DETAINED Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada on Friday challenged Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd and the Senate blue ribbon committee to prove that the panel is still committed to ensuring accountability of public officials by investigating allegations against Senate President Franklin Drilon in connection with the allegedly overpriced Iloilo Convention Center (ICC).
Estrada noted that circumstances surrounding the allegations against Drilon and Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is currently the subject of a continuing blue ribbon sub-committee investigation, are quite similar as both are accused of being behind an overpriced building, and both high ranking officials are already facing plunder cases before the Ombudsman.
Binay is being investigated in connection with the reportedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2, while Drilon is facing a plunder compliant before the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the P700-million ICC.
The blue ribbon committee, Estrada said, could conduct an “investigation of any matter of public interest on its own initiative or brought to its attention by any member of the Senate”.
“I remember that the blue ribbon committee readily formed a sub-committee to begin the investigation against VP [Vice President] Binay, merely seven days after the resolution was filed on August 11.
Two days later, the sub-committee began its first hearing,” he noted in a statement sent to the Senate media.
Estrada said Guingona was also quick to state that he is ready to convene the blue ribbon mother committee after learning that the Vice President might attend the hearing if the invitation is issued by the main committee.
Guingona’s reaction, he added, was in stark contrast to the neglect and complete abandon of the chairman on the issue of the Malampaya fund scam, which is already pending for more than a year.
“If the chairman and the committee are still committed to its mandate of ensuring accountability of public officers and it is not just a subservient tool for partisan politicking and mudslinging, they will rise to the challenge and perform [their]duty,” said Estrada, who is being tried for plunder for his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
The senator said conducting an inquiry into the ICC is an opportunity for Guingona and the blue ribbon committee to prove that it is really non-partisan, independent and does not look at political colors.
“If he has the balls to carry out his task as chairman of the blue ribbon committee, Sen. Guingona will take up the challenge,” he added.
It will not be the first time that the Guingona panel will investigate an issue involving fellow senators, with the committee having conducted hearings to investigate the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam implicating three senators, including Estrada.