Saving ourselves from combined exhaustion, disappointment and boredom of going through it, the privilege speech delivered Wednesday by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada can be summed up in three words – WHY ONLY US?
He started with media’s haphazard sensationalizing of the pork barrel scandal resulting in public opinion largely prejudicial and detrimental to him and to senators Enrile and Revilla. He likewise criticized the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee for trying to ‘play to the gallery by making snide remarks while asking the witnesses about the identity of an alias of a senator involved.’
‘Why play this up when there have already been reports in the media on this and which I have vehemently denied. Why play up this issue?’
He then proceeded spitting out, rather with fire and fury, all the other questionable transactions of certain lawmakers and local government units (LGUs) either deliberately or conveniently overlooked and kept hidden from public awareness.
He focused initially on questioning the PDAF allocations of Rep. Neptali ‘Boyet’ Gonzales III of Mandaluyong as well as of ‘An Waray’ Rep. Florencio Noel. Most of his accusations were based on incomplete, defective or selective COA audit reports made public by COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan. It seemed that his sources had uncovered anomalous transactions by both congressmen like the alleged P28.7 Million ghost projects of Mandaluyong City and the rather amusing P6 Million hamburgers among others. In Noel’s case, he alleged that the party-list representative spent P25 Million of his PDAF in Mandaluyong City, when in fact, by his own logic, should be intended for ‘waray’ provinces like Samar, Biliran and Leyte.
He went on to castigate the Commision On Audit, specifically its chairman, Mrs. Pulido-Tan for her deficient and half-baked audit reports seemingly biased against the three of them.
‘But we believed that we have been specifically singled out by the COA. The Comission on Audit finally came out with the results of their special audit covering only – I repeat very emphatically Mr. President – covering only the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.’
He emphasized the incompleteness and partiality of the COA report by enumerating several unaccounted PDAF of the likes of Cong. Abad (wife of DBM Sec. Florencio Abad), Neil Tupas, Isidro Ungab, Sen. Cayetano, Sen. Trillanes and even former Sen. Mar Roxas, while theirs were scrutinized expeditiously. Even the COA chair’s jet-setting was chided by the senator.
But perhaps, the only ‘startling’ revelations that stirred up the consciousness of those who were slowly getting bored was about the P50 Million pesos purportedly distributed to those who voted in favor of impeaching the former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Waving a folded letter in the air for a few seconds before securely slipping it back to his pocket, he announced that the private and confidential note was received by each who impeached the former CJ including himself. He however reiterated that it did not affect his decision whatsoever:
‘I maintained however, Mr. President that I stand in my decision in my vote to convict the former chief justice and assure the people that I was never influenced by this incentive which came after the fact.’
His conclusion, is what we can take as the best part of the speech, for articulating what everybody else believed;
‘Mr. President, I believed that we are all victims of a flawed system which is so ingrained that it has become institutionalized…There has been a clamor from the people to abolish PDAF and to hold accountable those who have bastardized the system for their own vested interest’
By and large, Sen. Jinggoy’s speech seemed to tell a lot of things, in the same sense that it told us nothing. It has been a foregone conclusion that corruption thrives in Congress as well as in all nooks and niches of government offices. What he revealed was not there to surprise us, but to reaffirm our distrust towards our public officials.
It vaguely traversed on the aspect of honesty, disclosure and transparency. In fact, it compounded our skepticism about the government’s ability to be truthful. He could have defended himself against the charges hurled against him when he took the floor and assert his innocence. After all, that’s what everyone else expected.
But he opted to take an uncommon way of admitting guilt by showing that he is not alone to be condemned.