Manila: A Philippine senator, Ramon Revilla, has claimed that President Benigno Aquino personally pleaded with him to vote for the impeachment of former Supreme Court Chief of Staff Renato Corona in 2012.
Revilla quoted Aquino as saying, in a breakfast meeting at the President’s residence in Malacanang, “Please do me a favour. He [Supreme Court chief of staff] must be impeached.”
The breakfast took place after Revilla and Secretary Mar Roxas drove from the latter’s house in Cubao, suburban Quezon City to the presidential palace.
Revilla said he had kept to himself, for almost two years, the story of Aquino’s “intervention” in an impeachment trial that was “supposed to be legal and independent” .
Corona was ousted for not revealing a foreign currency bank account in his statement of assets and liabilities.
Revilla did not explain why he agreed to vote for Corona after claiming that the latter’s impeachment trial in 2012 was a form of political persecution that Aquino allegedly instigated.
Earlier, Senator Jinggoy Estrada claimed in a privilege speech at the senate that the budget department, which is under Aquino’s office, released P10 million (Dh833,333) — disguised as additional development fund — to senators who voted to convict Corona.
Revilla, for his part, did not categorically admit receiving the said amount for his vote to convict Corona.
But Revilla said the additional development fund given to senators by the president was a form of “pork barrel scam to cover up its [president’s office] failures”.
Earlier, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that he released additional development funds to senators in late 2012 to help pump prime the country’s economy with government spending.
Abad also said the money — which ranged from P10 million to P100 million (Dh833,333 to Dh8.3 million) — came from the president’s Development Accelerated Program (DAP), which is composed of accrued savings from line cabinets.
Complaints were already raised by petitioners before the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of Aquino’s release of money (to senators) from the DAP.
Analysts said Revilla, was targetting Aquino as a response to the action by the justice department and the Office of the Ombudsman, which accuses him of misusing parliamentary development funds.
Revilla and several senators from the opposition are said to have released their development fund, with the help of businesswoman Janet Napoles, to non-existing projects and through non-functioning non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
In his speech, Revilla denied the charges, saying that one of the whistle-blowers, Ben Hur Luy, had forged his signature in several requests to the budget department for the release of his development funds, which reached to a total of P220 million (Dh18.3 million) from 2007 to 2010.
Revilla said he earned millions as an actor, adding that he started making films at the age of 16.
His wife, Congresswoman Lani Mercado, was teary-eyed while listening to her husband’s privilege speech.
In a show of support, his father, former Senator Renato Revilla Snr, also attended the session at the senate.