'President can make life miserable for you'


MANILA, Philippines - Navotas Rep. Tobias "Toby" Tiangco said before the Senate impeachment court today that he contemplated on signing the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona out of fear of President Benigno Aquino III.

"I don't want to catch the ire of the most powerful man in the country, who has a very high popularity rating, who is the President of the Philippines," Tiangco said, referring to President Benigno Aquino III.

The congressman made the statement as he was called to take the witness stand at the resumption of the Corona impeachment trial this afternoon.

He said that two more reasons why he wanted to sign the impeachment complaint: there was already a predetermined number of congressmen who have signed the impeachment complaint against Corona and he did not want to repeat a "bad experience," which he suffered from after voting against the impeachment of resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in 2011.

He said that these were his thoughts when he attended an caucus called by the House leadership last Dec. 12, 2011.

"I tred to psych myself up na pikit mata na akong bumoto sa impeachment kung impeachment ang pag-uusapan... Masama ang experience ko sa hindi pagboto sa impeachment ni Merceditas Gutierrez. I don't want to catch the ire of the President of the country... A President can make life miserable for you," Tiangco added.

He told the court that when he declined to vote for the impeachment of Gutierrez, the leadership of the House of Representatives prevented the release of funds for his projects.

Tiangco said that prior to the voting on the impeachment of Gutierrez, he received a text message, allegedly coming from House appropriations committee chairman Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya.

He said House deputy speaker Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales, in an informal caucus, told congressmen that Abaya had denied sending the text message. He added that Gonzales promised that all funds proposed by congressmen for projects in their respective districts will be released.

Tiangco said that despite Gonzales' promise, the funds for his projects -- including infrastructure projects and a scholarship program -- were not immediately released.

'Talk to Noy'

Tiangco also testified that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad texted him to ask help from President Aquino for the release of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF).

He said he received the message from Abad after sending two letters to Abad, asking for an explanation why his PDAF had not been released.

Instead of a written reply, Abad texted him on July 14, 2011, saying that he should ask for the help of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte in seeking an audience with the President, according to Tiangco.

"I read your PR today re PDAF. I suggest you find a way to talk to PNoy. The Speaker can help you along these line," the legislator said, quoting Abad's text message.

Tiangco said he got Abad's text message after he went to members of the reporters covering the House of Representatives who came out with the story about the non-release of his PDAF for not signing the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez.

The defense panel called Tiangco to the witness stand to testify on the alleged "modus operandi" employed by the members of the House of Representatives to get a measure passed.

Tiangco resigned from the ruling political bloc in the House of Representatives, claiming that party officials railroaded the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice.

Members of the House prosecution team said in a press conference during a break of the trial that Tiangco's testimony had nothing to do with the articles of impeachment that should be tackled by the defense team.











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