MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday personally confirmed that he met with Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and other senators to talk about the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“What I was trying to do was basically ensure that they decide the case on the merits of the case rather than any other outside factors,” the President said during an ambush interview at the Insurance Commission’s 65th anniversary celebration in Manila.
Aquino said the seemingly secret meeting was to ease the pressure on the senators by other sectors weighing in on Corona’s impeachment.
The President said Revilla was only “one of them,” adding that he separately met with Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Teofisto Guingona III. He said the list may also include Senator Ralph Recto but he would have to consult his notes.
“He (Revilla) was one of them. Can I consult my notes…But it was Senator Jinggoy (Estrada) also, Senator Guingona. Sino pa nga ba? Probably Senator Recto. Not the majority of them if I recall correctly,” he said.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas met with Revilla first to facilitate a more “convivial atmosphere” since the two worked closely in the past, he said.
“Si Secretary Roxas, mas nakakausap nya itong..never ko nakapartido, never ko nakasama sa alyansa. Mas matagal rin nyang nakahalubilo sa Senado,” Aquino said.
To ease pressure
Aquino reiterated that he met with the senators to “lessen” the pressures on all of them.
“Ang daming mga reports na confirmed na may mga sectors na ang bigat ng pressure na ineexert dito sa mga senador na i-decide yung kaso hindi sa merito ng kaso. Ang sinasabi i-exonerate nyo si Corona at ito ang mapapala ninyo (There were a lot of confirmed reports of sectors exerting tremendous pressure on the senators to not decide based on the merit of the case. They are saying that Corona should be exonerated in exchange for something),” he explained.
The President said he felt it was wrong to watch by the sidelines as those “sectors” put pressure on the lawmakers.
“Palagay ko naman na natural lang na itanong ko sa kanila, iconfirm ko at maparamdam sa kanila na meron ding iba – na kung gagawin nila ang tama – ay handang sumuporta sa kanila (I think it is just natural that I ask them, I confirm and tell them that if they do the right thing, there are people who will support them),” he said.
Revilla, in a privilege speech on Monday, accused the President of meddling in the impeachment of Corona. He denied that he had anything to do with the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)
Aquino said he expected the Senator to explain his side and his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
“Na-accuse sya. Gusto mo marinig ang panig nya. At inaasahan mo yun ang tutugunan nya (He was accused. You want to hear his side. And you are expecting that he would respond),” he said.
The Palace earlier told media that Revilla’s privilege speech would have been a “good opportunity” to respond to questions on what happened to his PDAF allocations for 2007 to 2009.
“What the people heard and saw yesterday (Monday) was a plain attempt to divert public attention from the real issue,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma had said.
No support from Revilla
During the interview, Aquino revealed that Revilla had in the past repeatedly pledged his support to the President.
He said the Senator would tell him to forget the past, the fact that they were never allies, and to instead expect his support in the future.
“ Tapos dumating sa isang punto na parang hindi ko nadadama yung kanyang suporta sa ating (mga) panukala (bilang Presidente). At itinanong ko sa kanya kung dapat ko pang antayin yung hinaharap… (Yung) support in the future na (sinasabi nya),” Aquino said, referring to an “exchange of text messages” between them.
(Then it came to a point when I did not feel that he was supporting my proposals. I asked him if I should still wait for the future…the future support he promised.)
The President said Revilla did not reply.