LAWMAKERS who voted to convict former chief justice Renato Corona and who received additional pork barrel before or after the May 29, 2012 verdict can be presumed guilty of bribery because of the timing of the two events, Sen. Miriam Santiago said on Monday.
Santiago, a constitutional law expert, noted that the additional pork releases under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) during and after Corona’s impeachment trial constitutes bribery under the Revised Penal Code.
She cited Article 204 of the penal code: “Any judge who shall knowingly render an unjust judgment in any case submitted to him for decision, shall be punished by prison mayor, and perpetual absolute disqualification.”
The law doesn’t only cover the senator-judges in the Corona impeachment but also the members of the House of Representatives who voted to indict the chief justice and who also got additional pork.
“Each senator or representative was guilty of the crime of knowingly rendering unjust judgment,” Santiago said in a statement.
Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in a privilege speech last week revealed that lawmakers who convicted Corona received P50 million additional allotment.
Santiago and Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Joker Arroyo did not get additional funds because they voted against the impeachment of Corona.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has denied that the DAP is linked to the impeachment of Corona. He said the additional releases are mostly for infrastructure projects to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.
Senate President Franklin Drilon also dismissed insinuations that the DAP releases were a bribe and maintained that the funds went to legitimate infrastructure projects.
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero also clarified that the DAP released to him formed part of his request made to the Office of the President (OP) to bolster local government programs requested through his office.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate Finance committee, said that he funded P96 million worth of projects, not P99 million as reported by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“The whole amount went to the construction or repair of public markets of LGUs for P500,000 each,” he said, adding that the projects were downloaded to and implemented by the municipalities and cities in the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Cavite, Rizal, Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan.
Drilon, Escudero and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile received higher DAP releases than other senators in 2012. Drilon and Enrile each got P100 million.
Senators Serge Osmena 3rd and Ralph Recto admitted receiving the additional allotment but they said that they did not know it came from the DAP.
But Santiago said she will urge the Supreme Court to look into the DAP disbursements because it violates the equal protection clause which is the keystone of all human rights.
She said she would like to know if it is legal for the DBM to discriminate among senators and decide who will receive bigger allotments.
Santiago noted that based on her observation, the DAP, which was introduced in 2011, appears to have been disbursed in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
“In releasing funds, the executive branch cannot play favorites when carrying out constitutional commands such as social justice, social services, and equal work opportunities. The DAP releases, flawed as they were from the very beginning, played favorites among senators. That was clearly unconstitutional,” she pointed out.
Furthermore, she said, the three senators did not explain why they got more than the others. They defended themselves by saying they spent the money on public projects. By contrast, each representative allegedly received P15 million.
Santiago however said that the bribery allegations should not distract the public from the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.
“Both scams are equally repulsive. But the alleged bribery scam is intended by the political opposition to cover up the Napoles NGO pork scam,” she said.