As it turns out now, then Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona didn’t have a chance in the impeachment trial. It was all a charade, a tele-novela by the Senate and the administration. To use that biting Pilipino term, “pera-pera lang pala,” (“It was all about money.”)
President Aquino bought the senators’ votes to find Corona guilty, using the pork barrel system, called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). In his privilege speech last week, Senator Jinggoy Estrada claimed that after the conviction of the former chief justice, those who voted to convict were allotted an additional P50 million” in pork barrel funds.
What he didn’t disclose, probably since it would incriminate him as well, is that a few weeks and even days before the Senate decision on May 29, 2012, with only a trickle of such releases in the first quarter of the year, President Aquino and his Budget Secretary Florencio Abad released P559 million to 12 senators to ensure that they get the required two-thirds vote to convict Corona.
Hours after Estrada made the accusation, Senate President Franklin Drilon said: “What I remember was during the four-month Corona trial, no PDAF was released by Malacañang precisely to avoid suspicions that funds were being peddled to influence the trial.” Abad toed that propaganda line: “We were careful not to make (PDAF) releases before, during or after the trial.” (Emphasis mine.)
Drilon was lying. And Abad is a bad liar, since the data on the date and amount of releases of PDAF funds are posted in his department’s website. I accessed the information there to come up with the accompanying table.
PDAF releases just before the May 29 decision amounted to a minimum of P20 million in the case of Senator Trillanes to as huge as P98 million for Senator Francis Escudero. Senator Lito Lapid—who said during the trial that he understood the issue only after the “pizza pie” depiction of Corona’s wealth – got P50 million in pork barrel funds on May 8.
Sadly, even a billionaire such as Senator Manuel Villar still availed himself of Aquino’s “incentives”, which for him totaled P49 million, released on May 18. Senators crossed party lines for Aquino’s “incentive”: Senator Ramon Revilla, who could have been the opposition Lakas-Kampi party’s presidential candidate for 2016 got P86 million of his pork barrel on May 4, the second biggest PDAF release after Escudero’s.
Even as he was one of Aquino’s loyal strategists, and even as he acted practically as a prosecutor in the impeachment trial, Senator Drilon wouldn’t be left behind in the distribution of incentives, and had P40 million of his pork barrel released April 24 and May 22.
Estrada, who claimed that the “incentives’ were doled out after the Senate decision, actually got P50 million of his pork barrel released May 8.
The other senators who voted against Corona and who got their PDAF released just before the May 29 decision are: Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the Presiding Judge in the trial, P54 million, on April 19 and May 11; Pia Cayetano, P55 million on May 5; Gregorio Honasan, P42 million on April 23.
However, unlike the “money-down-first” senators, there were a few who trusted Aquino to release their funds even after the Senate decision. Angara got P58 million of his PDAF released a few days after Corona’s ouster, on June 5, while Antonio Trillianes 4th got his P38 million on June 26. Sen. Teofisto Guingona got P153 million or two-thirds of his P229 pork barrel on three dates in July. Then-Majority Floor Leader Sen. Vicente Sotto got his P50-million pork released on July 26.
To their credit, Senators Alan Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda and Sergio Osmeña 3rd—who voted against Corona—had very little or zero of their pork barrel funds released just before the Senate decision and got their PDAF releases many months after. Osmeña 3rd for instance got all of his PDAF funds only in December, and was even half of his P200-million allocation.
Miriam Defensor-Santiago had no PDAF funds released in April and May, although another senator who voted to acquit Corona, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. , got P15 million released on May 5. Senators Joker Arroyo and Panfilo Lacson had made it their policy as senators not to touch a centavo of their PDAF allocations.
Very significant is the fact that it is only Drilon among the senators who has denied that the pork barrel system was used to ensure Corona’s conviction. On the other hand, not only Estrada, but two other senators, Lacson who is an ally of Aquino, and Marcos made the same allegations that the pork barrel fund was used to buy-off senators to vote against Corona. Lacson even said the amount to be released was announced in a Senate caucus, while Estrada cited a confidential document promising the funds. An administration ally, Senator Guingona 3rd, admitted he got the P50-million pork barrel immediately after the Corona trial.
Perhaps it’s because of Aquino’s tight hold on media, but what Aquino and the Senate did was so outrageous that people should be in the streets now to demand not only his resignation but also to set up a revolutionary government, so we can begin from the beginning and construct a new system.
Can you find or imagine anything else so shameful, grossly wrong, and such a betrayal of the nation as the Executive buying off the Legislature—using people’s money—to remove the head of the Judicial branch of government? Janet Lim-Napoles took advantage of a weak system to siphon governments to her pocket. Aquino is wrecking the very structure of our republican system consisting of three independent branches of the state.
There’s more horrific news. It turns out now that it is not only the PDAF that was used to buy off senators in Corona’s impeachment.
Aquino and Abad invented another budget item not in the 2012 Appropriations Act called the “Disbursement Acceleration Program“ (DAP) to allow the quick release of promised funds for the senators who voted against Corona. According to Abad himself, P1 billion from this DAP funds were given as additional pork-barrel type of funds to the 20 senators a few months after they convicted Corona.
More on that on Wednesday.
www.rigobertotiglao.com and www.trigger.ph