By MARIO B. CASAYURAN
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said yesterday Sen. Jose “Jinggoy’’ Ejercito Estrada and other members of the Senate who each received P50 million from Malacañang for voting a “guilty’’ verdict against former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona in the Senate impeachment trial last year should return them to the Executive branch.
The return of the money “is a form of restitution, the giving back what the offended lost,’’ Santiago said, adding that the P50 million is the minimum amount for the crime of plunder.
While Santiago maintained that the P50 million was a “clear bribe,’’ Estrada, in last Wednesday’s privilege speech, maintained that “it was not a bribe, never a bribe, kumbaga, walang sohol.’’
Pressed by Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, an ally of President Aquino and former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, whether the P50 million was not an offer of any consideration but only an appeal, Estrada said the person who approached him to enter a vote of “guilty’’ verdict against Corona was “simply an appeal, there was no talk for giving a reward.’’
He refused to identify that person.
Enrile was then the Senate President and acted as presiding officer at the Senate impeachment trial.
‘‘I was never swayed by anybody. Not even Senator Drilon, not even the one close to Malacanang. I was
never swayed by my decision,’’ Estrada replied. He said he voted to convict Corona.
Only Senators Santiago, Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Joker Arroyo voted to acquit Corona whom President Aquino wanted ousted as Chief Magistrate.
Santiago said the P50 million should not be the only ones returned but also the P2 million given to majority of the senators by Enrile when he was the Senate chief last December.
The P2 million in additional “Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE)’’ caused “a rift between myself and him (Enrile) because he did not have the power to give that money and it is just as illegal as the P50 million that is now the subject of the news,’’ she explained.
“I did not get the P50 million. Why I never get money….money is allergic to me,’’ she told media practitioners after appearing as guest at the annual postgraduate course of the University of the Philippines (UP) Department of Emergency Medicine at Diamond Hotel in Manila.