Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s much-awaited privilege speech before the Senate yesterday only exposed more filth in the way Congress disposes of public money and the impunity with which our topmost government officials exercised state power at the expense of public trust.

While invoking his commitment as senator to the principle of public accountability, he failed to explain why he is innocent, as he claimed, of the charges levelled against him on the pork scam issues. Yesterday was an excellent occasion to disprove these charges, if indeed they are false. The saying offense is the best defense does not hold true in all circumstances.  Public accountability demands that he explain, and this he conveniently did not do.

Yet, Senator Estrada’s revelations in his speech warrant the highest public concern as well. Very much an insider, his expositions deserve further and thorough investigation.  Four issues he brought out merit such.  

First, the Commission on Audit’s (COA) Special PDAF Audit Report for years 2007-2009 shows questionable transactions with local government units like the P1.2 billion projects that did not comply with the Procurement Law, and some P 388.3 million PDAF-related transactions in three cities and one province with questionable or non-existing suppliers.  Mr. Estrada claimed that other senators were involved in PDAF releases for these transactions, senators who are now allied with the P-Noy administration.

Second, the said COA Special PDAF Audit for years 2007-2009 covered only 58 percent of total PDAF releases and only 32 percent of total Various Infrastructure including Local Projects (VILP).  COA reported that this was due to the failure of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to provide documents for these releases despite repeated requests from COA.  Furthermore, some P 69.26 billion releases to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have no identifiable legislators as endorsers. 

Third, the same COA Special PDAF Audit Report shows that despite repeated findings of possible irregularities in many PDAF-related projects, COA allegedly issued no disallowances. Congress and Malacanang also did not take note of such COA findings, proceeding with business-as-usual approach to PDAF and VILP releases.

And fourth, Senator Estrada’s revelations of P50 million additional allocations to senators after the Corona impeachment trial while technically cannot be called a bribe because it happened after the fact suspiciously looked like a reward.  The bigger question however is where the money came from.  He also cited the additional allocations opened to senators from, the Economic Stimulus Fund.  Indeed, pork can be stretched with ease with the use of congressional initiatives called by various names like insertions, additional and extra amount.

What appears from these four issues is an elaborate practice of complicity between the Legislature and Malacanang and so disturbingly, COA.  Worse, that this appears to be going on for years without anyone from the highest levels of government complaining about it. We cannot escape the conclusion that were it not for the whistle blowers, the Filipino people will not be able to pierce through this grand web of deceit and betrayal. 

Freedom from Debt Coalition demands that the investigations into the pork and other National Budget scams be thorough, sparing no one, and that all guilty parties be brought to justice, be they from Congress, Malacanang or COA.

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