Headlines Skinning Left, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Headlines ( Leaderboard Top ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Jinggoy eyed as DAP witness

Former senator Jinggoy Estrada is now out on bail while faces charges for plunder and graft cases related to the pork barrel scam. He is seen leaving Sandiganbayan with his family on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. STAR/Elizabeth Marcelo via Twitter

MANILA, Philippines — Now that he is out on bail, will former senator Jinggoy Estrada spill the beans on an alleged anomaly in the multibillion-peso Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the previous administration?

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II hinted at this possibility after Estrada was granted bail by the Sandiganbayan in his plunder case involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and released last Saturday after three years in detention.

“(Former) senator Jinggoy can be used as a witness in the investigation and possible cases on the DAP anomaly,” Aguirre told The STAR yesterday.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) chief cited Estrada’s earlier statement that he received P50 million in DAP funds during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III supposedly for the ouster of the late chief justice Renato Corona during impeachment trial in 2012.

He explained that Estrada’s testimony could be necessary to prove the alleged anomaly and misuse of DAP funds.

Aguirre noted that Estrada, as a beneficiary or proponent of DAP, cannot be held liable per ruling of the Supreme Court which only pointed the possible culpability to “authors” of the program.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Estrada reportedly bared that when Corona was ousted after impeachment trial in 2012, he and other senators who voted for the guilty verdict were each given P50 million in DAP funds.

Aguirre also confirmed that his office has received official documents and records involving the P144-billion DAP funds, which were meant to boost government spending during the term of Aquino.

The DOJ would conduct a fact-finding investigation to determine the anomalies in the DAP and who could be held criminally liable.

Among the documents is a 2014 report of the Commission on Audit (COA) showing that at least 46 lawmakers received DAP funds worth P229.6 million for a milk feeding program just days after Corona was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2011.

The COA report showed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued special allotment release orders and notice of cash allocations for members of the House of Representatives on Dec. 22, 2011, or 10 days after the House of Representatives impeached Corona.

The DAP allocation was supposed to fund a milk feeding program that did not actually accelerate government spending, contrary to the purpose of the program.

The COA held that the project “may not have fully contributed in the attainment of the DAP objective of accelerating government spending” because “from the time the funds of P167.44 million or 72.9 percent were released in September 2012, only 87 percent or P145.694 million was obligated, and out of which, a total of P87.002 million or 59.7 percent was disbursed for 33 projects.”

The report has recommended that the unutilized funds be returned to the Bureau of Treasury after the SC struck down the DAP for being unconstitutional in a ruling in July 2014.

Earlier this month, a coalition of anti-pork barrel groups called on the DOJ to investigate the alleged anomalies in use of DAP funds.

The group led by former Manila councilor Greco Belgica also submitted to the DOJ the records of the DBM on the DAP expenditures during the previous administration.

Belgica asked the DOJ to conduct a fact-finding investigation on the submitted records, which showed a discrepancy of P2.6 billion from the DAP spending, and pursue cases of malversation of public funds with aggravating circumstances against Aquino, former DBM secretary Florencio Abad and former DBM undersecretary Mario Relampagos.

The documents also showed that P6.5 billion from the P144-billion DAP funds of the previous administration was allocated to various local projects that were not itemized in the budget.

The former councilor also claimed that the anomalies include ghost projects funded by DAP, citing projects involving lampposts and bridges that were given DAP funds but were found to be not actually built upon verification.

Jinggoy to move for junking plunder

As to the plunder and graft charges filed against him, Estrada will move for the dismissal of the cases as soon as the prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman finish their presentation of alleged evidence against him.

Like in the plunder case of former president Gloria Macapacal-Arroyo involving the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds, Estrada will have his lawyers file a demurrer to evidence, which will challenge the evidence that Ombudsman prosecutors have.

Such pleading is filed by an accused in a criminal case when the accused thinks that the prosecution’s case is weak that the accused does not even have to present defense evidence to have the charges dismissed.

Arroyo, now a congresswoman of Pampanga, used the same strategy, which led to the dismissal of the PCSO plunder case against her in July 2016.

The Sandiganbayan initially junked Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence but the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the anti-graft court, which cleared and freed the former president on grounds of insufficiency of evidence.

Estrada was released from detention on Saturday after the Sandiganbayan granted his petition for bail. He said he will attend the first day of the trial today and will try his best to attend all future trial dates.

Estrada was among three senators who were first to be indicted for alleged involvement in the misuse of PDAF in connivance with alleged scam mastermind, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

Estrada and former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. were charged for allegedly receiving kickbacks or commissions from bogus non-government organizations that implemented ghost projects using their PDAF.

The Supreme Court has earlier released Enrile on bail for humanitarian reasons, while Revilla is still detained at the Philippine National Police custodial center in Camp Crame.

Estrada yesterday visited Revilla and brought him food. The PNP said Estrada arrived at 2 p.m. and left at 3:35 pm.

Visitors need to pass through three metal gates to reach the complex of the senators’ detention cell, which reportedly resembles a condominium unit with multipurpose area.

But as to the bed, Estrada said: “ang tigas ng higaan ko doon sa Crame (my bed in Crame was uncomfortable). - With Michael Punongbayan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
  • Follow Us:
Healines Skinning Right, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1