(Lead) We have been singled out and tried by publicity – Estrada

By Jelly Musico

MANILA, (PNA) – Sen. Jinggoy Estrada cried trial by publicity, saying he and three other senators have been singled out in the Commission on Audit special audit report on the alleged priority development assistance fund scam.

”We have been singled out and tried by publicity,” Estrada said in a privileged speech he delivered on Wednesday.

Estrada and fellow senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. were among those charged with plunder at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P10-billion PDAF scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.

”We have yet to be afforded the opportunity to confront the evidence thrown against us but sadly, in the eyes of the Filipino people, we have already been marked and portrayed as the worst thieves and scoundrels of the government,” Estrada said.

Estrada specifically castigated Commission on Audit chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan for being selective in naming only him, Enrile and Revilla when, in the fact, the COA special report also covered PDFA releases to 371 legislators.

”Yet during the hearing again, chairwoman Pulido-Tan conveniently mentioned and repeatedly named only four legislators – Enrile, Revilla, Estrada and Honasan,” Estrada said.

Estrada said during the Senate hearing, when neophyte Senator Nancy Binay to name other legislators, the COA chairperson excused herself due to health problem.

”We therefore ask why, Mr. President. Why the propensity for selective reporting? Why are certain pieces of information readily released while others are conveniently kept hidden? Again I said, selective justice is injustice,” Estrada said.

Estrada mentioned the name of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Majority Leader Alan Cayetano as well as former senators Francis Pangilinan and Manny Villar as some of the legislators in the special COA report.

”According to COA report, there are P1.2 billion in LGU transactions funded from PDAF which did not comply with the procurement law. These fund came from these lawmakers,” Estrada said.

Estrada said the COA special audit report covering 2007 to 2009 PDFA releases was incomplete in coverage after “chairwoman Pulido Tan said the audit covered only 58 percent of the total PDAF releases.”

Estrada also castigated Pulido-Tan for her failure to ask first the COA resident auditors for their failure to declare disallowances that could have prevented the alleged misused of PDAF funds.

Estrada also there are “obvious concerted effort” in the media to demonize him and two other senators.

He said he is supporting the ongoing Senate inquiry into the PDAF scam but decided not to attend on the advice of his lawyers.

”But as show of respect in the blue ribbon inquiry, I went to the first hearing and personally relayed that I am inhibiting from the proceedings,” he said.

He said the COA should have included the resident auditors in the investigation for failure to monitor the disallowances that could have prevented the massive misused of PDAF funds.

”Chairperson Pulido-Tan is either too lazy to do her job or ignorance of the function of the COA,” Estrada said.

With the big controversy in the use of pork barrel, Estrada believed that it is high time to reform the system and eliminate the pork barrel mentality.

”I believe that we all here are victims of the flawed system. The recent events which unfolded before us have given us the chance to finally reform the system and do away with the ‘pork barrel’ mentality,” he said.

”There has been clamor from the people to abolish PDAF and to hold accountable those who have bastardized the system for their own vested interests,” Estrada added.

While he is hoping that those who were accused should be heard first and be given opportunity to clear their names, Estrada mentioned nothing about the charges against him.