Of course Sen. Bong Revilla has a lot to answer as far as his pork barrel and Janet Lim Napoles are concerned. Sure, his much-hyped privilege speech failed to give us a point by point refutation of the allegations against him. And yes, he may have been diverting the issue.
But by golly, that was a first class pampasabog he unleashed on the Senate floor yesterday (June 20).
First a recap of what we know so far from Revilla’s speech and the Palace’s reaction to it:
– Pres. Aquino personally met not only with Sen. Bong Revilla but several other senator-judges regarding the then ongoing impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
– Mar Roxas and Butch Abad were in those apparently clandestine meetings, with Roxas sometimes personally driving the car used to ferry the senators in and out of the Palace;
– Revilla says the President pleaded for him to vote for Corona’s conviction as a “balato.” Aquino says he merely wanted to verify intel reports that the senators were being pressured and persuaded by various groups to acquit Corona and to help try to ease that pressure. Particular for Revilla, Aquino said he also wanted to discuss concerns about the cityhood of Bacoor (where Revilla’s brother Strike is mayor) as well as Revilla’s recent election as president of the Lakas party.
President’s ‘lobby” bordering on bribery
That the President personally lobbied with the senators for the impeachment of Corona may not be illegal per se. It may even be expected, given the political nature of the impeachment process and the fact that the President had put his leadership on the line for this.
But to hold clandestine, one on one meetings with the senator-judges accompanied by two of the most powerful cabinet members is something else.
Aquino’s words as quoted by Revilla – “Pare, parang awa mo na. Ibalato mo na sa akin ito. Kailangan siyang ma-impeach.” – shows the President so desperate as to resort to old boys club techniques that he probably mastered in Congress. Aquino’s groveling at Revilla’s feet was probably due to the series of embarrassing bunglings of the impeachment prosecutors led by his Liberal Party stalwarts – remember the “little lady” fiasco?
But this was not a simple personal appeal. With the President in these meetings with the senators was Butch Abad who, as head of the Department of Budget Management (DBM), has the last say on where government money is spent. Also present was Roxas who, other than being an occassional chauffer, heads the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) under which you have the Philippine National Police and all local government units.
Neither Revilla nor Aquino say they discussed the merits of the case. After all, the trial was still ongoing. So what did they talk about? What could the President and the DBM and DILG secretaries possibly do to “ease the pressure” of the pro-Corona groups on Revilla and his fellow senators?
Aquino himself told the media: “Palagay ko naman na natural lang na itanong ko sa kanila, iconfirm ko at maparamdam sa kanila na meron ding iba – na kung gagawin nila ang tama – ay handang sumuporta sa kanila (I think it is just natural that I ask them, I confirm and tell them that if they do the right thing, there are people who will support them),” the President said.
If you find that too cryptic, here’s the translation: “If you vote to impeach Corona, don’t worry about the Iglesia ni Kristo. We will give you additional pork barrel funds courtesy of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). We will also help you tap the PNP and LGUs in the next elections. As far as Bacoor is concerned, don’t worry, we will support you all the way. As for your heading Lakas and running for vice president in 2016, let’s see where we can help each other.”
And so Corona was impeached, senators got their DAP, and Bacoor achieved cityhood without any hitch.
Unfortunately Janet Lim Napoles and Benhur Luy quarelled and opened a giant can of worms so big and despicable that no amount of news management and damage control could stop the public from demanding restitution.
The rest, shall we say, is history.#