Jinggoy Estrada and Dennis Cunanan. (Composite Photo)
MANILA - Sen. Jinggoy Estrada denied Friday that he verified his signatures in letter-endorsements that vouched for non-government organizations linked to businesswoman and alleged pork scam architect Janet Lim Napoles.
Estrada, one of the accused in the alleged pork barrel scam, rejected the statement of Technology Resource Center director-general Dennis Cunanan that he pressured Cunanan to immediately release his pork barrel funds to a Napoles NGO.
He also denied that he personally talked to Cunanan on the phone to verify signatures on letter-endorsements that his office submitted to the TRC.
"You don't call a senator and ask him kung genuine ang pirma niya over the phone. That is unethical and informal. How can a senator verify a signature over the phone if he or she has not seen it yet, di ba? Dapat official pag follow up, black and white, susulat head ng implementing agency like what the Commission on Audit did, sumulat to verify. Not over the phone," he told reporters.
He said that assuming that Cunanan did call his office, there is no way that the TRC official could prove that it was him over the phone.
"Assuming for the sake of argument tinawagan niya secretary ko, ipinasa sa akin sigurado ba siyang ako yun? Eh kasi nabalitaan ko noong araw sina Benhur [Luy] sinasabi sa iba na kunwari galing ito sa office ni senator tapos ako magbe-verify. Sila-sila ang gumagawa niyan. Di naman kami," he said.
Cunanan has applied as a state witness in the pork barrel scam and has been accepted provisionally in the Witness Protection Program, pending final approval by the Ombudsman.
Based on his affidavit, Cunanan said he received confirmation from both Estrada and Sen. Bong Revilla that their signatures in the letter-endorsements and memoranda submitted to his office are authentic.
The TRC chief said he personally called up the offices of Senators Estrada, Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile to verify the signatures. He said he talked personally to Estrada and Revilla while his calls to Enrile's office were accepted by the senator's chief of staff, Atty. Gigi Reyes.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Cunanan also submitted letters from the three senators vouching for the integrity and track record of the Napoles NGOs.
Estrada, Revilla and Enrile are among 38 individuals facing plunder, malversation and bribery raps before the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged misuse of priority development assistance funds. The scheme involved the funneling of PDAF to fake NGOs set up Napoles in exchange for kickbacks.
De Lima said the Napoles NGOs made underdeliveries or made no deliveries at all in the projects. She said the pork barrel scam needed the coordination of both the lawmakers, the Napoles NGOs and the implementing agencies.
Killing me softly
Estrada, meanwhile, said he stands by his counter affidavit that he has never dealt with any official of the government implementing agencies.
He said the government was implementing a "killing me softly" scheme by releasing new witnesses one after another.
"I don't know Cunanan, never talked to him. Killing me softly ginagawa sa amin. Last year pa pala nag-apply na maging state witness si Cunanan, bakit ngayon lang kinuha? Yung timing, kung kelan mainit ulit ang isyu sa pork barrel scam. Wala na kami magagawa, kontrolado kasi nila lahat. Wala na ako nakikitang pag-asa. Papaubaya ko na lang sa tao paghusga pero pagdating sa korte haharapin namin sila. Obviously, mahina kaso at ebidensya nila kaya tanggap pa sila ng tanggap ng witness. Dapat matigil na ang ginagawang trial by publicity sa amin," he said.
Estrada refused to name other senators who was allegedly approached by socialite Ruby Tuason about the pork barrel scheme. He said CCTV footage inside the Senate will show if his statements are correct.
The senator earlier denied that Tuason personally delivered kickbacks to his office, saying that the former social secretary only delivered snacks.
Estrada said his lawyers have advised him to no longer deliver a privilege speech about the issue.
He said he has yet to talk to Enrile and Revilla about these developments.
"Siguro, sooner or later. Sobra na. Araw araw na lang killing me softly nga eh. Di naman ako atras sa laban. Panay panay, also obviously, related sa 2016. Who else are your fabricated witnesses?" he asked.
He also said he has no plans to attend the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the pork scam after he accused Committee Chairman TG Guingona of "prejudging" him and other accused senators.
"How can I attend the Blue Ribbon hearing when they already prejudged me? Hayaan mo na (ang witnesses). That is not the proper forum naman e," he said.
Malacañang, meanwhile, denied that it is behind the testimony of former TRC chief Dennis Cunanan against alleged perpetrators of the pork barrel scam nor is it singling out certain personalities.
“Walang batayan yung alegasyon na… nakikialam ang Pangulo o ang Malacañang dahil ang batayang prinsipyo naman ay ‘yung pagbatay ng pagkilos sa kongkretong ebidensya,” Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said.