Jinggoy expects continued probe on gov’t irregularities
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Jinggoy Estrada expects the Senate to continue conducting investigations into various irregularities in government in the 16th Congress as part of its oversight functions.

Estrada, the acting Senate president until the opening of the 16th Congress on July 22, said that the inquiries conducted by the Senate, particularly by the committee on accountability of public officers and investigations or Blue Ribbon, remain relevant and are not a waste of time based on the observations of critics.

In an interview over ANC yesterday, Estrada said that the Senate investigations have led to the prosecution and incarceration of various personalities involved in alleged misdeeds such as the plunder of public funds.

He cited the cases of former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife Erlinda, who were accused of stashing away millions from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

At the conclusion of the probe into the issue of corruption in the AFP, the Blue Ribbon committee recommended the filing of plunder charges against former AFP chiefs Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu, Ligot and another former comptroller, Carlos Garcia.

Estrada lamented that the Ligots were eventually charged with tax evasion only, contrary to what the Senate recommended.

“I wanted it to be plunder because they accumulated a lot of money during his stint as comptroller of the AFP. And the wife is always traveling together with the wife of the late Secretary Angie Reyes. They traveled 40 to 50 times in and out of the Philippines, and they went to the United States, Hong Kong, they went to Singapore, Europe. That’s very glaring. That’s why it was quite disappointing for me when I read in the papers that the Ombudsman dismissed the cases filed by (former AFP budget officer) Col. (George) Rabusa,” Estrada said.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, Blue Ribbon chairman, said that a lot of recommendations of the Senate were followed by the Ombudsman and that charges were filed against the concerned officials.

Apart from the AFP corruption issue, the Blue Ribbon committee in the 15th Congress also looked into the irregular purchase of secondhand helicopters by the Philippine National Police, the misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the questionable loans granted by the former board of the Development Bank of the Philippines to businessman Roberto Ongpin, and the fund scam over the Malampaya gas deposit in Palawan.

Guingona hopes the work he did as Blue Ribbon chair would be judged based on the impact it had on the lives of the people.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, likely to be elected Senate President in the 16th Congress, has stated that the Senate would remain an independent body as it has been over the past decades.

Drilon pointed out that the Senate is composed of 24 “independent republics,” referring to the senators, who he said will not be swayed by Malacañang regardless of their political affiliations.

“We will exercise our independent judgment on any issue that is brought to us and as a body, we will exercise our collective judgment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Estrada also disclosed that he would treat his half-brother incoming Sen. JV Ejercito without special preference once the 16th

Congress convenes in July.

“When the 16th Congress opens on July 22, I will treat him as a fellow colleague,” Estrada said.

The two sons of former President and now Manila mayor-elect Joseph

Estrada are expected to work together in the new Senate minority bloc after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile resigned as Senate president before the adjournment of session last week.

“It’s okay. No problem. If he asks for my opinion, guidance, I will be more that willing to guide him being a neophyte senator and I being a senior member of the chamber,” Estrada said.

Estrada admitted that he could not recall the time when animosity between him and JV started since they used to play together during Sunday reunions at the house of their grandparents in San Juan when they were younger.

Earlier, Estrada was said to be wary about having JV as his seatmate in the Senate. – With Christina Mendez


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