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MANILA, Philippines – “Anak ng teteng! Iyan ba ang daang matuwid?” (Is that the straight and narrow path?)
Embattled Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr blasted President Benigno Aquino III and his party mates Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for allegedly politicking legal cases. He said they personally appealed to him and other senators to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In a combative and dramatic hour-long privilege speech on Monday, January 20, Revilla revealed how the 3 intervened to oust Corona, saying he fears they will again meddle in the prosecution of those implicated in the pork barrel scam that includes him.
He called the scam a “zarzuela” (show) that the administration is orchestrating to destroy opponents like him for the 2016 polls. Revilla is reportedly eyeing the presidency in 2016. He is chairman of the Lakas party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Revilla narrated that during Corona's trial, Roxas supposedly invited him to his Cubao home then inconspicuously drove him to meet with Abad and Aquino in the President’s residence in Bahay Pangarap in Malacañang. He showed a photo he took purportedly of Roxas driving.
Revilla derisively called Roxas “Boy Pick-up.”
The senator quoted the President as saying, “Pare, parang awa mo na. Ibalato mo na sa akin ito. Kailangan siyang ma-impeach.” (Friend, I appeal to you. Please give me this. He needs to be impeached.)
Revilla said Abad then told him, “Magtulungan tayo, senator.” (Let’s help one another, senator.)
The Aquino administration pushed for Corona's conviction, calling it key to its anti-corruption campaign. Corona was accused of failing to accurately declare his assets, liabilities and net worth. Twenty out of 23 senators convicted him in May 2012. Revilla was among those who convicted Corona. Watch him explain his vote here:
Revilla lamented, “Kung nagawa ito ni PNoy kay CJ Corona ay maaaring gawin din niya ito na impluwensiyahan ang Ombudsman at Sandiganbayan laban sa amin.” (If PNoy did this to Chief Justice Corona, then he can also influence the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan to work against us.)
Revilla's speech comes after Senator Jinggoy Estrada in his own privilege speech last September said the Aquino administration gave P50 million each to senators who convicted Corona after the trial. Abad admitted releasing the money but denied it was a bribe. Estrada's speech sparked legal questions about the administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the source of the funds.
The speech marks the first time Revilla addressed at length his alleged involvement in the scam since it was exposed in July 2013.
Revilla faces a plunder complaint for allegedly conniving with supposed mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to endorse her fake non-governmental organizations as recipients of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in exchange for kickbacks.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada and several congressmen face the same allegations.
Yet Revilla, 47, is the lawmaker accused of receiving the highest kickbacks worth P224.51 million.
From ‘pork’ to Yolanda, Bohol, Zambo, etc
In his speech, Revilla briefly addressed the allegations, maintaining his innocence. He said he got his wealth from his 30 years in show business.
“I have nothing to do with this scam, those whistleblowers, nor Janet Lim-Napoles. I have no dealings and transactions with them,” Revilla said.
He devoted the bulk of his speech to blasting the Aquino administration’s supposed poor performance, alleged special treatment of its allies, and persecution of political rivals.
Revilla compared how the administration treated him and its ally, elections commissioner Grace Padaca, who also faces a case before the Sandiganbayan. The President drew from his own pockets the bail for Padaca; Roxas accompanied her in posting it.
“Sana parehas lang sa lahat. Ganoon ba talaga ang paraan natin ng hustisya? Kapag kapartido ang akusado, bibigyan ng pampiyansa ng Pangulo pero kapag kalaban ka, bibigwasan ka hanggang masira ang pangalan kahit hearsay at imbento lang ang ebidensiya?”
(I ask for fairness. Is our justice system really that way? If a partymate is the one accused, the President will give bail money? But when it’s a rival, even hearsay and fabricated evidence that will destroy reputations is allowed?)
The senator said the “persecution” began when he rejected Aquino’s appeal to endorse the administration candidate for Cavite governor, Ayong Maliksi. Revilla hails from Cavite, and his son was the running mate of the Liberal Party rival.
Now vice governor of Cavite, Jolo Revilla watched the speech with his mother, Cavite Rep Lani Mercado-Revilla, siblings and other relatives in the Senate gallery. Actor Phillip Salvador was also in the Senate to support his friends Revilla and Estrada.
The senator again accused the police and administration of political harassment in the Cavite 2013 polls.
"Nang humingi kami ng tulong sa PNP at sa mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan, hindi responde ang aming natanggap bagkus ay kami pa ang pinalibutan para hindi makalabas sa mismong araw ng halalan. Sadyang napakabaluktot na ng ating tinatahak na daan."
(When we asked help from the police and the government, we did not get assistance but they even surrounded our home on election day. The path we are taking is really crooked.)
Senator Revilla then made a litany of the alleged shortcomings of the administration, starting with its slow response to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the Bohol earthquake, and the Zamboanga siege. He punctuated his sentences by mocking Aquino's slogan, "Ito ba ang daang matuwid?" (Is this the straight and narrow path?)
The actor-turned-politician used an audio-visual presentation, complete with the allegedly spliced clip of Roxas’ conversation with Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez in the aftermath of Yolanda.
Revilla said, “Mas magaan pa rin ang akusahan ka ng krimen na hindi mo ginawa, kaysa na sabihan ka ng ‘bahala ka sa buhay mo,’ at hayaan na lang na mangamatay sa uhaw, gutom at kakulangan sa ayuda ang ating mga kababayan sa Tacloban.”
