POSTSCRIPT / January 23, 2014 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Show CCTV record of Noy-Bong meeting

CANDID CAMERA: It was well and good that President Noynoy Aquino confirmed that Sen. Bong Revilla was brought to him to Malacañang during the 2012 impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona and that they discussed the merits of the case.

The next logical step is for the President to release the unedited audio-video recording – unless he, Nixon-like, has ordered it destroyed — of his meeting with Revilla and other senators whom he had met on the same agenda.

Malacañang cannot say it has no such documentary recordings. In this age of high-tech devices, even corner carinderias and some squatter shanties have closed-circuit TV surveillance systems.

In fact, Revilla himself was able to record with his mobile phone his ride with DILG Secretary Mar Roxas who drove and delivered him to the waiting President.

“Ang Panday” need not implore lightning to strike down whoever is lying. The CCTVs and such devices, which should be standard Malacañang equipment, make such intervention from the sky unnecessary.

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IT’S WRONG: Having confirmed his hitherto secret meeting with Revilla – who later voted to convict Corona — the President and his mouthpieces now ask in effect: So what’s wrong with that, when it’s normal for a president to meet senators?

But the President was not meeting Revilla the lawmaker. He was actually meeting a judge in the high-profile trial of an impeached Chief Justice. He was discussing the merits of the case with a magistrate before whom (and 22 others) it was then pending.

He was arguing a court case in the presidential sanctum, clearly outside the proper trial venue, with the full regalia and gravitas of the presidency hanging over the discussion.

And all this was taking place while pork barrel was allegedly being handed out in huge chunks to senator-judges willing to go along with the convict-Corona campaign of the Palace.

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STAND IN COURT: With due respect, we think that if President Aquino wanted to submit his thoughts on the case for the appreciation of the judges, he should have begged leave and spoke at the trial in the Senate.

He did not. Instead, the President had senators brought to him at the Palace to impress upon them, once again, his well-known disdain for Chief Justice Corona who had led the Supreme Court that gave Hacienda Luisita to the farm workers as mandated by the agrarian reform law.

What ever happened to the solemn oath of the President to “execute its laws, DO JUSTICE TO EVERY MAN”?

And now President Aquino asks, feigning virginal innocence, “What’s wrong with that?”

* * *

SHIFTING SANDS: “It’s up to the people to judge if it was improper for President Aquino to meet with senator Revilla,” Press Secretary Sonny Coloma said. “The President only did what is right and in accordance with his mandate.”

The President is ready to face the consequences, including possible impeachment, he added. But it is doubtful if it would come to that, considering that the President still has the majority support of the House of Representatives where impeachment is initiated.

The picture could change, however, if/when the Supreme Court declares as unconstitutional the use of savings impounded in the Disbursement Acceleration Program of the Palace, creating a probable basis for impeachment of the President and criminal prosecution of co-conspirators.

In the shifting political mix, many congressmen deprived of their usual pork, euphemistically called Priority Development Assistance Fund, may distance themselves from the President when he starts running out of patronage funds.

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FUND AID: Revilla was one of three senators, the other two being Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, charged with plunder before the Ombudsman’s office in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam traced to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

Estrada hit the headlines again days ago after he allocated P100 million of the remainder of his pork barrel for 2014 to the city of Manila where his father, former President Erap Estrada, is the mayor.

Mayor Estrada pointed out that the funds were not for him but for the people of Manila. He complained that his predecessor Fred Lim left city coffers virtually empty with huge debts and obligations falling due. The issue sent us running to the city treasurer to check.

* * *

RECAP: Mayor Estrada pointed out that when he assumed office on June 30, 2013, his predecessor left debts totaling P3.5 billion and some P200 million in the city coffers.

But Ric de Guzman, Lim’s chief of staff, said the city had P1.5 billion when his boss exited, not bankrupt as Estrada had claimed. Based on a consolidated daily cash position report as of June 28, the city government had P1.5 billion, he said.

City Treasurer Liberty Toledo under Estrada said, however, that the P1.5 billion cited by De Guzman represented the sum total of the city’s general fund, special education fund, and other trust funds.

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INHERITED DEBTS: Toledo said only the general fund amounting to P235 million can be appropriated for operations. She disclosed that the previous administration had approved vouchers amounting to P446 million that the city has yet to pay.

Estrada said that when Mayor Lito Atienza left office in 2007, he turned over to Lim a general fund of P1.3 billion. But when it was Lim’s turn to go, he left a general fund of just P235 million.

The mayor also said he had inherited a P485-million debt as of June 30, 2013, to the Manila Electric Co. aside from P577,709.42 in Maynilad Water bills.

Even if President Aquino releases the P100 million realigned in the national budget by Senator Estrada in favor of Manila, the amount will not be enough to pay overdue utility bills.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 23, 2014)

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