MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang admitted on Monday that President Benigno Aquino III “touched base” with Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, with the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona foremost in the discussion.
Talks of the meeting surfaced early this morning, especially after the Palace did not inform the media of the schedule between Aquino and the influential religious group at the latter’s offices.
This comes amid reports alleging that the INC has been lobbying for the acquittal of Corona among senator-judges, especially those linked with Vice President Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance.
In a press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda denied they kept the information and has, in fact, come out in the open to disclose and admit to the news.
He admitted the timing was suspect amid news of lobbying, but he said there is nothing irregular in the meeting.
“It was just to touch base with the INC,” he said, even if Aquino has admitted to explaining his reasons for backing the impeachment of Corona.
He said both leaders already tried to come up with a schedule even during the Holy Week, but both were very busy. A schedule was finally met this morning, he said.
Asked why Aquino had to explain his position, Lacierda said “it was a burning issue of the day.”
He said it was not uncommon for any president to reach out to the influential group. He said it is not Aquino who will decide Corona’s case but the senator judges.
He said the INC has been a big help during Aquino’s campaign first in the senatorial elections, and then his presidential campaign.
It was Aquino who went to the INC headquarters, which has always been the practice, he added. He described the relationship between INC and the administration as “warm.”
He said Aquino, along with other Cabinet officials, also reached out to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines three months ago.
He said he will check Aquino’s schedule if he intends to meet with other religious groups.