MANILA - An official of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Tuesday claimed President Aquino didn't just talk to Senator Bong Revilla but met with other senators to secure their votes for the conviction of then Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial.
Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said aside from Revilla, he knows of at least one more senator and heard of more senators who also had meetings with Aquino together with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad.
Tiangco neither confirmed nor denied if the other senator is his UNA partymate Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
"Tanungin niyo sino sa kanila," he said.
Tiangco said Revilla and the other senator were met separately by the President.
He also said the other senators were also met separately.
"Kinausap, lampas dalawa. May ibang venue saan kinausap na senador. Hindi lang sa Malacanang," he said. Basta always in a discreet manner."
Asked if Roxas and Abad were present in all the meetings, Tiangco said, "Minsan hindi. Basta andun si President Aquino. Sa mga alam kong kinausap, andun si President Aquino."
Tiangco earlier revealed that congressmen suddenly impeached Corona in 2011 after just being shown the complaint the same day they voted and sent him for trial before the Senate.
Twenty senators voted to oust Corona from the Supreme Court while only 3 voted to keep him.
He only needed 7 votes to stay in office. Four more votes would have spelled the difference.
Tiangco said Revilla's speech gave a "new dimension" to Senator Jinggoy Estrada's claim that senators were given P50 million in projects during and after the Corona impeachment trial.
Revilla, in his speech, said Aquino asked him to convict Corona as a form of "balato."
Tiangco said Revilla's speech was not the first time he heard of meetings of some senators in connection with the impeachment. He, however, refused to name any more senators.
He said he understands why Revilla chose to reveal his meeting with Aquino, Roxas, and Abad just now. "Kayo, sasabihin mo ba tungkol sa President? Madali ba sabihin lalo na kung alam mo Presidente bengatibo? Madali ba iyun?"
"Siguro, nakita ni Senator Revilla, nagising siya sa katotohanan na pinupuntriya siya at naisip na kung iligal na pamamaraan ginawa kay Corona , gagawin sa kaniya lahat ng paraan malagay siya sa kulungan."
Tiangco also criticized Aquino for denying that he lobbied for the impeachment when Corona's ouster was his advocacy.
An ally of President Aquino, however, saw nothing wrong with the alleged meeting of Aquino and Revilla, since impeachment is a political exercise.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said, "You have to emphasize, impeachment is political. It's a class by itself, therefore, the rules of court in so far as the conduct of a judge would not be applicable. It's okay. Assuming it happened, pagka't iba naman ang impeachment at trial sa husgado, there are certain rules of conduct in so far as judges and those rules are not applicable. There is voluntariness on the part of judge or juror."
Barzaga said it doesn't violate the constitutional separation of powers.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said it's now a matter of Revilla's words versus the words of the administration personalities.
"Iyung accusation ni Bong, mahirap patulan," he said. "May sinasabi siya, dinedeny ni Mar at ni President Aquino."
"Mahalaga sa sinabi ni Senator Revilla, at the end of day, ang desisyon was on his appreciation of the impeachment proceedings. Sinabi niya, 'susundin ko kung ano ang tama.' I'll assume when he voted to convict CJ Corona, it was on basis if his appreciation of what is right."
Gonzales advised those who think Aquino committed an impeachable act to just file an impeachment complaint. "Whoever thinks impeachable, bahala sila mag-file, we will assess the allegation based on what is provided."
Tiangco, meanwhile, alleged that Aquino's actions constitute bribery, which is an impeachable offense. However, he recognized the futility of impeaching Aquino given the numerical superiority of Aquino's allies in Congress. All but about 30 congressmen belong to the administration.
He has been a critic of President Aquino although UNA's Vice-President Jejomar Binay sits in the Aquino Cabinet.
Binay is a declared presidential candidate in the 2016 elections wherein he is expected to face off with Roxas, whom he defeated in the 2010 vice presidential race. Roxas has not made his plans known.