MANILA -- Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Teofisto "TG" Guingona III on Tuesday denied that he had "prejudged" his colleague, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, in the committee's probe on the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
During his privilege speech on Tuesday afternoon, Guingona said it was never his intention to prejudge Estrada nor the two other senators facing plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel anomaly.
"For the record, I have no intention of prejudging the guilt or innocence of any of our peers allegedly involved in the [pork barrel scam]," Guingona said.
He added that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has done its "utmost best to ensure that the dignity and honor of our colleagues involved in this issue are preserved and protected."
During the committee's hearing last Thursday, Guingona described Ruby Tuason's testimony, which directly linked Estrada to the scam, as a "three-point shot, buzzer beater, winning shot."
Estrada on Monday lambasted Guingona, saying that he feels hurt by his colleague's apparent conclusion, especially since the committee has yet to finish its probe and come up with its report.
But according to Guingona, that statement "did not refer to a state of guilt on the part of any person."
"The phrase was used by me to describe and underscore the possible impact and value of the testimony of a witness," he said.
He added that Tuason "had surely helped in the search for the answers, not in the determination of the guilt or innocence."
Tuason claimed that she personally delivered pork barrel kickbacks from alleged scam architect Janet Lim Napoles to Estrada in his office in the Senate.
She also claimed delivering kickbacks to Enrile's former chief of staff, Atty. Gigi Reyes. She did not, however, categorically say that the senator was aware of their transactions.
Guingona said leading the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is no easy task. Its mandate is to search for truth and in the process pinpoint accountability, he said.
"Isang malaking hamon ang paghahanap ng katotohanan, lalo na kapag ang sangkot ay ang interes ng sambayanan. Sa tungkuling ito, hindi umaasa ang kumite ng papuri o paghanga man. Sapat na po ang masabi natin na nagagawa natin ng tama ang ating tungkulin," he said.
He pointed out that the work and mission of the committee has become even more difficult because the probe involves three of their colleagues -- Estrada, Enrile, and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.
"Malaki ang naging pagdudusa sa isip ng ating mga kababayan. Una, iimbestigahan daw ba ng Senado ang sariling mga miyembro nito? Pangalawa, kaya daw ba ng Senado ng Pilipinas na magsagawa ng isang tunay at patas at masusing imbestigasyon kung ang mga sangkot sa usapin ay kapwa senador? Sa kabila ng mga pagdududang ito, tinitiyak ko po sa inyo na sinisikap ng Blue Ribbon Committee na isagawa ng maayos ang tungkulin nito," he said.
"Anumang hirap nito, ito ay gagampanan natin... Maaasahan ninyo na trabaho lang po at walang personalan," he added.
That is why he is saddened by the statement given by Estrada on Monday, Guingona said.
"Ngayon po, nakalulungkot na sa puntong ito, ang pagdududa sa kakayahan natin ay nanggaling mismo sa kasamahan natin," he said, referring to Estrada.
Guingona said he believes that there is a battle that he and his fellow senators must fight together, which is "to restore our people's trust in the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines."