Did Aquino commit an impeachable offense?
MANILA, Philippines—Did President Aquino commit an impeachable offense by meeting with senators in an alleged effort to influence the outcome of the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012?
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. on Tuesday said the President’s action was “impeachable,” but fellow Sen. Ralph Recto thought otherwise.
Revilla on Monday said he met with Aquino and quoted the President as asking him to vote for the conviction of Corona. Aquino on Tuesday admitted that he had also met with three other senators including Recto, who confirmed that he had sat down with the President at Bahay Pangarap.
“I do believe it’s impeachable. The President should not have meddled in those things, especially with us senator-judges,” Revilla told reporters.
Revilla on Tuesday challenged the President and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to face him in public to determine who was telling the truth. “Let’s look into each other’s eyes and may lightning strike whoever is lying,” he said.
Recto said he did not see Aquino as meddling, claiming the meeting was “a political process in the Liberal Party with the President, so there [was] no reason for us not to talk about many things.”
“I did speak with the President before regarding the impeachment—nothing new with that,” he said. “[But] I don’t think [there was] anything irregular [in that]. I told him I would do the right thing.”
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago floated the idea of a judicial review of the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in light of Revilla’s allegations.
“I believe that the Supreme Court can give due course to a petition for review on certiorari, on the ground of extrinsic fraud, which was committed outside the narratives of the trial,” said Santiago, who was one of the three senator-judges who voted to acquit Corona.
“It is not a crime for the President to try to influence the outcome, because an impeachment trial is both legal and political in nature,” she said in a statement.
As head of the Liberal Party, Aquino “has the right to assure his political survival,” she said.
“If he bribed the senator-judges to convict the accused, then he is guilty of bribery as prohibited by law and as a ground for his own impeachment under the Constitution,” Santiago said.
Last September, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that 20 senators were given a total of P1.107 billion in extra pork barrel within a month after they voted to convict Corona. This was after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said that P50 million in additional pork was given as an “incentive” to each senator who voted for Corona’s ouster.
“If evidence shows that Malacañang paid these amounts to the senator-judges as consideration for a guilty verdict, then the crime of bribery has been committed, both by the President and by the senators,” Santiago warned.
Abad earlier claimed that the additional amount given to senators had been made available through the so-called Disbursment Acceleration Program (DAP), which is now being questioned in the Supreme Court.
Said Santiago: “I hope the Supreme Court [would] give priority to petitions concerning the constitutionality of the DAP, to help settle the burning issue of bribery of an impeachment court.”
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