Revilla to debunk 'pork' raps in privilege speech

By Christina Mendez, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 20 2014 09:56 AM | Updated as of Jan 20 2014 05:56 PM

MANILA - Battle lines are drawn anew at the Senate during the resumption of regular session of Congress today as Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. is expected to break his silence on allegations that he amassed millions from his pork barrel funds.

Revilla’s counsel Joel Bodegon said the senator is expected to answer the allegations that he pocketed millions from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) appropriations from 2007 to 2010.

He said Revilla will also take the opportunity to answer the allegations of whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy that he siphoned off PDAF funds to his personal accounts in the years before the 2010 presidential elections.

“In the main, it is to clear his name and affirm his commitment to the truth in the face of the false allegations against him,” Bodegon said.

Bodegon added Revilla remains firm in his stand that Luy and his former colleagues should be held accountable for their actions.

“More importantly, he wants those responsible, particularly the whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy, prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he added.

Luy and his former colleagues at the JNL Corp. owned by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles admitted falsifying documents to ensure releases of funds of lawmakers to spurious non-government organizations (NGOs).

Revilla denied having transacted with Napoles, who was accused of allegedly siphoning off the pork barrel funds of lawmakers through fake NGOs.

Revilla filed counter-affidavits before the Ombudsman last Jan. 16 in relation with the pork barrel controversy. The Ombudsman is expected to issue rulings on the pork barrel-related cases anytime soon.

Revilla, who topped the past senatorial elections, will also be decrying political persecution, a position also shared by fellow Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

Bodegon said Revilla has long maintained that he has “been the subject of political persecution when he stated that he wants to run for president in 2016.”

Bodegon, however, refused to elaborate further on Revilla’s privilege speech but a member of the senator’s staff revealed it would be about PDAF and “the truth about the allegations.”

Revilla, in a text message to The STAR last night, sought for prayers in his privilege speech.

“Tuloy tayo bukas. (We will do it tomorrow). Please pray for me,” he said.

Revilla early on admitted that he and his family have been severely affected, even distraught, by the accusations.

“I have worked for what I have in my life as an actor and a politician. There is no truth to the allegations. (All my wealth) are hard-earned, all product of my sweat and perseverance,” Revilla said in Filipino.

Revilla, along with opposition Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Estrada, is facing plunder charges before the Ombudsman, which had directed the three respondents to answer the charges filed by the Department of Justice against them.

Estrada also decried political persecution, adding that the filing of plunder charges were “nothing more than a high-level political ploy to undermine the opposition.”

Estrada said he had no hand in the implementation of projects under the PDAF, and that his participation was limited to identifying a project from a menu of projects for funding as provided by law.

Estrada said his endorsements of NGOs came from a limited list of duly and previously accredited.