Aquino confirms meeting with Revilla

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday broke his silence on the allegation of Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. that he attempted to influence the senator in the impeachment hearing of ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Aquino granted an interview at the sidelines of the 65th anniversary of the Insurance Commission in Manila.

The Chief Executive explained that prior to his meeting with Revilla at Bahay Pangarap, in almost every instance that he saw the senator since he became the President, the latter would always tell him to expect his support.

"Ito and parati niyang sinasabi sa akin mula 'nung naging Pangulo ako. Tapos dumating sa isang punto na parang hindi ko nadadama 'yung kanyang suporta sa lahat ng aking mga panukala at itinanong ko sa kanya kung dapat ko pang hintayin 'yung hinaharap, 'yung support in the future na pinapangako niya, and he didn't respond," he recalled.

"This was an exchange of text messages quite a while back, and after that, wala na rin kaming masyadong contact. Parang, if at all, from their camp ang nagte-text sa akin, especially during the last elections and prior to the election day, si Congresswoman Lani Mercado," the President said, referring to Revilla's wife.

And when the impeachment hearing came, he said he received reports regarding some sectors wanting to pressure the senators to exonerate Corona and they promised something to the lawmakers.

"So tama ba naman na hindi -- 'yun bang tatabi na lang ako habang lahat itong mga sektor na ito ay talagang nananakot, nagpi-pressure, kung anu-ano ang ginagawa doon sa mga senador?" Aquino explained.

The President said that he believed it was only natural to ask the senators about the supposed pressure and to let them feel that if they did the right thing, there was someone who was ready to support them.

"If I can just add, ano, parang napaka-irresponsible ko naman kung pababayaan ko na lang 'yung nagpi-pressure sa kanilang lahat na hindi naman tutugunan...'Yung parang -- ano ba tawag doon? -- pang-counter dito sa pressure na ginagawa," he added.

Apart from Revilla, the President said he also talked with other senators, among them Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III, and Ralph Recto.

He could not remember how many senators he talked with as he has to check his records first.

He reiterated that his talking with some senators during the height of Corona's impeachment process was to "ensure that they decide the case on the merits of the case rather than any other outside factor."

Asked that his action could also be construed as pressuring Revilla, the President said, "We were trying to lessen the pressures on all of them."

He also said that he asked Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II to pick up Revilla and bring him to Bahay Pangarap, his official residence, because his Cabinet official was "more diplomatic" and he had long experience working with Revilla when he was also a senator.

"Secretary Roxas facilitated, parang a more convivial atmosphere rather than sa akin na automatic parang formal," he said.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz sees nothing new in the issue of collusion between Aquino and several members of Congress during the impeachment trial of Corona, saying the verdict on the former Chief Justice was greatly influenced by the Aquino Administration

"Yung sinabi ni Senator Revilla ay alam naman na natin yun. Hindi na bago yun. Ang pera [noong panahon na iyon] ay kumalat para sa impeachment ni former CJ Corona," Cruz said.

Cruz said that it is obvious the impeachment process was railroaded by the allies of the Aquino administration and noted that several lawmakers, particularly members of the prosecution panel, weren't aware of the merit and content of the complaint.

Meanwhile, in an earlier press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that Revilla should have told the people how he spent his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation instead of diverting the real issue to the impeachment of Corona.

"The privilege speech of Senator Revilla could have been a good opportunity for responding to the people’s clamor for a full explanation on what happened to the PDAF allocation that he received from 2007-2009," he said.

"What the people heard and saw was a plain attempt to divert public attention from the real issue. As an elected public official, the senator is expected to fully account for the PDAF allocation that he received," he added.

The main issue is PDAF and the people's right to know where Revilla spent his PDAF allocation, Coloma said.

The public is awaiting the outcome of Ombudsman's review of the complaints filed by the Department of Justice and the answer of the respondents.

Aside from Revilla, other senators who were implicated in the pork barrel scam were Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada. Estrada delivered his privilege speech on the issue last year. (SDR/John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

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