Senators apprehensive over Cunanan as state witness

Posted at 02/28/14 3:55 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A number of senators are treating the emergence of Dennis Cunanan as a state witness with caution, considering he was also involved in the pork barrel scam.

Sen. Grace Poe, who previously called for the conduct of a lifestyle check on Cunanan, said she “cautiously welcomes” the move of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) chief to undergo a voluntary lifestyle check through the examination of his bank accounts.

Poe said bank accounts do not present the entire picture of a person’s wealth and assets.

“The people, through us in the Senate, should be able to see for themselves the extent of his complicity in the scam and his real motives for coming out,” she said.

Poe, however, clarified she was not discrediting Cunanan as a state witness. In fact, Poe said she saw his value as witness since he has direct knowledge of those involved in the scam.

She said it would be best for Cunanan to come clean and reveal everything about the pork barrel scam issue, including the kickbacks he received, if any.

“As a state witness, this is his chance to come clean without any criminal consequences. It is better that we dispel all doubts about possible kickbacks so that the case submitted to the Sandiganbayan will be strong,” Poe said.

She cited the case of Ruby Tuason, who also came out as a whistle-blower recently.

“At least she (Tuason) admitted to accepting a commission for her involvement. I would like to hear Cunanan’s statement in the hearing so I can be objective about it,” she said.

Poe said she just wanted to make sure “the people don’t get the raw end of the bargain” on Cunanan’s testimony.

Poe said it would be best if everyone involved in the scam, including the senators, subject himself or herself to a lifestyle check.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said Cunanan cannot be trusted and whatever he intends to present for his lifestyle check has already been fixed.

Cunanan has claimed that he personally spoke with Estrada and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. when they were following up the approval of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) projects with the TRC.

Both Estrada and Revilla believe Cunanan is a creation of someone who wanted to pin them down.

“This is all foolishness. These are all lies,” Estrada said.

Sen. JV Ejercito, for his part, aired his concern about the way the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been taking in individuals accused in the pork barrel scam as state witnesses.

“From what I know those who are least guilty are the ones who should be accepted as such. If people who were part of the conspiracy or scam, then they should not be considered to become state witnesses,” Ejercito said.

“This is setting a bad precedent. If a scammer cooperates with the government just to pin down the administration’s political enemies, then they are absolved as a co-conspirator,” he added.

Cunanan has been invited as a resource person for this Thursday’s Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the pork barrel scam at the Senate.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who filed a resolution calling for the invitation of Cunanan to the committee hearing, has indicated she would once again make a rare appearance at the Senate to question Cunanan.