Bakit kami lang?

The theme of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s interminable privilege speech, “The untold PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) story that the people should know”, is selective justice is injustice or as we say in Tagalog, “Bakit kami lang?”

He said, “We have been singled out, Mr. President, as our people should know, in the so-called 10-billion peso PDAF scam.”

As proof of being singled out, he pointed to 82 foundations, numerous local government units, and other members of Congress mentioned in the COA report as also having engaged in questionable transactions. “What makes us so special Chairman Pulido-Tan?” he asked the chair of the Commission on Audit.

Yes, Madame Chair, what makes him and his co-accused so special?

Nothing except that they were stupid enough to get caught. The others who remain uncharged had enough smarts not to partner with Janet Napoles. As we would say in Tagalog, Oo maraming gago sa gobyerno, hindi lang kayo, ngunit mukhang kayo lang ang gagong bobo. Sa karami-raming questionable NGOs na pagpipilian ninyo na maka-partner, bakit si Napoles pa ang pinili ninyo? Stroke of genius po ba yun?

Contrary to what Sen. Estrada believes, he and his friends were not singled out by “certain institutions, like the media, the Commission on Audit, the Department of Budget and Management, and even the Blue Ribbon Committee of the Senate”, they were singled out by whistleblowers who provided the authorities with a truckload of documents detailing their transactions. And so they became the low-hanging fruits in a vast orchard of crooks.

Sexy, Pogi, and Tanda will not be the only ones charged, there will be others, but the distinction of being the first fruits picked will belong to them. They could also earn a further distinction – if they pursue the line that they did not know that their most trusted staffers were engaged in unauthorized criminal activities – of being the first senators to be charged with plunder complexed with stupidity.

There was also another interesting, and probably unwitting, revelation by Sen. Estrada, one that raised the question, “on which side of the political fence was he during Gloria Arroyo’s nine-year rule?”

He said, “During the administration of President Gloria Arroyo, it was a known fact that those who were not friendly, or allies of her government had to beg for the release of their PDAF and infrastructure funds. Some of us just totally gave up and chose not to avail of our allocations because we knew that we will not get any releases because we are from the opposition. We know too that the executive has used the releases for PDAF and infrastructure projects as a form of reward or incentive to secure the support of legislators for or against certain pet legislations or for other political purposes.” Ano ba yang pinagsasabi mo, Senator?

Sen. Estrada was with the opposition and yet he received hundreds of millions in PDAF from Gloria Arroyo. How did that happen? Was he or was he not with the opposition? Furthermore, did he receive PDAF from Gloria “as a form of reward or incentive to secure the support of legislators for or against certain pet legislations or for other political purposes”? Ano ba yang pinagsasabi mo, Senator?

Finally, I feel sorry for impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona who rejoiced when he heard Sen. Estrada say, “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.”

Corona immediately issued a statement, “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos sa bindikasyon na ibinigay niya sa akin sa araw na ito. Hindi ako nagulat sa rebelasyon ni Sen Estrada sapagka’t kinompirma lamang niya ang alam namin at ng marami sa ating mga kababayan.” Sorry Chief but Jinggoy God took back whatever vindication He gave you.

During the interpellation period, Sen. Enrile, who as Senate President presided over Corona’s impeachment trial, asked Jinggoy God (JG) if He was making bribery accusations. JG said He was approached by someone but was not offered a bribe. Sen. Drilon then asked, “But categorically, you can state it was not a bribe?” JG replied, “It was not a bribe. It was never a bribe.” Then Enrile asked, “It was simply an appeal?” And JG replied, “It was simply an appeal. There [were] no talks of giving a reward.” And so ex-Chief Justice Corona still awaits vindication. That’s what he gets for elevating Jinggoy Estrada to Godhood.

Now can we move on and let the NBI and the Ombudsman do their jobs? The jails are waiting.

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

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