MANILA - Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said Thursday the Senate should be corrupt-free after the 2019 midterm elections, as former senators facing charges for the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam seek a comeback.
Former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, who are on trial for graft and plunder cases at the Sandiganbayan for the "pork barrel" scam, have all filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) for senator with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“Kung tulad naming opposition ay seryoso sa anti-corruption drive ay mas maganda kung buong senado ang lalaban sa korapsyon at wala sanang maidagdag na sangkot sa anomaly,” Hontiveros said.
(If like the opposition the entire Senate is really serious in the anti-corruption drive, then it would be better if no one linked to the anomaly will be elected to the Senate.)
Enrile, Estrada and Revilla are facing trial for allegedly taking kickbacks in a scheme that diverted PDAF funds to bogus NGOs, the discovery of which led to the scrapping of discretionary legislative funds in 2013.
Enrile and Estrada are currently out on bail while Revilla remains detained at Camp Crame.
The opposition slate, which is being supported by Hontiveros’ Akbayan party, earlier slammed the three former lawmakers' Senate comeback bids.
Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan, who acts as the opposition coalition's campaign spokesperson, said on Wednesday that the candidacy of the three shows “disrespect and cynicism” for the country’s democracy and electoral system.
Hontiveros said it is ultimately up to voters to choose who will fill the 12 slots at the Senate in 2019.
“Nasa mga botante ang pagpapasya. Kahit papano naniniwala ako na nagsisimula nang manuot sa kaisipan ng mga botante ang isyu ng korapsyon," she said.
(The voters have the power to decide. Somehow, I believe that the issue of corruption is starting to make a mark on the voters' minds.)
In a statement, Estrada maintained innocence in the pork barrel scam.
“We are victims of selective justice, in fact, we are innocent until proven otherwise,” Estrada said in a statement.
Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla also reiterated that some of the witnesses in the PDAF scam case against her husband have changed their statements.
“The truth will come out. I believe justice will prevail. Nag-retract na ang maraming witnesses at sinabing walang kinalaman si Senator Bong,” she said.
(Many witnesses have retracted their statements and said Senator Bong has nothing to do with it.)
Enrile, meanwhile, said he was just offering himself and that it was still the decision of the voters that would matter.
“Let the people decide. I’m not saying that they’re going to vote for me, I’m just presenting my certificate of candidacy now,” Enrile said in filing his COC on Wednesday.