Edmund Reyes, lone representative of the minority in committee, took to the rostrum and delivered an eloquent speech, revealing 73 signatures either given or committed. He asked, with great rhetorical flourish: are there no congressmen who will sign? Aren’t there even six who stand up?
The answer was deafening silence from the majority. Having waved around an envelope with 23 commitments on paper inside, Reyes left a second envelope, with blank sheets for endorsement, on the rostrum. The second envelope -marvelous move.
Reyes walked out; the gallery erupted in cheers; the security of the House began apprehending people; and even as a majority representative took to the rostrum to rebut, the video and radio coverage shifted to the citzens expelled from the House.
It may not have gotten signatures but was marvelous political theater.
2:09 As Jaraulla blasts the minority, the camera pans to the Speaker, looking slightly droopy, with Sec. Gabby Claudio by his side, talking into his cellphone.
2:18 Rep. Villafuerte blasts the minority and mistakenly quotes Socrates as having said, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend your right to say it.” But wasn’t it Voltaire? He’s followed by Rep. Butz Aquino who plays the Ninoy card, saying Ninoy was buried on August 31, and again, on August 31, the truth has been buried -accusing the government of suppressing the truth by hiding Garcillano and raiding the opposition.
Chairman Datumanong explains that the noise from the opposition should not excuse the inability of the minority to appeal his decision to call a vote. In the absence of the minority which walked out and did not return despite the hopes of some they would come back, the motion to vote on the first prejudicial question was held and the majority carried the day. Therefore, today, the next question: the Lopez complaint.
2:22 Rep. Ben-Hur Abalos responds to Butz Aquino: he objects to characterizations that majority have no conscience or ideals. He argues the rules proposed for the 13th Congress would have covered amending complaints and consolidating them; but the minority insisted on the 11th Congress rules that don’t make such provisions -the opposition, he said, to the new rules were led by reps. Cayetano and Villanueva.
2:28 Abalos concludes; Rep. Cagas takes over (incidentally, there seems to be an enthusiastically pro-administration contingent in the gallery). Cagas says Ninoy is not an exclusive franchise of the Aquinos, and that he himself was a victim of martial law.
Ricky Carandang interrupts: the lobby hubbub has subsided. Bro. Eddie Villaneuva is there with him. He says: the Philippines is at a crossroads, and we will see which representatives are for the country or themselves. He hopes (and well, of course, prays) Edmund Reyes’s challenge for 6 more signatures will be answered positively. If that fails, he quotes Fr. Bernas (!) and says the last constitutional option is to go to the streets.
2:34 Joel Villanueva: yes, they’re 6 votes short. He’s confident his colleagues will “listen to the voice of the people.” It’s mixed metaphor time: he speaks of a “turbo blast” express train!
2:42 Rep. Crispin Beltran says if it had been up to him, they’d be on the streets by now. He mumbled something about 85 signatures and waiting for 90. I don’t know what on earth he’s talking about.
2:43 Rep. Roman is at the rostrum defending the consolidation of all the complaints.
2:45 Rep. Ortiga says he’s been silent and weighing his options. The “unruly, ungentlemanly, and irresponsible” behavior of the minority yesterday has made up his mind. He delivered big, he says, for Fernando Poe, Jr. But now he is for the President. He is applauded by the pro-President crowd and the Chairman does not bang his gavel to silence them.
Chairman Datumanong exhorts his colleagues to stick to the point (the 2nd prejudicial question). He is promptly ignored by the next speaker.
2:53 Rep. Antonino (Kampi) is shocked, shocked, he tells us, that he’d ever be accused of hiding the truth. He says, torture was once used to solicit the truth, but did that make it right? He then waves around and reads, his oath of office. Quotes the constitution.
3:02 Protesters clashing with riot police outside the House of Representatives.
3:04 Rep. Puentevella: I stand here to respond to two dear colleagues, Edmund Reyes and Butz Aquino. In the question of the truth, the other week I stood here and up to now, no one’s responded to his pointing out an Inquirer article (June 20, 2005) saying “Escudero said the opposition would boycott impeachment proceedings stemming from Lozano’s complaint.” It’s a plot!
Outside, video of protesters reforming their ranks and appeals from their leaders not to throw rocks.
3:14 After quoting “Dura lex, sed lex” in various Visayan languages, Puentevella ends. TV is replaying video of riot police hitting women protesters with sticks.
Crispin Remulla: Who is on trial? Is it the President? No! We are! Congress has to prove it deserves each centavo paid its members in wages. In 2006, people will be lining up to file impeachment complaints against the President, because that is where things are headed. He cannot sign something he cannot prosecute, he says. Politics is local, families are split, something needs to be done. A rather circular and pointless speech.
(Another congressman is talking but won’t update until something noteworthy happens).
3:37 Marcoleta: defends his endorsement. He condemns the Johnnies-come-latelies. Quoted Dickens, some Latin maxim.
3:45 Meeting suspended for a minute.
3:46 Rep. Villafuerte: moves to vote on the issue. Did the Lozano complaint bar the Lopez complaint and the amended complaint?
3:48 The affirmative carries the day as expected (Teddyboy Locsin, Roman, and two others vote against the majority; one abstention). 46 yes, 4 no; 1 abstention.
The original Lozano complaint is the only surviving complaint.
3:53 one latecomer added his vote to the affirmative. Rep. Locsin has risen to explain his “No” vote: he has argued time does not run when Congress isn’t in session; all complaints were delivered in recess; when Congress resumed session, all complaints were at the table and thus were not late; all were competent complaints and considered legally simultaneous, regardless of it being minutes apart. A tactical observation: the exclusion of the others must now, however, result in the Committee endorsing the original complaint to plenary. The tiger is poisoned in the case and a mouse sent to the gladiators, and worse, now, with the original Lozano complaint poised to be kicked out next, the mouse, he says, is about to be strangled. His warning then, is that after the resumption of the meeting at 4:15, impeachment is officially dead at the Committee level.
