A MEMBER of the prosecution team during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona criticized President Benigno Aquino III for meeting with senator-judges before the tribunal handed down its verdict.

"What President Aquino did was to precisely sully the victory of the prosecution. There is now a smear of suspicion that he influenced the Senate," Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said in an ambush interview Wednesday.

Colmenares was reacting to the allegation of Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. that Aquino personally pleaded with him to vote to impeach the former chief magistrate. Three of the 23-member Senate voted to acquit Corona.

Aquino admitted that the meeting took place but denied that he attempted to influence the senator to add his vote to convict the Chief Justice.

Aside from Revilla, Aquino said he also met with Senators Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona III, his partymates in the ruling Liberal Party (LP), and Senator Jinggoy Estrada.

Colmenares, however, stressed that the evidence gathered by the impeachment prosecution team was "so strong" to convince the Senate impeachment tribunal that Corona is no longer fit to hold the position of Supreme Court chief justice.

Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., lead prosecutor, echoed the sentiment of Colmenares.

"As chief prosecutor of the impeachment, I was very certain that the evidence was very very strong to convict the chief justice," he said.

"What they (senators) said was they voted based on their conscience, on what is right and based on their appreciation of the facts at that time. The senators who are talking have not said that they were influenced," Tupas added.

Abakada party-list Representative Jonathan dela Cruz earlier told reporters that he will file a resolution for the House committee on justice to investigate the meeting between Revilla and Aquino.

Tupas, chairman of the House committee on justice, said he will include the proposed resolution in the agenda of the panel and let its members decide whether they will pursue such probe.

"Is it necessary to still investigate now with Palace’s admission? My sense there is, the President is also a political leader as the titular head of LP. And as such leader, he holds meetings. And during the Corona impeachment, it was both a political process and judicial process wherein there were interactions between political personalities," Tupas said.

1-BAP party-list Representative Silvestre Bello III, a member of the House minority bloc, said it is not the right time to file an impeachment complaint against Aquino considering that nobody has corroborated the allegations of Revilla.

"It's (Revilla's statement) not hearsay but for Congress to file an impeachment complaint, kailangan may corroboration 'yan," Bello said.

Representative Carlos Zarate of the party-list Bayan Muna likened the Aquino-Revilla meeting with the controversial "Hello, Garci" scandal during the Arroyo administration.

To recall, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo phoned then election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano supposedly to talk about the rigging of the 2004 presidential elections. (Sunnex)