The minority bloc in the House of Representatives will not endorse an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino 3rd that is based on Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s allegations that the President tried to persuade the senator to vote for the conviction of former chief justice Renato Corona.
Malacañang on Wednesday said the President did not commit any impeachable offense. Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino had every right to appeal to the senators to stand by their obligations.
But the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) demanded that the President reveal the names of the senators he met with at that time.
Party-list Reps. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna said they cannot build an impeachment case based on the statements of Revilla.
“His allegations are serious, but so far, they are uncorroborated so I would say such [a speech]is not ripe for an impeachment complaint. If the same claims were to be made by other senator-judges of the Corona trial, then that would be dangerous [to the President],” Bello told reporters.
“We can’t just take the word of Senator Revilla,” he added.
Zarate agreed that Revilla’s claims were not enough to spark an impeachment complaint. However, he said Aquino should apologize for the impropriety of his meeting with Revilla.
The President has admitted meeting with Revilla and three other senators—Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Teofisto Guingona 3rd and Ralph Recto. Estrada is from UNA, while Guingona and Recto belong to the Liberal Party chaired by Aquino.
The President, however, denied that he influenced the senator and argued that he was just trying to verify reports that they were being pressured by various sectors.
Aquino “should apologize [for meeting with the senators]. No matter how you look at it, it is unsettling that he met with the judges because from the beginning, he was very open that he wanted Corona ousted from office. That is clear influencing,” Zarate said.
But Malacañang said the President’s secret meeting with the senators is not an impeachable offense.
“There is no contradiction between his public and his private statements. The President has every right to make those appeals precisely to caution against deciding not on the merits, which would have been a disservice to the country,” Lacierda said.
However, he said if an impeachment complaint is filed, the Palace will respect it.
“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.
Aquino also found an unlikely ally in Sen. Estrada, who admitted he had breakfast with the President.
Estrada said it was Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas who did all the talking about the impeachment case while Aquino merely listened.
Also present at the meeting was Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, the senator
Estrada said he could not recall Roxas’ exact words but the Cabinet secretary “appealed” to him regarding the Corona case.
Asked if he felt pressured at that time, Estrada just said, “Of course when you’re before the President, you’re always pressured.”
UNA Secretary General and Navotas Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco said Aquino owed the public an explanation for meeting with the four senators.
“It seems that the Liberal Party and the administration have perfected the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Those they cannot entice with public funds, they threaten or harass,” Tiangco said.
He added that Abad’s presence at Aquino’s meeting with Revilla confirmed reports on additional “rewards” given to those who voted to convict Corona.
With a report from Ritchie Horario