NAGA CITY, Camarines Sur: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday called on the people to choose leaders, not entertainers, in the next elections, as he took a swipe at opposition senators charged with plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam.
In his Independence Day speech, Aquino reminded the people to select leaders who can continue the administration’s reform program, not those who are only good at providing entertainment, obviously a dig at Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., both actors-turned-politicians.
“Two years from now, we will once again choose our country’s leaders. The challenge for us is to elect candidates who can fight for the welfare of every citizen in the face of any kind of adversity,” the President said.
“We do not need those whose words are merely dictated by scripts, nor do we need talented dancers or fantastic singers. Instead, it is our duty to create a Philippines more just and prosperous than that which we have come to know,” he added.
On Wednesday, Estrada assailed the Department of Justice, Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit for what he called “selective prosecution” of his case and others in the political opposition implicated in the pork barrel scam.
He presented a video in the Senate titled “Selective Justice,” supposedly showing some officials’ bias against him, Revilla and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
On Tuesday, Revilla also presented a video in the Senate that featured his own song “Salamat Kaibigan” after an emotional speech in which he thanked his fellow senators in what many thought was his farewell message.
Aquino, however, maintained that all those who have been charged were given due process.
“We followed the correct process, an investigation was initiated, evidence was and continues to be collected, which ultimately led to the filing of cases,” he noted.
“We could have rushed this from the onset, bringing to court accusations without sufficient proof, if our intention was to simply damage the reputation of the accused. However, as you have witnessed, we chose to pursue the truth by using the proper system,” Aquino said.
The President added that he instructed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to build a case with sufficient proof.
“At pagkatapos, tayo pa ngayon ang sinasabihan na namumulitika? Kayo na ho ang bahalang magpasya kung sino ang papanigan niyo sa usaping ito [And yet, we are being accused of politicking? I leave it to you now to choose who is telling the truth],” he said.
Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman formally charged Revilla, Estrada and Enrile with plunder for allegedly pocketing P242 million, P183 million and P172 million respectively as kickbacks from the use of their pork barrel or priority development assistance fund.
The President said his family’s experience during the martial law years made him value due process all the more.
He noted that his father, the late former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., was forced to face a court where the judge, lawyer and witnesses were all selected by then President Ferdinand Marcos.
“In short, Mr. Marcos was accuser, judge and executor. Without doubt, the rod of justice was bended,” the President said
He added that his family’s legacy taught him “the importance of fighting for equality to break the cycle of vicious injustice.”
“Now that I am in a position to apply these principles, I will continue to do everything in my power to proffer justice not to a select few, but to the entire nation,” Aquino said.
The President led the Independence Day celebration in Naga City to commemorate the Quince Martires—the 15 martyrs from Bicol whose deaths contributed to the freedom of Camarines Sur from Spanish colonizers.