Harder to convict a chief justice: Coloma
MANILA - Why did President Aquino and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas meet with Sen. Bong Revilla during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona?
According to Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma, the difficult task of getting a two-thirds vote and rumors of pressure from influence groups are just some of the reasons Aquino and Roxas met with Revilla before the final vote.
"Hindi naman po nangyayari sa isang vacuum ang lahat ng ito. Sa kasaysayan ng ating bansa, ngayon lamang nagkaroon ng impeachment trial ng isang chief justice. Sa aking personal na obserbasyon, parang mas mahirap pa ang pag i-impeach at pag co-convict sa isang chief justice comparatively speaking dun sa naganap na impeachment trial ni dating Pangulo Erap Estrada. Kung tutuusin, ang kinalaban ng Pangulo ay yung buong legal profession at buong judiciary," he said in an interview on Mornings@ANC.
"We saw that concretely in the trial, how hard it was going against the odds."
Coloma noted that during the impeachment trial of former president Joseph Estrada, more senators voted not to open an envelope that had bank documents showing Estrada's P1 billion in deposits with Equitable PCI Bank. The deposits were under the name Jose Velarde.
The Palace official said he will leave it to the people to decide if the President's meeting with Revilla before the impeachment trial vote was improper.
He denied that Aquino was out to influence Revilla's vote when he invited him to a meeting.
He also denied that the President begged Revilla to convict Corona by saying: "Ibalato mo na sa akin ito. Kailangan siyang ma-impeach."
"Sa salaysay ng Pangulo, pinaliwanag niya na hindi po yun ang konteksto at wala siyang rekoleksyon na gumamit siya ng ganong kataga. Ang tanging layunin kaya niya kinausap si Senator Revilla was to verify persistent reports that influence groups were influencing the outcome of the impeachment trial and he simply wanted to convey to Senator Revilla to decide based on the merits of the case," he said.
In his privileged speech on Monday, Revilla accused the President of trying to meddle in the Corona impeachment trial when he asked him to vote for Corona's conviction. He said he only told the President that he would vote based on what is right.
The President earlier backed the impeachment of Corona, saying that the chief justice was blocking moves by the Aquino administration to put on trial former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for various anomalies.
Corona was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2011 and was convicted by the Senate impeachment court in 2012.
Revilla was one of 20 senators who voted to convict Corona.
Coloma refused to say which influence groups were out to pressure the senators to decide in favor of Corona's acquittal. During the trial, former Senate President Ernesto Maceda said the senator-judges could be influenced by the Iglesia ni Cristo when they make a decision on the Corona trial.
Some senators, however, denied being approached by the religious sect.
In the interview, Coloma said that even before the meeting, Revilla had already signified his intentions to meet with the President and help the administration.
He said Roxas, Revilla and Aquino were all colleagues at one time in the Senate.
Coloma said Revilla was not forced to go to the meeting.
"Hindi siya pinilit. Hindi siya ginamitan ng karahasan para magpunta roon. Hindi naman niya sinasabi na hindi niya kagustuhan yung pagpunta niya doon. it would be fair to say he went there voluntarily," he said.
He also said that the impeachment trial is a political process "that involved political influencing."
"Political process yung impeachment trial. Hindi ito maihalintulad sa isang purely judicial procedure. Those who understand it will know this is a political process. This is why the senators are senator judges. They are judges for purpose of conducting the trial. This is a political process that involves political influencing," he said.
Revilla hardly talked about PDAF scam
Coloma also noted that Revilla wanted to elicit sympathy while failing to debunk allegations linking him to the alleged misuse of billions of pesos in pork barrel funds.
He said that instead of talking about the impeachment trial, the senator should have explained to the people what really happened to his priority development assistance funds (PDAF) which allegedly went to bogus nongovernment organizations.
"He stood on a question of personal privilege and we have to grant it to him as a senator to talk about anything he wants to talk about. But if his purpose was to gain public understanding of his position vis-à-vis the PDAF issue which I think was what the people were waiting for, I would like to ask if he was able to attain that purpose when he hardly talked about the topic and we believe the main issue is the alleged misuse of public funds," he said.
The Palace official noted that the Senate had its highest approval ratings when it decided to convict Corona and had its lowest ratings when some senators were linked to the Napoles scam.
He said that to regain the public's trust, Revilla should just answer the allegations.
"Kung nais niyang itayo ang reputasyon ng Senado ay itayo din ang kanyang imahe sa publiko dapat lang sigurong tukuyin niya ng tuwiran ang mga isyung nagpapababa ng kanyang public approval rating," he said.