Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr.’s scathing speech against the Aquino administration was nothing but an attempt to divert attention from the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds, Malacañang said Tuesday.
“What the people heard and saw yesterday was a plain attempt to divert public attention from the real issue,” Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said during a press briefing.
In a privilege speech Monday, Revilla claimed that President Benigno Aquino III personally asked him to vote to convict ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
He said Interior Sec. Mar Roxas even drove him to Aquino’s residence, Bahay Pangarap at the Malacañang complex, for a meeting before Corona’s impeachment trial concluded. Budget Sec. Butch Abad was also allegedly present during the meeting.
Roxas confirmed driving Revilla to Malacañang but said it was a favor for the senator, whom he said had things to take up with Aquino.
Malacañang also confirmed the meeting but said Aquino just wanted to verify reports that groups were trying to pressure senators for their votes.
On Tuesday, Coloma said Aquino didn’t meddle with the impeachment trial of Corona.
“Hindi po nakikialam ang Pangulo. Ang kanya lang pong hiniling ay upang magpasya si Senador Revilla nang naaayon sa mga merito ng kaso. At ang tugon naman po ng senador ay sinabi rin niya sa kanyang talumpati: ‘I will do what is right,’ at batid naman po natin ang kanyang pagpapasya,” he said.
“Wala naman po tayong nakitang indikasyon at hindi rin naman po niya sinasabi na ang pagpunta niya sa Bahay Pangarap ay labag sa kanyang kalooban,” Coloma added.
The Palace official said he has yet to verify with Aquino whether he met other senators aside from Revilla.
But Coloma said Revilla should not have used his privilege speech to talk about his meeting with Aquino, but to respond to the “people’s clamor” for a full explanation on what happened to the pork barrel allocation, or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), he received from 2007 to 2009.
“As an elected public official, the senator is expected to fully account for the PDAF allocation that he received. The main issue is PDAF and it is the right of the people to be given a full explanation,” he said.
Revilla is among the three senators facing plunder complaint in connection with the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam. The others are Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.
Based on investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Revilla got P224.5 million in kickbacks from the supposed scam, while Enrile pocketed P172.8 million and Estrada P183.79 million.