MANILA - Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio on Tuesday defended the decision of her regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago to endorse two former lawmakers tagged in the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Former senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada are both seeking a return to the Senate under the administration coalition.
Estrada is currently out on bail for his plunder and graft cases in connection with his alleged involvement in the diversion of P183 million of his PDAF or pork barrel funds to bogus NGOs, purportedly with help from businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged scam mastermind.
The Sandiganbayan granted Estrada bail in 2017 on the basis that he was not the “main plunderer.” He has asserted innocence.
Revilla, meanwhile, was cleared by the Sandiganbayan last December.
Speaking to reporters, Duterte-Carpio stressed that Revilla has been cleared of the plunder charge while Estrada’s case has not yet reached its conclusion.
“Na-acquit naman po si Senator Bong and Senator Jinggoy is naka-bail so there is no finality ng case niya,” Duterte-Carpio said.
(Senator Bong was acquitted and Senator Jinggoy is out on bail so there has been no finality in his case.)
“Once lang po na sinabi ng korte na guilty ang isang tao d'yan lang po tayo mag-judge sa isang tao.”
(Once the court says a person is guilty, that's the only time we should judge a person.)
President Rodrigo Duterte is also endorsing Estrada, a move critics say is incompatible with the chief executive’s anti-corruption stance.
In their respective speeches during the campaign kickoff, Estrada and Revilla both slammed the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.
Estrada stressed that he is innocent of the charges against him, and that he and fellow former lawmakers Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile, who is also seeking a return to the chamber, were victims of “selective justice.”
“Pinagbakasyon kami nung nakaraaang administrasyon dahil sa walang basehang kaso,” Estrada said before a large crowd at the Pampanga provincial capitol in San Fernando City, referring to his detention.
(We were asked to go on vacation in the past administration because of a baseless case.)
“Puwede kaming humarap ni Bong at sabihin sa inyo wala kaming kasalanan sa taumbayan. Kami ay napag-initan nung nakaraang administrasyon.”
(Bong and I can face all of you and say that we have not committed any sin against the people. The administration just picked on us.)
Meanwhile, Revilla also lamented his more than 4 years of incarceration before his acquittal.
“Four years, six months akong nakakulong. One year akong dinurog sa media. Para kang buhay na tinatalupan. Ang sakit na tumatagos sa iyong pamilya, 'yung lahat ng sakit na naramdaman namin nawala lahat dahil sa napakainit na pagtanggap niyo ngayon,” Revilla said.
(I was detained for four years and six months. I was destroyed in the media for one year. It felt like being peeled alive. The hurt that my family felt, all the pain that I felt are gone because of your warm welcome today.)