DEFENSE WITNESS Rep. Tobias Tiangco told the impeachment court that he was ready to sign the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona because he was afraid of losing his pork barrel.

Tiangco was presented by Corona’s defense team in order to show “the modus operandi in the House with regard to measures being sponsored by the administration.” said defense counsel Dennis Manalo.

“I tried to psyche myself up, pikit mata akong boboto ng yes sa impeachment (of Corona),” Tiangco told the court.

“Ayaw kong mapaginitan, I do not want to catch the ire of the most powerful man in the country, the President of the Philippines,” Tiangco added.

Tiangco cited as an example the impeachment complaint against then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in 2011.

Tiangco told the court that on March 19, 2011, there were text messages reportedly going around allegedly from House committee on appropriations chairman Emilio Abaya that congressmen who vote against the impeachment of Gutierrez would get “zero PDAF,” referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or the pork barrel.

To this, prosecutor Rodolfo Farinas objected and said that the information was hearsay evidence.

Tiangco insisted it was not, as majority floor leader Neptali Gonzalez III was later forced to deny that there was no such text message sent by Rep. Abaya.

Presiding Officer Juan Ponce Enrile allowed Tiangco to tell his story. However, Enrile asked defense lawyers what the materiality of the testimony was, since it involved the political processes, and did not seem directly linked to the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Defense lawyers had earlier wanted Tiangco to testify on the alleged lack of verification of the impeachment complaint by the members of the House of Representatives. That angle however was shot down after Enrile said it was already too late to pursue that argument.

Tiangco claimed that his PDAF for 2010 was withheld by Malacanang because of the Gutierrez impeachment case. When he complained to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Tiangco claimed that Abad sent him a text message to tell him to ask for help from President Benigno Aquino III.

“I suggest that you find a way to talk to PNoy,” Tiangco quoted Abad as saying in his text message. “The Speaker can help you along this line.”

Congressmen are allowed a yearly PDAF of P70 million, broken down into P 30 million in soft projects, and P 40 million for infrastructure projects.

At this point, Enrile again asked how this issue was related to the impeachment of Corona.

Farinas also objected to the line of questioning and Tiangco’s testimony.

“Witness is testifying to the pressure he received for the approval of the impeachment complaint of Merceditas Gutierrez. We are proving a pattern or scheme or modus operandi with the majority to intimidate or exert undue influence on other members to approve their measures such as the impeachment complaint versus Renato Corona,” Manalo said.

“But this witness did not even sign the complaint. He says he was intimidated, but he did not sign. His testimony as to the matter of Merci Gutierrez has no relevance,” Farinas objected.

Enrile however said he was giving the defense counsel some leeway to prove their point.

 

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