MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Franklin Drilon denied the allegations that the P50 million additional fund given to senators who voted to dismiss former Chief Justice Renato Corona was a ‘bribe’.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada mentioned in his privilege speech on Wednesday that an additional P50 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was given to senators who voted to convict Corona last year. He mentioned that it was “provided in a private and confidential letter” from Drilon, who was chair of the Senate finance committee during that time.
Drilon answered that he “may have” actually issued the confidential memorandum, however, the disbursement of funds are public and subject to audit.
“I have yet to see that letter mentioned by Senator Estrada. But if the insinuation is that the Department of Budget and Management and I gave out additional PDAF funds as incentives to those who voted to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona, that is not true,” Drilon said in a statement.
Estrada admitted that he was one of those who have received the said amount. He insinuated that it was a bribe but denied it later when interpolated by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce-Enrile and Drilon.
“That was not a bribe. It was never a bribe,” Estrada answered.
Furthermore, Drilon said that if there was really a letter, he assured that it only asked the senators to submit their projects worth P50 million.
“I cannot determine with accuracy if that was the additional PDAF because I do not keep track of releases as finance committee chair. I only relay the request of the senators for fund releases of their proposed PDAF projects. DBM releases the funds, and I am not informed of the total releases per senator,” Drilon said.
Drilon added that he could not reveal who among the senators received the P50 million allocation.
DBM faces accusations
“Saan galing ang pinamigay na pondo? I am sure alam ni Secretary Abad ang sagot sa tanong na ito (Where did the fund come from? I am sure Secretary Abad knows the answer to this question.),” Estrada said during his privilege speech where he called the attention of the “silent” Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in the midst of the pork barrel controversy.
DBM Secretary Butch Abad denied that the additional pork barrel funds were offered to senators to vote for the conviction of Corona and was also surprised that Estrada was referring to an alleged letter and “concluded” that there was an “attempt or actual case of bribery.”
“I cannot say this enough and with any more clarity: The accusations that Senator Estrada leveled against me and the administration are not true. I have absolutely no knowledge of this letter, nor am I privy to its contents or circulation,” Abad said.
Abad also stated that Estrada should have just answered the allegations regarding the pork barrel scam rather than accusing “practically everybody else.”
“It is unfair to me personally and to the DBM because [his statements] are baseless and inaccurate,” he added.
Moreover, Estrada challenged Abad to provide the documents needed by the Commission on Audit (COA) to assist the agency in its audit of the P155-billion PDAF released from 2007 to 2009.
Jonah Marie T. Rosal
ABCom, Leyte Normal University