On February 12 last year when the impeachment trial of Renato Corona was well on its way, one of his defense lawyers, Jose Roy 3rd, alleged that a P100 million bribe was offered to the senator-judges to convict the chief justice, in the form of pork barrel funds for “soft projects”, or that non-infrastructure kind easily siphoned to lawmakers’ pocket.
The senators pounced on Roy, who sheepishly apologized, although he insisted that the information came from two reliable sources.
Senator Alan Cayetano scolded the lawyer: “It’s an insult to us to even deny that we are susceptible to bribes. ” His sister, who then appeared to be one of the more intelligent and credible senator-judges, said Roy’s allegation demeaned the entire justice system in the country.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad texted reporters: “The P100 million is a complete fabrication concocted by the desperate Corona defense lawyers. It’s an insult to the senators and to the Senate as an institution.” Even as last week, Abad claimed: “We were careful not to make releases (of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, PDAF or the pork-barrel money) before, during or after the trial.” (My emphasis.)
How can these people lie through their teeth? How could we have been so gullible that we didn’t ask them proof that no pork barrel money were given to the senator-judges during the trial?
Data from the budget department incontrovertibly show that P1.1 billion in pork barrel funds were given to 16 senators, the minimum number needed to convict Corona, during the trial from January to May 29 or the day of the Senate vote. Another P915 million were given mostly to administration senators two and three months after the trial.
The DBM data in fact show that Roy’s allegations were on the dot, right down to the P100 million amount given to each senator, give or take a few millions.
Senator Pia Cayetano in just three dates of March 2012, at the height of the trial, got P104 million in pork barrel funds. She would get another P64 million just a few weeks before the Senate vote in May.
Her brother Alan, the minority floor leader who was the most vociferous in lambasting Roy when he made the bribe allegations last year, got P67 million in February. He would get another P57 million in July and August, for a total of P117 million out of Corona’s trial and conviction.
Then Senate Majority leader Senator Vicente Sotto received P97 million in two dates in March.
The presiding judge Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile got P50 million of his pork barrel funds on February 3 and 17. I can just imagine Budget Secretary Abad’s smirk as he watched Enrile on TV at that time appearing to be so belligerent to the prosecutors. Enrile would get another P54 million just weeks before the Senate vote.
The bribes, incentives or whatever you’d prefer to call these funds crossed party lines. Other than Enrile and Sotto, senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and Gregorio Honasan each got exactly P100 million. The richest senator then, the billionaire Manuel Villar, couldn’t ignore what was loose change for him and got P96 million, while former University of the Philippines President Edgardo Angara took P85 million.
The significant pattern is that P100 million each were released during the trial to the opposition senators, who wouldn’t naturally trust Aquino’s promise. They wanted “money down” before the vote.
On the other hand, Aquino’s comrades in the Liberal Party and his other supporters in the Senate trusted Aquino that they got their money only shortly after Corona’s conviction. In fact, even if they had already hitched their political stars to this president, they still generously partook of Aquino’s “incentives” to take out Corona, getting even more.
Aquino supporter Senator Antonio Trillanes got a measly P10 million during the trial. Right after the trial ended though, on June 26, he got P38 million. Then in just three “gives” in July, he got P145 million, and another P50 million on August 24.
Budget Secretary Abad probably lost track of his releases to Trillanes that he gave the senator a total of P254 million in 2012, P54 million more than the P200 million PDAF allocation for each senator under the budget law.
Similarly, Liberal Party Senator Teofisto Guingona 3rd, ironically now the chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating the pork-barrel scam, got only P37 million during the trial. Right after though, he could have drowned in pork barrel money: P154 million were released to him in just three installments in July and another P34 million in August.
That totaled P225 million in PDAF funds given to Guingona around the trial period, more than the P200 million allocated to him if the budget law was complied with.
Another Liberal Party senator, Ralph Recto, could claim that he didn’t get any centavo from his PDAF during the trial. Two months later though, and in just one day, July 24, he got exactly P100 million of his pork barrel funds.
P100 million for attacking the Supreme Court, and wrecking our republican system of three independent branches of government? Did they think they could hide the truth?
(As followers of this column would notice, the figures above are different from those in my September 30 piece entitled “P559 million released before Senate voted vs. Corona.” Upon rechecking the DBM data, it was worse: P664 million just before the May vote, given to 16 senators who convicted Corona and not just the 11 who got the P559 million reported in the earlier column. I also counted, logically, as part of Aquino’s “incentive” to take out Corona, the funds released during the trial and three months after).