DILGSecretary Mar Roxas, President Aquino and Sentor Bong Revilla. Composite Photo
Bong is lying, says Mar
MANILA - President Aquino and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas on Monday fired back at Sen. Bong Revilla, saying the senator was deliberately misleading the people away from the issue of the pork barrel scam by accusing the President of meddling in the 2012 impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In separate statements, both the President and Roxas confirmed Revilla's accusation that he met with Aquino, Roxas and Secretary Butch Abad in Malacañang sometime in 2012.
According to Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma, Aquino met with Revilla to "verify persistent reports that the senators were being pressured by interest groups to influence the outcome of the impeachment trial."
"[The President] asked the senator to decide the case on the basis of its merits. The senator said he will do what is right and he voted to convict then Chief Justice Corona," he said.
Coloma said the main issue of the pork barrel scam "is the proper use of public funds for which Senator Revilla is accountable."
He said it is Revilla's duty "to start explaining to our people how his [Priority Development Assistance Fund] allocation was actually spent."
Separately, Roxas also confirmed the meeting but said it was Revilla who called for the meeting to discuss the alleged cityhood of Bacoor and the senator's own plan to become president of the Lakas political party.
His statement, however, did not confirm if the matter of Corona's impeachment case was taken up during the meeting.
Revilla is accused of pocketing more than P200 million of his pork barrel by funneling his pork barrel funds to fake non-government organizations founded by Janet Lim Napoles.
Revilla, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile are facing plunder raps filed by the National Bureau of Investigation in connection with the scam.
In his privilege speech, Revilla denied any links to the alleged scam and said the documents allocating his pork barrel to Napoles NGOs bore forged signatures.
He also accused the President and Roxas of interfering with the Corona impeachment trial by allegedly begging him to convict the Chief Justice.
"Pare, parang awa mo na. Ibalato mo na sa akin ito. Kailangan siyang ma-impeach," Revilla accused the President as saying.
Revilla said he felt pressured by the President but that he made no promises.
"I will do what is right. Kailangan manindigan sa tama at gagawin ko ang tama para sa bayan," he allegedly told Aquino.
Revilla was one of the senators who voted to remove Corona from office during the impeachment.
In the press briefing, Coloma denied that the meeting with Revilla was clandestine, noting that Bahay Pangarap - where the meeting took place - is the official residence of the President.
He said many groups were attempting to influence the senators during the impeachment trial, which prompted Aquino to meet with Revilla.
He also said the President never asked Revilla to vote to convict Corona. "Wala pong salitang 'ibalato mo sa akin ito.' Wala po," he said.
He said he does not know if the President talked to any other senator about the Corona impeachment trial.
The Palace secretary said the issue of the pork barrel scam does not involve just small amounts but millions of pesos in taxpayers' money. In its complaint, the National Bureau of Investigation said Revilla allocated P503.69 million of his pork barrel to eight questionable NGOs from 2007 to 2009.
Coloma also rebuffed Revilla's claim that the President would try to influence the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan with regards to the pork scam cases. He said Aquino respects the independence of the Ombudsman.
Galit sa mundo si Kap
For his part, Roxas twitted Revilla for being "galit sa mundo (angry with the world)" especially since there are Commission on Audit documents that would prove that the senator is guilty.
"Naiintindindihan ko kung bakit galit si Sen. Bong Revilla sa mundo. Mahirap ang sitwasyon niya na may testigong at COA documents nagapapatunay ng koneksyon niya sa Napoles scam. Pero hindi solusyon sa problema niya ang paglilihis ng isyu, pagbaluktot sa katotohanan at panloloko ng tao," he said.
Roxas said that instead of diverting the issue, Revilla should answer the charges of the whistle-blowers and debunk documents that allegedly link him to the Napoles scam.
Regarding the meeting in Malacañang, Roxas said it is normal for the President to meet with top officials in the country.
He pointed out that as former colleagues in the Senate, he helped Revilla to go to Aquino to discuss the senator's leadership of Lakas and the cityhood of Bacoor.
Roxas confirmed that he brought Revilla to Bahay Pangarap, using his own vehicle.
"Noong oras na iyon, wala sa Malakanyang at nasa Bahay Pangarap ang pangulo. Para matugunan ang reglamento ng [Presidential Security Group] at hindi na maaberya si Senator Bong, ako na ang nagmaneho ng sasakyan papunta sa Bahay Pangarap," he said.
The interior and local government secretary denied that he removed the license plate of his vehicle before the meeting in Malacanang. He said he never used official plates on his vehicles during his time as congressman, senator and even now as a Cabinet Secretary.
"Kasinungalingan ang sinabi niya na tinanggal ko ang plaka ng sasakyan ko bago kami pumunta sa Bahay Pangarap. Hindi talaga ako gumagamit ng official plate. Hindi ito nakakabit sa sasakyan ko. Ang ginagamit ko ay ang regular na plaka na iniisyu ng LTO. Kahit na sino ang nakakakilala sa akin nang matagal, hindi ako gumamit nang otso na plaka noong kongresman , siyete noong senador at sais nang Cabinet Secretary. Hindi ko nakaugalian na ikabit ito sa aking sasakyan," he said.