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Jinggoy: P50M additional funds given to senators who voted to convict Corona

(Updated 5:51 p.m.) Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Wednesday said an additional P50 million in discretionary funds was given to senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.
In a much-anticipated privilege speech, Estrada said the allocation was "provided in a private and confidential letter" from current Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was Senate finance committee chairperson at the time.

"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 P50 million," Estrada said.

Senators get P200 million each in Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), also known as the pork barrel for lawmakers, every year.

Estrada, who is facing plunder charges at the Ombudsman for allegedly pocketing kickbacks in an alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, did not address the accusations against him in his hour-long speech. In a past interview, Estrada had denied involvement in the alleged anomaly linked to controversial trader Janet Lim-Napoles.

Reacting to Estrada's speech, Drilon said he "may have" issued the confidential letter but added that the funds were not meant as "rewards" for senators who voted for Corona's conviction. Rather, he said these were meant to help the government meet spending targets.

"Anyone could have suggested that certain projects could be undertaken. The spending targets were necessary to meet our gross domestic product targets because public spending is a major portion of our GDP," Drilon said.

20-3 against Corona

During interpellations on his privilege speech, Estrada clarified that the money was "not a bribe. It was never a bribe. Kung baga walang suhol."

Estrada, who was among those who voted for Corona's conviction, dared Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to reveal the source of the additional allocations.

Corona was convicted by the Senate impeachment court on May 29, 2012 for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution. The vote was 20 for conviction and three for acquittal.

Those who voted for Corona's conviction were: 
  • Edgardo Angara
  • Alan Peter Cayetano
  • Pia Cayetano
  • Franklin Drilon
  • Francis Escudero
  • Jinggoy Estrada
  • Teofisto Guingona III
  • Gregorio Honasan II
  • Panfilo Lacson
  • Lito Lapid
  • Loren Legarda
  • Sergio Osmeña III
  • Francis Pangilinan
  • Aqulino "Koko" Pimentel III
  • Ralph Recto
  • Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. 
  • Vicente Sotto III
  • Antonio Trillanes IV
  • Manuel Villar
  • Juan Ponce Enrile

Those who voted to acquit Corona were:

  • Joker Arroyo
  • Miriam Defensor-Santiago
  • Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Ombudsman impeachment, sin tax bill
In the same speech, Estrada also accused officials of President Aquino's government of using pork barrel funds to gather support from lawmakers on certain issues.
Estrada recalled how Abad supposedly sent text messages threatening lawmakers who will not support the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who resigned in 2011, with the non-release of their pork barrel funds.
The senator also narrated how the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office supposedly offered to reward lawmakers who supported the sin tax bill with the release of their discretionary funds.

Abad vehemently denied Estrada's accusation, saying, "It is unfair to me personally and to the DBM because [his statements] are baseless and inaccurate."

He told GMA News Online: "Hindi ako kailanman nagpakalat ng text message na mismong tinatakot yung mga mambabatas na kapag hindi sila bumoto sa kagustuhan ng admin ay hindi sila mabibigyan ng kanilang PDAF. Wala hong katotohanan yun."
Estrada challenged the Senate legislative budget research and monitoring publications office to disclose all records of "budgetary amendments and insertions" for the past congresses.
The senator also dared Abad to turn over to the Commission on Audit all records on pork barrel releases, as well as those on "rewards" and "additionals" given to lawmakers.

Reacting to Estrada's accusations, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Aquino administration respects Estrada's "desire... to voice his opinions concerning the issues he raised in his privilege speech."

He added: "What is important at this point are the ongoing investigations (on the pork barrel scam) and that it is the evidence that will determine where accountability lies." — With reports from Kimberly Jane Tan/RSJ/KBK/YA, GMA News