Estrada welcomes expanded pork probe by DOJ

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

SENATOR Jinggoy Estrada on Thursday welcomed the move of Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima to expand the pork barrel probe to include the other nongovernment organizations (NGOs) outside of Janet Lim-Napoles.

Estrada called it a "very good move" coming from the Department of Justice (DOJ) considering the reports that of the 88 NGOs involved in the pork barrel scam only 10 of them belong to Napoles.

"First of all, ('yan) ang dapat ginawa ng Blue Ribbon Committee, I don't want to impose on them, ang ginawa nila dapat ay hindi lang 'yung kay Napoles NGOs ang inimbestigahan nila. Merong mga senador na nagsasabi na i-expand na nung araw pa yung imbestigasyon sa pork barrel scam. It came from Secretary de Lima that they are going to expand the investigation. That is most welcome to me," Estrada said.


Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said the Senate Blue Ribbon committee should already release a partial report on its findings from the alleged pork barrel scam investigation.

In a statement, Cayetano also called on the panel to already start looking into the alleged plunder of the P900-million Malampaya Fund, which was intended to help victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, was noncommittal when asked if he already plans to move on to the Malampaya probe. "We'll evaluate during the break," he said.

Guingona said he is inclined to once again call government witness Ruby Tuason to the inquiry, since she has information both on the alleged pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams.

"That is the right thing to do. Marami pang dapat ipaliwanag si Ms. Tuason," Estrada said.

Estrada said the issue of potential whistleblower Ruby Tuason and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were meant to silence the opposition in time for the next elections.

He divulged that during the 2013 elections, one member of the majority in the Senate, a neophyte senator joined him in his dinner with Ruby Tuason in one of her mansions in Makati.

Estrada said it was a simple dinner because he was not able to attend Tuason's house blessing.

When asked about the identity of the senator, Estrada merely said, "Basta no comment, neophyte siya."

Senator Cynthia Villar, a neophyte senator and also a member of the majority bloc in the Senate, admitted that she had a dinner with Estrada through the invitation of Tuason in her Makati house.

Villar said she will not deny knowing Tuason and having dinner with Estrada before the May 2013 elections.

She said she met Tuason when the latter was then the social secretary of former President Joseph Estrada, the senator's father.

Villar said there is nothing malicious about her having dinner with Estrada and Tuason.

"My husband Manny Villar was then the Speaker of the House. We met Ms. Tuason through the Estradas and it was purely social. I don't see anything wrong about that," Villar told reporters.

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee has so far conducted nine hearings on the alleged pork barrel scam, which was allegedly engineered by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Several witnesses who faced the hearing—including Tuason, principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, and on-leave Technology Resource Center (TRC) head Dennis Cunanan—have already testified on the involvement of some lawmakers in the scam.

Senators Ramon Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, as well as several former and incumbent members of the House of Representatives, are currently facing plunder raps before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly pocketing millions of pesos from the supposed PDAF scam.

Estrada meanwhile said the proper authorities should really look into Tuason's participation in the Malampaya scam.

He divulged that another house was bought by Tuason, which was under the name of one of her children in Las Vegas USA worth $500,000, which he failed to mention in his privilege speech

Estrada said no matter what the present administration will do against him and the other opposition members, "We are ready. I am ready. My lawyers are aware of the situation."

Estrada revealed he is already expecting the worst because of the pressure due to too much publicity.

"I still hope the Ombudsman will be fair," he said.

Even in the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, Estrada said he inhibited from the hearing in order to give other senators more than enough leeway to decide.

Estrada also said that there are some senators that use the hearing as a platform for 2016.

"They're using the hearing to condemn us and of course some of them are using us for their political purpose," the senator added.

But at the same time, Estrada found out in his provincial visitations that the pork scam scandal is a non-issue and the people still give him a warm reception.

"I am not a hypocrite and say that I am not affected by these issues hounding me. I stopped going to parties and rejected a lot of invitations but when I tested the waters and I made the rounds already all over the country, the reception is still warm. Nothing has changed," Estrada said.

Estrada said that during his rounds, he tried to explain to the people his alleged involvement in the PDAF scam "but most of these people said it was a non-issue to them" and it didn't affect him anymore.

When asked if he is confident on the 2016 elections, Estrada said he will welcome the idea of running side by side with Binay.

"But of course the decision of the future standard bearer of the opposition will be our take off point."

Estrada, however, denied that he is already being slated by United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) as its vice presidential bet for 2016. He said he has yet to talk with Binay.

"In fairness to Vice President Binay we haven't talked with regard to who will be his running mate. No official declaration yet," Estrada said.

In the 2010 elections, Estrada's father, former President Joseph Estrada ran but lost in the presidential race. Binay, who won in the polls, was his running mate.

Estrada together with opposition senators Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., has been charged with plunder at the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly funneling their pork barrel funds to fake non-governmental organizations of scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Estrada according to reports received a total amount of P183,793,750 in kickbacks.

Meanwhile, Senator Estrada said he will not do anything nor will he take it against Vice President Binay should the latter decide to pick someone else.

Estrada said he will be a private citizen if Binay does not give him the offer.

Estrada also retaliated at Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano after the latter reminded Vice President Binay that Estrada is presently facing a criminal offense as he criticized Binay for picking Estrada as his possible running mate.

Estrada reminded Cayetano whatever decision of VP Binay is part of a democratic system and the opposition has the right to do and decide on what they think is right for the party and the country.

"Sana wala ng makialam na hindi naman kapartido sa oposisyon. Wala din naman siyang pakialam sa aming partido. Tigilan niya na ang kababanggit sa pangalan ni Bise Presidente Binay. Ang desisyon ni Binay ay para lamang sa amin sa oposisyon at wala na siyang pakialam duon," Estrada said.

Estrada assured that his camp under Partido ng Masang Pilipino will definitely support Vice President Binay in his bid for the presidency in the 2016 presidential elections. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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