MANILA - President Benigno Aquino has denied asking a favor from opposition Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. to vote to convict then impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Aquino, in a one-on-one interview with Boy Abunda that aired Tuesday night on newscast "Bandila," said it is not his way to ask someone for "balato," contrary to allegations made by Revilla during his Senate privilege speech Monday.
"It's not my dialogue. Anong hinihingi ko, balato? Nagsabong ba siya at nanalo siya? This is a serious no," the President said.
"There seems to be that notion that there are people who are above the law. So 'di balatuhan ang usapan doon. We believe we have a strong case," he added.
Revilla, in his privilege speech, accused Aquino and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas of interfering in the impeachment of Corona, which led to the latter's ouster in 2012.
He claimed that the President told him, "Pare, parang awa mo na. Ibalato mo na sa akin ito. Kailangan siyang ma-impeach."
Revilla said he felt pressured by the President but 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.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has accused the opposition senator of earning more than P224.5 million in kickbacks from businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in the pork barrel scam. Revilla has denied involvement in the scam.
Aquino, meanwhile, said he did not try to influence Revilla in the Corona impeachment trial vote.
"Sige, how do you pressure a senator?" he asked. "Ang description nga ng Senate is 24 kingdoms eh."
"Bakit kami nag-meet? Ang daming report nun na nagsasabi, ang daming pressure group na nagpipilit sa mga senator na bumoto not on the merits, facts, basta suportahan lang si Corona or else," Aquino said.
"Pwede ko bang hayaan na lang ng ganun? Di tayo magkaroon ng katarungan?" he added.
Aquino said Revilla did right in voting for Corona's ouster.
"Ako, in that particular vote, I think ginawa niya ang tama," he said. "So what is he now saying, mali yung ginawa niya?"
Coloma: PNoy ready to face impeachment
This, as a Palace official on Tuesday said Aquino is ready to face impeachment if charges are filed against him for meeting with Revilla during Corona's trial.
"Sa bawat pagkakataon din, ang parating sagot ng Pangulo ay handa naman siyang harapin kung ito man ay ihahain ng mga miyembro ng Kongreso," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said in a media briefing in Malacañang.
Coloma said he sees no impropriety in Aquino meeting with Revilla.
Echoing the statement of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Coloma said it was normal for Aquino to meet Revilla being leaders in their respective political parties.
"Sinabi na po ng Pangulo na ang kanyang pakay ay upang tanungin si Senador Revilla hinggil sa mga ulat na may mga impluwensyang ginagamit hinggil sa kahihinatnan ng impeachment trial at sa amin pong assessment wala pong impropriety," he said.
Coloma said it was "out of character" for Aquino to solicit Revilla's vote to convict Corona, denying that Aquino meddled in the impeachment process.
Aquino does not regret meeting Revilla, according to Coloma.
The Palace believes Revilla is diverting public attention from the charges against him and urged him to give the public a "full explanation" on how be used his pork barrel allocation. - with reports from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News