MANILA - Senator Jinggoy Estrada said he is not bothered by reports that businesswoman Janet Napoles is now ready to tell all and has spoken to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima about the possibility of turning state witness.
Estrada’s only worry is if Napoles would be pressured to implicate him, as well as Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla.
“Ang mga naririnig ko, may mga tumatawag sa akin kanina, na talagang pilit na idinidiin kaming tatlo, as usual,” he said.
“I am concerned kung talagang ipipilit ng DOJ [Department of Justice], ng NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] na banggitin lang ang pangalan naming tatlo. ‘Yun ang… concern ko. Pero kung walang influence, if Secretary de Lima will not influence Mrs. Napoles, we do not have anything to worry about. Pero kapag inimpose na idiin itong tatlo, that’s something to worry about.”
Estrada sees “something fishy” in the development, saying government initially had qualms about Napoles becoming state witness.
“Sa akin, I have nothing to worry about, on my part. And I can speak siguro on behalf of Senator Enrile and Revilla. Pero kapag nag-impose na o tinakot na dahil mabubulok siya sa kulungan at idiin kaming tatlo, ibang storya ‘yun,” he said.
Estrada, meantime, believes that Enrile’s former chief of staff, Attorney Gigi Reyes, would not testify against the senators, saying it would not be in synch with her character.
Estrada again denied allegations that he misused his pork barrel allocation and transferred funds using bogus NGOs associated with Napoles.
Speaking at the commencement exercises of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Estrada lambasted what he described as “selective justice” in efforts to implicate him and two other colleagues while sparing others who were found to have channeled funds to Napoles-linked NGOs.
“Pinapalabas nila na ang pag-endorso namin ay mali ngunit sa kanila ay tama? Hindi naman kami mage-endorso kung hindi ito naaayon sa batas. Hindi kami mag-eendorso kung ito ay bawal. At lalong-lalo hindi kami mage-endorso kung sa una pa man ay alam naming peke ito. Is this selective justice where you focus on destroying those who are seen as potential and viable candidates this coming election? Your guess is as good as mine,” Estrada said.
“Before the graduating class of 2014 of this great institution and before all of you today, I deny all allegations against me. I reiterate, as I have stated in all my interviews, in all fora I have been invited to speak and in all the pleadings I have submitted to the Ombudsman, that I have no knowledge or participation in the transfer of funds of my Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to anyone other than to the legally intended beneficiaries. I never received or pocketed any amount from Mrs. Napoles, Mrs. Tuason or any other person associated with her or the non-government organizations,” he said.
“I did not steal a single centavo from public funds or from my PDAF. I did not conspire with anyone nor took undue advantage of my position to enrich myself or my family using public funds.”
Estrada said he has the constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, adding that he is ready to defend himself in the courts.
He expressed confidence that the charges against him would be dropped.
“I am very confident that in due time the charges against me will be dismissed. In the meantime, I just hope and pray that the people will let the wheels of justice take its due and legal course,” he said.
Estrada said he, along with Enrile and Revilla, was a victim of a “well-orchestrated April Fools scenario” to bolster the political ambitions of some of his colleagues and to ease out personalities seen as viable candidates in the next elections.
The Blue Ribbon committee report on the pork barrel scam investigation was made public on April 1. The Ombudsman also announced the indictment of the three senators and others on the same day.
“Ang akala nilang malakas na makakalaban nila, kailangan siraan na nang husto para ma-eliminate na sa anumang posisyon na pinagnanasaan nila. Okay lang sa akin ‘yun, sa ngayon pumapapel na sila. But do they have to do it at our own expense? Do I have to be the whipping boy of their misguided ambitions?” Estrada said.
“I and two of my fellow senators have been pilloried and lambasted in the media by biased reporting coming from those harboring hidden agendas, whether it is politics alone or any other motives, I can only speculate. But the fact is this early… we have already been convicted before the bar of public opinion. We have been demonized in newspapers and headlines have been anything but unkind.”
Estrada said he will not heed calls for him resign, saying he has the duty to fulfill his mandate.
“Malamang may ilan-ilan sa inyo rito na nakikiisa sa panawagang ito. I will not take that against you, karapatan niyo ‘yan. Katulad din ng karapatan kong sabihin na ‘No. I will not resign.’ At katulad din ng karapatan kong ipagtanggol ang aking sarili at ipaglaban kung ano man ang dapat. Huwag niyo rin sana ipagkait sa akin ang mga karapatan kong ito,” he said.
Now that he has returned to the country, Estrada said he is ready to face the charges against him.
“Laban. I have no choice but to defend myself in the proper forum. I have no choice but to fight it out, slug it out because I believe I am innocent of the charges against me,” he said.
He may return to the United States around June or July for another check-up for his knee after sustaining hairline fracture in a basketball game.
“Sabi ng aking doctor, [it] might need a surgery. So pinababalik ako roon sa June or July para lang ma-check up,” he said, adding, “Pero kung inisyuhan ako ng warrant, hindi ako makakapunta.”