Miriam urges COA probe on Senate 'bribes'
MANILA – Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago is urging the Commission on Audit to probe allegations that lawmakers were given additional pork barrel funds as bribes during and after the impeachment trial of ex-Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.
In a statement, Santiago warned that the bribery scam should not draw attention away from the P10 billion pork barrel scam involving businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
"Both scams are equally repulsive. But the alleged bribery scam is intended by the political opposition to cover up the Napoles NGO pork scam,” she said in a statement.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada was the first to expose the alleged bribery scam during a speech last week. Estrada, who is facing plunder charges for his alleged links to the P10 billion pork barrel scam, said the Department of Budget and Management gave P50 million in additional pork barrel funds to senators who voted to convict Corona last year.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed that over a dozen senators received additional pork barrel funds under the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program after the Corona trial. Those who received P100 million each were Enrile, Sen. Franklin Drilon, and Sen. Francis Escudero.
Three senators who voted against the impeachment of Corona - Santiago, Sen. Bongbong Marcos, and Sen. Joker Arroyo – did not receive additional pork from the DAP.
Abad said the additional money was not meant as a bribe or incentive for convicting Corona but was meant to increase spending and help accelerate economic expansion. He said it was not the first time that releases from DAP were made to fund project requests from legislators.
“In 2011, the DAP was instituted to ramp up spending after sluggish disbursements—resulting from the government’s preliminary efforts to plug fund leakages and seal policy loopholes within key implementing agencies—caused the country’s GDP growth to slow down to just 3.6%. During this period, the government also accommodated requests for project funding from legislators and local governments, GOCCs, and national government agencies to help ease the country’s expenditure performance forward,” he said in a statement.
Santiago, however, said the DAP releases during and just after the impeachment trial constituted bribery under the Penal Code. She quoted Article 210: “Direct Bribery. – Any public officer who shall agree to perform an act constituting a crime, in connection with the performance of his official duties, in consideration of any offer, promise, gift, or present received by such officer.”
Santiago said that every senator who voted to convict, and every representative who voted to indict, if each one is shown to have received additional pork during and immediately after the impeachment trial, are presumably guilty of bribery, because of the close timing between the two events.
She also said that under the Penal Code, each senator or representative was guilty of the crime of “knowingly rendering unjust judgment.”
In her statement, Santiago said she was “heartbroken” over the post-impeachment fund releases.
“This is so far from daang matuwid! Please, President Aquino and Secretary Abad, tell me it’s not true,” she said.
Enrile behind both scams?
Santiago also criticized Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile for allegedly being behind both scams. Enrile, Estrada and 36 others are currently facing plunder, graft and malversation charges for funneling billions of pesos in pork barrel funds to fake Napoles NGOs.
"At the heart of both scams is then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. He is charged with plunder because he gave phony Napoles NGOs some P400 million. Now he is trying to hide behind the expose of the alleged bribery scam. Unfortunately, he is still the arch villain, because he alleged received P100 million as a bribe, while others received only P50 million,” she said.
Santiago said the DAP releases should be challenged before the Supreme Court because it violates the equal protection clause which is the keystone of all human rights.
“I would like to know in particular if it is legal for the budget department to discriminate among senators. While all other senators received an average of P50 million, reportedly three senators got P100 million each. They are Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Franklin Drilon, and Sen. Francis Escudero,” she said.
She added: “The best hope for an impartial adjudication of these abominable abuses of public funds is the Supreme Court. I will initiate a crowd-sourced petition in social media, so that young, idealistic lawyers can raise the proper issues in the high court. I cannot obtain relief from the Senate itself, which now appears to have been complicit in bribery.”
Santiago said the additional pork barrel releases appear to have been disbursed in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Santiago earlier criticized Enrile for giving away millions of pesos in additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) funds as Christmas bonuses to all but 4 senators while he was still Senate President.
Santiago, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Sen. Pia Cayetano, and Sen. Antonio Trillanes did not receive the bonuses from Enrile.