(It’s better to be accused of a crime you did not commit than to be told by your government after Yolanda that you take care of your own recovery, and they just let the people of Tacloban die of thirst, hunger and lack of help.)
“Mas magaan pa rin ito kung ikukumpara sa libu-libong bangkay na hinayaan ng gobyerno na nakatiwangwang at pagpistahan ng langaw kahit mahigit dalawang buwan nang nakalipas ang super typhoon," he said.
(This is a lighter burden than having thousands of bodies that the government left unburied and allowed flies to feast on even more than 2 months after the super typhoon.)
Revilla even linked his plunder woes to the power rate hike, the hike in contributions for the Social Security System and Pag-IBIG Fund, and the DAP. Yet Revilla reserved his sharpest attack when addressing the construction of bunkhouses for Yolanda victims.
“Nabisto na substandard, overpriced, at 'di ayon sa specifications at building code ang mga itinatayong bunkhouses para sa mga biktima ng Yolanda. Mismong mga biktima, binibiktima pa. Anak ng teteng, iyan ba ang daang matuwid?!
(It was exposed that the bunkhouses for the victims are substandard, overpriced. They are already victims, yet they are victimized twice. Is that the straight and narrow path?)
Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler
‘Boy Pirma,’ toy truck of evidence
Revilla branded the whistleblowers as liars, accusing them of faking his and his staff’s signatures.
He distanced himself from a July 2011 letter he sent to the Commission on Audit (COA) affirming the authenticity of the signatures. He showed copies of the supposed differences in the signatures.
“Common sense. I did not confirm anything! ‘Di po ba’t malinaw pa sa sikat ng araw na iba-iba yang mga pirma na yan? Hindi ko po pirma ang mga nasa dokumento na sinasabi ng mga ito na ebidensiya laban sa akin, ngunit patuloy pa rin nila akong pinagmamalupitan."
(It’s just common sense. I did not confirm anything! Isn’t it clear the signatures are different? Those are not my signatures in the documents that they are saying are evidence against me but they continue to persecute me.)
Revilla specifically criticized principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, playing a video of his Senate testimony saying he faked lawmakers’ signatures upon instructions from Napoles.
“Ito pala si Benhur Luy ay si Boy Pirma. Kung ang mismong DBM nga may Boy Xerox na namemeke ng mga SARO, bakit napakahirap paniwalaan na dito sa PDAF ay mayroon namang Boy Pirma na namemeke ng pirma sa mga dokumento? Bakit pag lilinisin ang tauhan nila sa DBM, not guilty without thinking? Pero, kapag kalaban nila, no way? Oh no Mr. President, that’s very aBAD!”
(So Benhur Luy is Mr Signature. If the DBM has a Mr Xerox faking SAROs in the SARO scam, here in the PDAF scam, why is it so hard to believe that there is a Mr Signature faking signatures? Why is it that when they are cleaning their ranks in the DBM, it's not guilty without thinking? But when the accused is their opponent, no way?)
Revilla said Luy and the witnesses presented wrong information, starting with the designation of his staff lawyer Richard Cambe, to dates when he allegedly received payoffs for his principal. He showed photos of Cambe’s passport.
“Paano niya mabibigay kay Richard Cambe ang pera kung wala naman 'yung tao [sa Pilipinas] sa petsa at araw na nakalista sa ledger?”
(How can he give money to Cambe when the person is out of the country on the date listen on his ledger?)
“Napakasinungaling talaga nila! For the record Mr President, kailanman, mula noon hanggang ngayon, hindi ko naging Chief of Staff, o Chief Political Officer si Atty. Richard Cambe. Get your facts straight!”
(These whistleblowers are such liars! For the record, Atty Richard Cambe was never my chief of staff or chief political officer. Get your facts straight.)
In their affidavits, Napoles’ former aides-turned-whistleblowers said Revilla received the commissions through Cambe. The witnesses said Revilla frequently attended Napoles’ parties and events. They referred to the actor-politician using the codename “Pogi” (handsome).
Former ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp (ZREC) head Salvador Salacup and Technology Resource Center Director General Dennis Cunanan also said that Revilla himself wrote letters to implementing agencies, and even supposedly confirmed their authenticity through phone calls.
Revilla turned dramatic when addressing his father, former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr, who was in the gallery to watch his son. He said he finally heeded the elder Revilla's advice to clear the family name.
While Revilla was teary-eyed at times, he turned humorous when ridiculing the justice department’s alleged “trucks of evidence against him.”
“Sinasabi ng DOJ na truck-truck daw ebidensya laban sa amin .... Matagal ko nang pinag-iisipan kung paano ko ipapasok ang truck ng ebidensya dito sa Senado. Sa tamang diskarte, nagawan naman ng paraan, Mr President, to the pages pakipasok ninyo na ang trak ng ebidensiya!
(The DOJ is saying they have truckloads of evidence against us. I’ve long been wondering how to bring in the evidence here. Please bring it in!)
At this point, a Senate staffer brought in a yellow toy truck with documents on top.
Revilla then said, “Ito po ang sinasabi nilang isang trak ng ebidensiya. Ito lang naman pala. Trak-trakan ng mga bata. Sa kagustuhan nilang wasakin aking pagkatao, ganyan nila lokohin ang publiko.”
(This is their truck of evidence against us! In their hopes of destroying our names, this is how they fool the public.) – Rappler.com