June 8, 2014
Jinggoy Estrada: No Sense of Remorse
For those who joined the Million People March last year to abolish the pork barrel, June 6 was truly a good Friday. The Office of the Ombudsman officially filed charges in the Sandiganbayan against those accused in the pork barrel scam led by Senator Jinggoy Estrada and staff Pauline Labayen, Senator Bong Revilla, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and staff Gigi Reyes, and pork scam operator Janet Lim Napoles, among others.
Accountable or Entitled?
Jinggoy Estrada first attributed the charges to politics, insisting that this is all a ploy to ease him out of the 2016 presidential race. He has persistently refused, however, to explain how his pork barrel funds found their way to Napoles’ NGOs, arguing instead that he is entitled to be senator:
“And I owe to these 18 million Filipino people who voted me into office and to whom I swore to serve until the last day of my term ending 30 June 2016 to continue to perform my mandate as senator of the republic. Their faith in me as a public servant and their unwavering support are my reasons for not heeding, or even disregarding, the tyrannical voice of the few.”
The problem is, Mr. Senator, the mandate that you speak of has a premise of public accountability, of which you are now lacking, and public trust, which you have broken. Even given your innocence, Mr. Senator, as a public servant you are called to exhibit not only good moral conduct but also to give the impression thereof.
Most importantly, Jinggoy, you are not entitled to hold on to your position at all costs; the public office you hold is merely an entrusted privilege.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
Whoever has been advising Jinggoy seems to believe that the best defense is a good offense.
Before the Ombudsman, Jinggoy could only cry that there is lack of evidence and that the fully documented testimonies and personal knowledge of the whistleblowers are based on ‘hearsay’. Before the public, however, Jinggoy has pointed fingers at everyone but himself.
1. He has blamed politics
Instead of explaining himself to the people, he has repeatedly given the cop out response: “This is all politics.” Even in his counter-affidavit before the Ombudsman, he just cried hearsay, saying the accusations are “bare allegations of second-hand information, hearsay, malicious suspicion, and speculations.” He calls the reports a “high-level political ploy to undermine the opposition of which I am part in light of the coming 2016 national elections”.
2. He has blamed government agencies.
Instead of explaining how it came to be that his office gave hundreds of millions of taxpayers money to bogus NGOs, he said that he is not obliged to check NGOs getting pork. A news report even quoted Jinggoy saying: “It is not up to the senators to determine whether an NGO is bogus or not. Alangan naman na kami pa ang magsasabi na, ‘Uy, bogus ‘yan.’ How will we know?”
3. He has blamed the Commission on Audit
After the COA bared its findings that NGOs that received P2.157 Billion are linked to Janet Lim Napoles, Jinggoy blasted COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan as selective; and in a privilege speech, accused her of being corrupt herself. Pulido-Tan simply replied that she pitied Jinggoy. The public would probably pity him too, except … how can you pity someone with no sense of remorse?
4. He has blamed the media
Even if the media has been presenting his statements and has likewise headlined his privilege speeches, he still accused the media of “unfair reporting”.
5. He has blamed the whistelblowers
When accused-turned-whistleblower Ruby Tuason, a known “mare” of his mother, former Senator Loi Estrada (later also named as one of those who benefited from the pork barrel scam), turned herself in and bared all she knows at a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, admitting that she personally delivered Napoles kickbacks to Jinggoy, the senator retaliated with his own privilege speech accusing Tuason of being the mastermind behind the Malampaya Fund Scam.
6. He has blamed the administration and its allies
When Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman TG Guingona expressed satisfaction over the revelations from Mrs. Ruby Tuason, an accused-turned-whisteblower, before the Committee, Jinggoy accused him of “pre-judging the pork probe”. Tuason provided the missing link to Jinggoy by sharing at a committee hearing that she personally delivered pork kickbacks to his office.
He has also openly attacked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, making it appear to the public that de Lima is after persecution and not prosecution. He has also openly opposed her appointment “for her relentless persecution” against him in the pork barrel scam.
Beyond de Lima, Jinggoy has even dared to accuse President Benigno Aquino III of writing a marginal note on a letter sent to the Palace by Janet Lim Napoles and forwarded to de Lima. The President has since shown that no such marginal notes exist.
The administration is corrupt therefore the opposition is not corrupt
Jinggoy also repeatedly says that opposition senators are “being singled out”. He has taken pains to name administration allies whom he accuses of being corrupt.
3. He has openly said that he believes Napoles’ statement that Budget Secretary Butch Abad was her “mentor” who taught her how to operate the pork barrel scam. In an interview, Jinggoy dared a Napoles-Abad “face-off” in the senate, saying “Siya ang nagturo e. Hindi naman malalaman ng legislators iyon kung di alam ng executive, di ba? Mag-endorse endorse?… Sila naman ang nagrerelease ng pera, hindi kami (Abad was the teacher. Legislators would not know of this operation if administrative executives were not in on it. We only endorse, they release the money),” Estrada said.
Jinggoy’s ratting on his colleagues as he is pressed against the wall has revealed many possible anomalies of other government officials and legislators. It does not follow, however, that just because administration allies may possibly be involved in various pork barrel scams as well, that Jinggoy and company should not have been charged. Misery may love company but that argument, Mr. Senator, is non-sequitur.
Unworthy Public Servant
For the sake of the 17.7 Million (not 18 Million, Jinggoy’s bloated figure) who voted for him, let’s assume that Jinggoy is not guilty of receiving kickbacks from Janet Lim Napoles. Let’s assume for a moment that Ruby Tuason was not telling the truth and pork barrel funds were not delivered to Jinggoy. The fact remains that hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money from his office went to bogus NGOs. How could that have escaped them? A true public servant would have resigned by now in shame or remorse. But Jinggoy has the audacity to refuse to get off his high horse.
With his feisty privilege speeches and the gall to bring down his colleagues as he is investigated, we have to hand it to him: Jinggoy has become seasoned in politics. But as he refuses to explain himself to the people and admit the misgivings of his office, he has shown that he is bereft of the wherewithal to respect that the people deserve better.
Jinggoy may have proven himself to be a worthy politician but he has also proven himself to be an unworthy public servant.
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