Tiangco bares pressure by Aquino allies in impeachment of CoronaBy Maila Ager
MANILA, Philippines–A congressman took the witness stand on Monday and exposed how allies of President Aquino in the House of Representatives allegedly used intimidation and undue influence to get the support for impeachment complaint of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Testifying before the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, Navotas Representative Tobias Tiangco narrated how the administration tried to pressure the members of the House to support the impeachment case against then Ombudsman Merceditas Guitterez.
Tiangco cited for example a text message supposedly of Congressman Emelio “Jun Abaya, chairman of the House committee on appropriation, that circulated, saying that those who would vote no on the impeachment of Gutierrez would get a “zero” PDAF or priority development assistance fund.
And when he voted against the impeachment, Tiangco claimed that his requests for funds for his projects received no response from Malacanang.
He said he wrote Budget Secretary Florencio Abad twice—on May 30 and June 27, 2011– but received no reply from Abad.
So when he decided to come out with a press release on this alleged refusal by Malacanang to grant his request to release his PDAF, Abad allegedly sent him a text message on July 13, 2011.
Tiangco said Abad’s text was: “I read your PR re your PDAF . On my own, I can’t withhold any legislator’s PDAF. I suggest, you find a way to talk to Pnoy, the Speaker can help you along this line.”
Tiangco said Pnoy being referred to in the text was President Aquino while the Speaker refers to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
Senate president and presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile then asked the defense lawyer, Dennis Manalo, about the relevance of the witness’s testimony in the ongoing trial of the Chief Justice.
“The witness is testifying as to the pressure that he received for the approval your honor of the impeachment complaint against Merceditas Gutierrez. We’re obviously proving that there’s a pattern, or a scheme or modus operandi with the majority in the House of Representatives to intimidate and exert due influence upon their other members to approve their measures such as this impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Corona,’ Manalo said.
Prosecution member and Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas objected to Manalo’s statement , saying the witness did not sign the complaint against Corona.
“This witness did not sign this complaint, your honor. So now he’s saying he was intimidated but he did not sign the complaint, “ said Farinas.
“So in the matter of the case against the Chief Justice, his testimony as to the Merceditas Gutierrez case has no relevance here,” he further said.
But Enrile allowed the defense lawyer’s statement,saying the Senate would give the defense team all the leeway to present its evidence.