So it’s possible, after all, to squeeze blood from a turnip. I refrained from blogging much today to fully pay attention to what’s been going on. The day began with what was already being discussed last night as a dud: the press conference of the Hyatt 10 which would not reveal anything spectacular.
But it seems an opportunity was found in what was revealed, specifically, Soliman’s account of the President instructing Gabby Claudio to find someone to endorse Oliver Lozano’s complaint.
As soon as the Palace saw that no documents or hard evidence would be revealed, they proceeded to attack Soliman and friends. Their tactic: reduce the debate to a he said, she said series of pots calling kettles black. In such a game, the administration doesn’t have to win, it only has to throw enough mud around. That it did.
What neither side gambled on, perhaps, was the ability of the congressmen themselves to put two and two together, and then, the clumsiness of the majority.
More explosive than the revelation by Soliman that the President instructed Claudio to deliver an endorser, and Claudio’s instant reaction that he had just the right party-list representative in mind, was a reminder that Lozano had also saved then Vice-President Arroyo from impeachment by filing a bogus impeachment complaint in 2000. The clincher in the conspiracy theory was the fact that it was Rep. Prospero Pichay, the lead attack dog of the majority, who endorsed Lozano’s complaint. To the observer, this was the most damning detail.
Then there was the case of the impatient engine driver. If the majority had allowed today’s Justice Committee hearings to proceed with ample opportunities for the minority to scream and yell, it could then say they (the minority) were being spoiled sports, because the majority could have proceeded with a vote, and then sneered at the minority for failing to come up with the necessary 79 signatures.
And it could have argued that there remained the opportunity for the minority to challenge the majority decision in plenary.
Apparently it did not enter their minds that they were dealing with young hot-heads; the clincher in this case was the decision of Chairman Datumanong to suspend debate -after weeks of permitting the most vivid debates- thus cutting of Rep. Ace Barbers. This came at the heels of Datumanong turning off the microphone when minority representatives earlier tried to bring up contentious points (whether Soliman’s statement, or the assertion that only the “amended” complaint has been properly verified, and as such, is the only one that should be discussed). So Datumanong’s either scatter-brained or suddenly inflexible behavior was enough to get the minority angry and upset.
To make things worse, upon summarily ending the debate, Datumanong then moved to put the first of the prejudicial questions to a vote. To top it all off, he ignored the last-minute attempts of some minority members to make a motion to adjourn (in parliamentary practice, such a motion trumps all other motions, and cannot be ignored). And so, the walk-out.
Things then moved so fast that neither those in the Session Hall or watching on TV or listening to radio quite knew what was going on; ANC immortalized the event as “pandemonium.” For weeks now, actually, it was said that the minority would do a walk-out, either with or without Susan Roces. Rep. Edcel Lagman claims the opposition was set to walk out anyway after the disposition of the second prejudicial question.
So it means the surprise was that the minority walked out sooner than expected. Why would they do that? That is where Rep. Darlene Custodio’s assertion that they were infuriated, comes in. And it seems quite plausible.
Then what did the majority do? It hung around, waiting for the minority to come back. Then the minority held a press conference appealing for signatures, and saying they were fed up and would no longer participate in the committee meeting. The attitude of the minority having been made clear, what did the majority then do?
It made the biggest mistake of all. It proceeded with voting on the prejudicial question anyway. It could have waited for cooler heads to prevail. It did not. It proceeded to justify the minority’s belief that it was out to railroad events. It held the vote, and won the vote, though some, like Rep. Teodoro Locsin, Jr., who remained behind, voted against the motion in disgust (you could clearly see it in Locsin’s face as he sat while everyone else stood up to show their approval for the disposition of the prejudicial questions).
When this is all argued and counter-argued in the days to come, the question of the minority’s sincerity -was it planning a walkout all along- will be answered by two things: the twitching, angry faces of Custodio and friends, versus the railroaded vote that proceeded even after the minority left the hall.
Rep. Ronaldo Zamora says they have “over 70” signatures -but “if it’s short, it’s short,” and so, a last-ditch effort to get the 79. He says they will not march directly to the Senate. They will no longer participate in the proceedings of the Committee on Justice, but instead, if they get the 79, proceed to verify the signatures with the House Secretary-General, then file a motion with the Committee on Justice, and face the plenary debates, and then obtain their impeachment managers and a budget.
We are now back in crisis mode.
Update: 6:49 pm word is, Rep. Villar has signed the complaint, statement to follow. Talk of her bringing 7-10 congressmen with her; if true, then impeachment’s a go.