On September 26, 2013, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad replied to Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s allegations that President Aquino bribed senator judges with the release of their pork-barrel funds to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial:
“We were careful not to make PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) releases before, during or after the trial,” he said.
This was reported, using the exact same words, by the Manila Times, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, and Manila Bulletin as well as in the websites of ABS-CBN and GMA7. They used exactly the same quote since Abad sent his reply through a text message, which had been forwarded to me too.
Such a bad liar the budget secretary is. Not only bad, but also a foolish liar. Why would he claim that there were no pork barrel releases when the website of his department has data on releases of pork-barrel funds in 2012, officially called Priority Development Assistance Funds?
In fact, P1 billion of the senators’ pork barrel was released in the three months before the May 29 vote that found Corona guilty, and another P800 million in the three months after. In fact three senators — Ramon Revilla, Francis Escudero, and Lito Lapid — got their pork barrel, P86, P46, and P50 million respectively — just a few days before the May 29, 2012 vote that booted Corona out.
Image of data on PDAF releases at DBM’s website: But “no record”, DBM officials say.
Then last Friday, in response to my column (“Aquino gave Revilla his P86 M pork after their meeting, January 23), Abad claimed: “You should get a more objective and reliable source. The fact that Tiglao says so doesn’t make it so. Bribery is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of evidence.”
My report though is not just a matter of opinion, but actually more of a reportage based on claims made by both identified (among them, Corona’s defense lawyer Jose Roy, who first made the allegations at the height of the trial, in February last year and more recently, Senator Jinggoy Estrada) and unidentified sources (among them, aghast budget department officials), which allegations are bolstered by objective evidence — the data posted at he website of Abad’s department.
Why did Abad claim that no PDAF were released “before, during or after the trial” when in fact there were such releases? Was Abad trying to mislead the press from checking the facts by issuing a blanket denial that no such releases of pork barrel were made at all, and therefore there wasn’t even an opportunity for bribery?
But perhaps Abad’s problem is that he has such incompetent staff. One Peachy Paderna, his public information chief, texted our reporter, which statement was published: “We checked our website and found no record of such a release. You can also check the site if you’d like to.”
I’m afraid Ms. Paderna doesn’t know what her department’s website contains, or maybe she is so internet-illiterate she doesn’t know how to navigate it to get to the information posted there. I’d like to help her out by providing her with step-by-step instructions only an idiot wouldn’t understand:
Choose 2012 (when the impeachment trial occurred) for the period, and click “View”. When you get to the page entitled “Summary of PDAF Releases for Fiscal Year 2012,” click the Upper House link and you will get the page showing a list of the Senators, and the PDAF amounts released to each.
Then click on the name of the Senator whose PDAF releases you want to check out. For example, click “Revilla, Ramon, Jr.” and voila! you’ll see a page listing each and every PDAF fund released to him, its purpose, date released, and amounts. (You can even download the file in excel or pdf format or go to this direct link.)
There you’ll see PDAF releases to Senator Revilla May 4 and 7, and if you add all the releases on these dates, these will total P86 million, which not coincidentally was released to him a week before the May 29 vote. And the DBM official says she “found no record of such a release”? Was she looking for an “P86 million”?
I’m afraid though that the list doesn’t contain the label “bribe” if Paderna was looking for that, and failing to find this, claimed there was no such record in the DBM website.