No conflict of interest receiving wedding sponsors' gifts – Escudero

MANILA, Philippines – Here's how Francis "Chiz" Escudero, considered the second "poorest" senator, pulled off his exclusive Balesin wedding with actress Heart Evangelista: most of the expenses were shouldered by his high-profile wedding sponsors.

The vice presidential candidate revealed this in an interview with radio dzMM on Friday, February 5 – almost a year since their posh wedding at the private, members-only Balesin resort in Quezon province.

Escudero said the resort – owned by one of the wedding sponsors, Alphaland's Bobby Ongpin – sponsored the wedding itself. 

"Sa Balesin, 'yung ilang bisita roon, personal na binayaran nila dahil unang beses silang makakarating doon. Ini-sponsor ng Balesin yung wedding proper, dahil 'yun din ang unang beses na nalagay sila sa mapa," he explained.

(In Balesin, some guests there were personally paid for because it's their first time in the resort. Balesin sponsored the wedding proper because that is the first time they were placed on the map.)

But he was quick to point out there was no conflict of interest for a lawmaker like him to receive such gifts from his wedding sponsors since he did not use his name and position to help them – including Ongpin, who was summoned by the Senate to explain the alleged anomalous joint venture agreement involving a property of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.

"Karamihan naman ng mga sponsors sa kasal, 'yung mga may pangalan, palaging may kaso, isa na siya roon. Kaya kong banggitin din, halos lahat yata ng sponsors namin sa wedding may kaso – sibil man o sa negosyo man, wala naman sigurong kasong kriminal. Pero ang conflict of interest, papasok lamang 'pag ginamit mo ang pangalan at pwesto mo para tulungan siya. Wala akong ginagawang ganun. Kailanman, hindi ko ginawa 'yun para sa sino man sa kanila," he explained.

(Most sponsors in weddings, those who are well-known, always have cases filed against them – Ongpin is one of them. I can name them, almost all of our sponsors may be facing cases – civil or business-related, hopefully not criminal. But conflict of interest comes in when you use your name and position to help them. I'm not doing anything like that. I have never done anything like that for anyone, ever.)

Escudero is a member of the powerful Senate blue ribbon committee which probes issues that range from public fund misuse to bad corporate practices of companies engaged in government contracts.

Three days after his wedding, Escudero was seen at the Senate hearing on the Boy Scouts-Alphaland controversy where Ongpin was among the resource persons, but the senator did not participate in it.

"Dahil nga tumayo sila bilang sponsor sa kasal, at tinuturing ko na conflict yun, kaya hindi ako nakilahok sa pagdinig (Because he was a wedding sponsor, and I consider that a conflict [of interest], that is why I did not participate in the hearings)," he said in the interview.

Ongpin, who was trade minister during the Marcos regime, has denied allegations by former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado that Vice President Jejomar Binay and Alphaland shortchanged the Boy Scouts of the Philippines in a land development deal for a one-hectare property in Makati.

Asked if he has received any pledges for his vice presidential bid from Ongpin and other wedding sponsors such as San Miguel Corporation's Ramon Ang, Escudero said no.

After all, he explained, history from past elections suggests "walang masyadong nagbibigay (not many spend)" for a vice presidential candidate's campaign.

Meanwhile, the senator also revealed on Friday that he and his wife's wedding reception back in Manila was sponsored by GMA Network, where Evangelista is a talent.

In March 2015, the network aired a two-part special on the couple's wedding. (IN PHOTOS: Heart Evangelista marries Chiz Escudero in romantic Balesin wedding denied) – Rappler.com