President Benigno Aquino III met with the big guns of the Liberal Party, including the leader and spokespersons of the prosecution team at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, at the LP’s 66th-anniversary celebration on Friday night.
The President was the guest of honor at the celebration held at the ruling party’s “Balay” headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City, where he met with the chief prosecutor, Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., and the team spokespersons, Representatives Lorenzo Tañada III and Romero Quimbo.
The LP’s four senators—Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona III—were no-shows.
In a text message to the Inquirer, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a senior political adviser of the President and an LP stalwart, said the senators had “sent word that even if the event is purely social, they deemed it prudent to skip [it] so as to avoid any accusations of bias or partiality in the ongoing impeachment trial.”
Asked if the President had told the party members in the prosecution team to improve their performance in the trial, Abad said: “No. He didn’t.
“But he did emphasize the importance of succeeding in the impeachment to advance reforms in good governance.”
Earlier, members of Corona’s defense team said that as a senator-judge, Drilon had aided the prosecution on the matter of the submission to the impeachment court of Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).
Getting truth out
On the phone with the Inquirer, Abad said the President was upbeat when he met with Tupas et al.
“Pretty much,” he said when asked whether Mr. Aquino was happy that Supreme Court Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal was compelled to submit Corona’s SALNs to the impeachment court and that the deeds of sale of some of the properties linked to the Chief Justice’s family were made public.
Mr. Aquino told the officers and members of the party that he chairs “that at the end of the day, what matters is [getting] the truth out,” Abad said, adding:
“And he said the attempt to obscure or hide the truth is evident by just a cursory examination of the Chief Justice’s SALNs, deeds of sale, and land and condominium titles.
“He thinks that the prosecution will get its rhythm going as the trial progresses, especially with the gains made in the first four days of trial.”
But despite his upbeat mood, the President did not congratulate the prosecutors for their apparent early victories, according to Abad.
“No. He impressed upon partymates how crucial success in the impeachment trial is to his campaign for good governance and for creating an environment conducive to investment,” Abad said.
He said Mr. Aquino then went on to enumerate the initial gains on the economic front.
Laying ground for reforms
In his speech at the anniversary celebration, the President said Corona’s impeachment was one of the LP’s brightest moments.
Abad said the President also asked his partymates to be four-square behind Corona’s prosecutors.
“Last December, I and our Liberal congressmen, along with other congressmen who may not be Liberal in name but are liberal in heart and in deed, got together,” Mr. Aquino said.
He said these lawmakers were vital in laying the groundwork for reforms in the judiciary.
“I mentioned that gathering because it was one of the brightest indications that the Liberal Party would be steadfast,” the President said in Filipino.
“We will not betray our duty, we will not stray from the path of principle, and we will be faithful to our countrymen,” he said.
In December, the House of Representatives, with 188 signatories, endorsed to the Senate the articles of impeachment against Corona.
The President subsequently met in a hotel in Mandaluyong City with members of the House majority that signed the impeachment complaint, led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales, both LP members.
In his speech, Mr. Aquino also managed to react to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s paper criticizing his economic policies.
“What has changed? Where is the renewed confidence in our economy that is generating jobs and opportunities for Filipinos coming from? It’s clear. Our culture and system in the Philippines are already changing,” he said. “These are the real objectives of our reforms.”
Pacquiao et al.
World boxing champion Manny Pacquiao was present at the party, as was actor Cesar Montano, who also served as emcee of the program.
Also in attendance were some of the LP’s leading lights: its president, Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas; Speaker Belmonte; Nereus Acosta, Mr. Aquino’s adviser on environmental concerns; Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo; and Joel Villanueva, director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Representatives Rodolfo Biazon and Joseph Abaya were present, along with League of Governors president Alfonso Umali, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, and Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Former Tarlac Rep. Hermie Aquino showed up as well.
The President did not leave the party without singing one of his favorites, “Estudyante Blues,” a song popularized by Freddie Aguilar. He was joined onstage by Villanueva, Umali and Hataman.
First posted 12:00 am | Sunday, January 22nd, 2012