By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang said that the people cannot begrudge President Duterte for endorsing the senate bid of former Senator Jinggoy Estrada despite allegations of corruption against the former lawmaker regarding the pork barrel scam in 2013.
In his press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that there was nothing wrong with Duterte endorsing Estrada because the latter was not convicted of any crime.
“Number one, former Senator Estrada is charged with corruption. And the Constitution says unless you are convicted by final judgment, you are presumed to be innocent. So presumption is Estrada is innocent,” he said.
“Number two, he has been granted bail and the reason for the court’s grant of provisional liberty is anchored on the fact that the evidence of guilt is not strong,” he added.
“So you cannot begrudge the President for endorsing a man who is presumed to be innocent under the law. Otherwise you are prejudging him,” he continued.
Whiff of corruption
Panelo also explained that President Duterte’s favorite line of firing officials with just a “whiff of corruption” is not a reckless receipt that people subject to allegations will be immediately fired without investigation.
“As I said, a ‘whiff of corruption’ is not a reckless receipt of an allegation of corruption and a decision to fire the person subject of that information. The President is a lawyer, investigates any allegation of corruption before he makes a move,” he said.
“You cannot be assuming, presuming, and spreading the guilt of a person unless he has been finally convicted. We have to bow to the majesty of what the Constitution says: the presumption of innocence prevails regardless of who you are, whether you are an ally or a friend. Otherwise meron tayong chaos, meron tayong anarchy (we have chaos and anarchy), he added.
Panelo said Duterte firing officials and supporting Estrada are two different things.
“The difference is the President, to my mind, has not received any evidence of corruption vis-a-vis Mr. Estrada. First, he is not a member of the Cabinet, he is a member of the legislature at the time. Second, he was not yet President at the time of the alleged commission of corruption,” he said.
Meanwhile, Panelo said Duterte’s tough stance against corruption will not be affected despite his endorsement of Estrada’s senate bid.
“The survey will tell you that the President has made many perceived to be unpopular decisions and yet the survey remains very high. In other words, Filipino people trust this man. They’re confident and believe in his judgment. And ultimately it’s the people who will decide anyway,” he said.
“He has done so many unpopular decisions and yet his rating remains very popular. This man couldn’t care less for as long as he repeatedly says ‘I’m mandated by the Constitution to serve and protect, any action that I make will be on that basis alone,'” he added.
Support for Marcos
Panelo also reiterated that Duterte’s reason for supporting Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos’s senate candidacy was because the former was indebted to the latter despite allegations of ill-gotten wealth against the Marcos family.
“Imee is not charged [of anything]. So kung yun ngang naka-demanda presumed innocent, lalo pa itong walang demanda (So if the one facing charges is presumed innocent, what more the person who does not have a pending case),” he said.