Palace shrugs off possible impeachment case vs Aquino

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

MALACANANG on Wednesday shrugged off the possible impeachment complaint that could be initiated by Cavite Representative Lani Mercado, wife of Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., against President Benigno Aquino III.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the filing of an impeachment complaint against the President was entirely up to Mercado's discretion.

"Let's wait for the complaint to be filed and we will leave it with the House to decide on the matter as to the merits of an impeachment complaint, if any," he said in a press briefing.

But "personally" and based on "a number of authorities," he said that there was no impeachable offense that Aquino committed when he talked with some senators, including Revilla, regarding the impeachment process of ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Revilla, in a privilege speech last Monday, said that Aquino tried to influence him to vote for Corona's impeachment during their meeting at Bahay Pangarap, the official residence of the President, during the height of the impeachment hearing against the then chief magistrate.

"Whether Congresswoman Lani Mercado would pursue that, it's entirely up to her discretion, and whether the House as a body would agree, let them decide on the impeachment complaint," Lacierda said.

He also refused to say if it would be morally right if Mercado would be the one to initiate the impeachment complaint against the President.

"I think hindi ko masasagot kung ano ang magiging motivation ni Congresswoman [Mercado] or I am not in a position to judge whether it is moral or not," he said.

Lacierda reiterated that the President move to talk to some senators, not only to Revilla, during Corona's impeachment hearing was to "put less pressure" on them after receiving intelligence reports that some groups were exerting efforts to influence the senator judges to exonerate the chief justice.

Aside from Revilla, the President admitted that he also talked with Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III and Ralph Recto regarding Corona's impeachment.

Asked on the Palace's assessment on the reaction of the public between Aquino and Revilla and who could be more credible between the two, Lacierda initially refused to answer, saying it would be self-serving.

But later, he said, "As far as I am concerned, I trust my President, I approve my President, and this is my President. I will stand by my President."

On observations that the "attacks" against the President were the critics' way to discredit him, including whoever he would endorse for the 2016 elections, Lacierda cited that up to now, Aquino still enjoys "unprecedented" approval ratings.

"Way past midterm, his numbers are still in the 70s. If you look at other heads of states, past midterm, their numbers are already in the 40s. It shows that the President has the trust of the people, has the faith of the people, and has the people behind him," he said.

"And so, therefore, whoever the President will endorse… The power of the President’s endorsement is lethal. It is effective and that's the reason why the—whoever the President would anoint, would certainly have an advantage," Lacierda said.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, a former trial court judge, earlier said the President did not commit a crime if he just tried to influence the outcome of the impeachment trial, which is both legal and political. (SDR/Sunnex)

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