‘Phl president liable for impeachment’

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Tuesday said Philippine President Benigno Aquino III will become liable for impeachment, on the constitutional ground of bribery, if the Supreme Court rules that the Development Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional.
Militant groups have asked the high court to declare DAP unconstitutional. The court already declared unconstitutional the controversial “pork barrel” funds.
In a statement, Santiago also said the senator-judges will be obliged to restitute and return to the government the sum of P50 million each; and the sum of P100 million each from Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Franklin Drilon and Chiz Escudero.
The “bribery issue” hugged the headlines late last year after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in a privilege speech disclosed that senator-judges were bribed just to convict former chief justice Renato Corona during the impeachment trial.
Of the 24 senator-judges, Senators, Joker Arroyo, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Santiago acquitted Corona for non-disclosure of his statement of assets and liabilities. The bribe was allegedly taken from DAP.
“If President Aquino merely confined himself to attempts to influence the outcome of the impeachment trial last year, he did not commit a crime. But if he bribed the senator-judges to convict the accused, then he is guilty of bribery as prohibited by law and as a ground for his own impeachment under the Constitution,” Santiago said.
The lady senator also said it is not a crime for the President to try to influence the outcome because an impeachment trial is both legal and political in nature. It is illegal for the President to try and influence the courts because of the principle of independence of the judiciary.
But she said it is legal for the President to try and influence the senator-judges because he is the nominal head of his political party, and within bounds, he has the right to assure his political survival.
However, Estrada and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. in their respective privilege speeches denied that the DAP funds they received were bribes because the law punishes both the giver and the taker, Santiago said.
“If evidence shows that Malacañang paid these amounts to the senator-judges as consideration for a guilty verdict, then the crime of bribery has been committed, both by the President and by the senators,” the lady senator concluded.

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