MANILA - Another lawmaker has likened President Aquino's meetings with senators in connection with the Corona impeachment trial to the "Hello Garci" phone conversations allegedly between then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to supposedly rig the 2004 presidential elections.
This, after Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz made the same analogy Tuesday.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate on Wednesday noted the impropriety of the meetings.
"Pwede kasi natin itong maihalintulad. Masama ba na ang isang presidente ay tumawag sa isang commissioner ng Comelec during the conduct of the election? Masama ba na 'Hello Garci, kumusta 'yung boto ko diyan?'" Zarate said. "Kung tingin natin masama yan, sa tingin ko merong problema din, masama din ang isang presidente ay makipag-usap sa isang senator-judge na merong pending na impeachment trial for a chief justice."
The "Hello Garci" scandal plunged Arroyo into political infamy which she never lived down. It also led to two failed impeachment attempts against her which were crushed by her congressional allies.
Aquino, on the other hand, met in 2012 with some senators supposedly to secure their votes to convict and oust Chief Justice Renato Corona from office through the Senate impeachment trial.
Zarate and 1BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello, however, couldn't say if this could also lead to Aquino's impeachment.
"At the least, impropriety doon, when the President who is very much interested in the impeachment, even the ouster of a sitting chief justice, ay makipag-usap sa isang senator-judge," Zarate said.
"Alam naman natin na under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, bawal yung ganon. When there is an indication na you are infuencing the outcome of halimbawa of an investigation. So, tama rin yung sinasabi ni Rep. Bello na talagang seryoso ito at kung ito ay hahantong nga sa isang usapin ng impeachment ay talagang dapat pag-aralan."
Bello said Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.'s allegations are "very serious."
"This should be addressed by no less than the President. Unfortunately, the statement or allegation of Senator Revilla has remained uncorroborated. Kaya hindi pa siguro hinog para maging basis for any impeachment complaint coming from the House of Representatives," he added.
Bello said Aquino's act might constitute betrayal of public trust.
"Betrayal of public trust iyan. Kasi pinakikialaman mo yung kaso na pending. Kakausapin mo yung mga senator-judges to influence the result of an impeachment proceeding. That is a very serious offense. Hindi iyun bribery," he said.
Zarate, for his part, said Aquino may have had different topics in his meetings with the senators.
"Kasi, pwede namang siya lang ang sinabihan nun na 'Pare, ibalato mo na sa akin iyan,' while in the others iba," he said. "Here is the president talking to senator judges."
Zarate thinks the President's defense is "very weak."
"Kailangan, maging accountable siya doon dahil hindi naman siya ordinaryong opisyal," he said.
Dela Cruz, meantime, has filed his resolution asking the House Committee on Good Government to investigate the meetings.