By Ellen Tordesillas
One of the lawmakers implicated in the pork barrel scam operated by Janet Lim Napoles sent feelers to Malacañang about three weeks ago.
The offer: "I will return the money I got from my PDAF fund plus interest. I will make a public apology. I will resign and will not run for elective office again."
The requested reward: "Please don’t file plunder charges against me."
Reason for the offer: "One, I want to spare my grandchildren the stigma of having a grandparent convicted of plunder. Two, I am currently 'down.' This is not the best time of my life."
My source declined to identify the lawmaker and the branch of legislature. I can only guess the identity based on the demands: he or she is old enough to have grandchildren and is eligible for election in 2016.
Last Monday, a total of 37 persons were charged in connection with the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund. Three senators were charged with plunder: Ramon “Bong” Revilla; Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile.
Also charged with plunder were former Masbate Rep. now Gov. Rizalina Lanete and former APEC party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez.
According to the charge sheet, the five lawmakers “committed plunder in conspiracy with Napoles and officials of the implementing agencies when said lawmakers each accumulated more than P50 million through a series of transactions over time through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, and malversation of the cash value of the project cost allocated from the lawmakers’ PDAF and through their acceptance of kickbacks and commissions.”
Revilla and Estrada continue to profess their innocence. Estrada’s lame argument is that his endorsing a nongovernment organization, even if it turned out to be fake, as a recipient of his pork barrel did not constitute a crime.
He should be told that the endorsement may not be a crime but being a recipient of millions of money from PDAF is stealing money from the people. That’s plunder.
Enrile is in the hospital. At 89, he may escape imprisonment for humanitarian reasons even if convicted.
Legal experts say it would not be a short and easy case. But all those charged can kiss their political ambitions goodbye.
Three former members of the House of Representatives were also charged with malversation of public funds, direct bribery and violation of the Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for accumulating kickbacks and other benefits less than P50 million, said De Lima. They are former Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa and former Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula.
Plaza, who has been reported to have left the country about two weeks ago, is the same lawmaker who lamented “What kind of Congress is this” during the 2009 debate in Congress whether to play the "Hello Garci" tapes.
With the mindboggling reports of how he and fellow lawmakers diverted millions and millions of money intended for the marginalized to their pockets, Plaza can say it again: “What kind of Congress is this?”