times 20 is P1 billion. We believe that’s our money. We also would like to know how it ended up in the hands of senators and how it was spent.

Reactions of senators and Malacañang to the P50 million revelation of Estrada:

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad:Illogical.Absolutely, completely not true. As far as I’m concerned, we did not bribe the lawmakers.

Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson: I confirm the P50-million “incentive” that was allegedly given to senators who voted to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona. Drilon told us about it in a caucus.

Senate President Franklin Drilon: The P50 million given after the Corona  trial was not a bribe. It was PDAF  withheld during the four-month trial.

Sen. TG Guingona: I got additional P50 million but it was not connected to Corona conviction.

Sen.Pia Cayetano: I don’t know anything about it.

Sen. Alan Cayetano: I didn’t get paid for voting to convict Corona.

Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang: I do not know exactly what senator Lacson was referring to…there are many things coming out now. Some of them may be true. Some of them may not be true.