Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed during his privilege speech Wednesday afternoon that senators who voted last year to impeach then-Chief Justice Renato Corona received an additional of P50 million to their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation.
Estrada said this was announced through “a private and confidential letter” from now Senate President Franklin Drilon, who chaired the Senate finance committee at that time. Drilon swiftly denied Estrada’s claim, saying that no such letter exists. “I maintain that the senators voted according to their conscience and their impartial evaluation of the evidence presented during the Coronal trial,” he said.
The problem is, one of his former colleagues directly belied Drilon’s denials. Speaking to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, former Senator Panfilo Lacson confirmed that those who voted to convict Corona indeed received a P50 million incentive from the administration. He however clarified that he’s not among the recipients of this since he had “no regular PDAF.”
Corona was understandably elated by Estrada’s bombshell, describing it as a vindication for him. In a brief statement, the ousted chief justice claimed Estrada’s speech proved that his removal from office is unconstitutional and that all charges against him are baseless. He also faulted Malacanang for launching a “massive demolition campaign” directed to him.
The revelation that President Benigno Aquino III co-opted lawmakers into voting against Corona by using the pork barrel fund as a bargaining chip is nothing new.
In his testimony for the defense panel during the Corona trial, Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco said that leaders of the House of Representatives repeatedly stressed to them that those who will not endorse the impeachment complaint against will get “zero PDAF.”
Tiangco added: “Ayaw kong mapag-initan. I do not want to catch the ire of the most powerful man in the country, the President of the Philippines.”
However, as reported by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, then-Senate President and impeachment court presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile regarded Tiangco’s testimony as irrelevant to the trial.
Clearly, the Aquino administration used the power of the purse to make lawmakers on both Houses of Congress submit to its will. Isn’t this a blatant form of corruption? Whatever happened to tuwid na daan?