3:59 Meeting suspended to give way to plenary.
4:03 Plenary has been called into session. Circumstances now: it’s all dependent on the original Lozano complaint. The Committee will then discuss form and substance insofar as the original complaint is concerned, since the other two (Lopez and the “amended” complaint) have now been officially thrown out.
RG Cruz interviewing Reps. Antonino and Puentevella: both say that 73 is close, but no cigar. Without 79, there is nothing to prevent the disposition of the Lozano complaint.
Antonino: Well, since Lozano prepared the complaint as a lawyer, so he can be considered to have verified himself, since verification usually means a lawyer verifying that a non-lawyer is indeed making an allegation (or complaint). This means they’re hedging to avoid suspicions that they will kill Lozano on form. But this still leaves Lozano open to being killed on substance.
4:17 Antonino: Even if they get 79 signatures, the pro-impeachment will have to wait until a committee report is produced, and submitted to plenary. Only then can they overturn it. (This means the President is virtually assured of going happily to Saudi Arabia and New York without an impeachment approval possible before then).
4:32 Crisipin Remulla says he’s heard some who have signed the impeachment complaint have left for abroad, which isn’t an encouraging sign come plenary time. He says the plenary vote should be next week -next Wednesday, specifically.
4:38 in a taped clip, Rep. Prospero Nograles says their initial research suggests former Sec. Soliman is legally barred from revealing information she learned as a member of the cabinet, an extension, perhaps, of Richard Nixon’s claims to Executive Privilege (struck down, I believe, by the US Supreme Court, but the lawyers can dissect this argument).
4:40 Ricky Carandang interviews Atty. Lorna Kapunan. Question: if the amended Lozano complaint was thrown out, what does that make of the 73 signatures so far? This means, they’ve signed nothing. Kapunan says the majority will view the 73 signatures as having been affixed to a scrap of paper, so the gathering of signatures will have to start again. She says fewer will be willing to sign the original complaint because its so flawed. Carandang ripostes: but Fr. Bernas says the original complaint, anyway, includes betrayal of public trust, so it’s a catch all. The lack of details isn’t a hindrance: but the majority believes the lack of details will doom the original Lozano complaint to being declared insufficient in substance! Kapunan says some congressmen are mulling over going to the Supreme Court to complain of grave abuse of the rules. She brings up the possibility of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court on the Justice Committee! Wisest option, Kapunan says, is sign whatever complaint survives, and send it to the Senate where the rules are more “relaxed”.
4:46 With a sly smile, Carandang muses that the signatures are now at 74 or 75!
5:00 Rep. Edcel Lagman says the rest of today will be devoted to speeches. The Committee will reconvene tomorrow morning at 9 or 9:30 in the morning to tackle sufficiency in form and substance.
5:22 (suspended coverage for a bit to write Weave for Korina Sanchez) Bishop Bacani with his brother are being interviewed by RG Cruz. The bishop says he is “very disappointed.” Much quoting of Bernas. Reason has fled the field, he says, leaving it to brute force. The bishop hedges about directly influencing his brother’s decision to support impeachment (it was surprising, he said). Reminds viewers that his fellow bishops have called for the truth to prevail, and for people to gather and discuss how to move the truth forward; he thinks the bishops will have to make a new call, as the truth is now being held back.
5:28 RG Cruz clarifies that only 50 signatures have been verified by the House Secretary-General. Teddyboy Locsin is at the ANC Studio.
Locsin: Edmund Reyes was impulsive in proclaiming the impeachers as having a monopoly on the truth, he contests for example, North Rail/Piatco which “is a private fight between the Speaker and the Senate President.” He refuses to sign on anyone’s word; but the evidence, he says, hasn’t been presented where it should be presented, in the floor of the House. He thinks the tactics of the minority have only served to strengthen the resolve of the majority -and takes a pot shot at Butz Aquino for invoking Ninoy when those surrounding Butz are supporters of the murderer of Ninoy. Locsin says the Lozano complaint provides probable cause for impeachment and furthermore, he thinks articles 13-50 of the amended complaint are valid. He says the evidence can be presented in the first hour of every session. He believes there’s evidence from the hearings headed by Remulla to impeach the President on electoral fraud; but that Zamora tells him that he will lose Liberal Party support if the other charges are dropped. The only issue that concerns the people, he says, are the Garci tapes and electoral fraud. The other cases should come next year. He reiterates that excluding the Lopez and Zamora (amended complaint) only to throw out the original Lozano complaint, will be junking complaints in favor of a dead complaint. That, he says, would be a “catastrophe.” He thinks the best thing is for the question to be raised to the Supreme Court. He suggests continuing to gather signatures, when 79 are achieved, then send them directly to the Senate, which will then determine if it will accept the amended complaint which was rejected by the Committee on Justice. He says the Speaker could try to prevent that, by questioning the sending of the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
On the minority saying they want to give the President her day in court: “it’s rank hypocrisy.” His summation of the situation: can the opposition live with an enemy (the President) for five years, if she isn’t impeached? His answer: you have to win; it’s really hard to live with a President who hates you. He quotes Macaulay who said impeachment provides neither truth nor justice, but adds that what impeachment does is let off steam and provide a means for resolving conflicts.
5:48 Karmina Constantino quotes Harry Roque as saying the Supreme Court will now be petitioned: Locsin says Roque is full of hot air. The Supreme Court will take cognizance of the case and decide on its merits. Says the sloppiness of the Lozano complaint is characteristic of Lozano’s abilities and habits as a lawyer. Finally, he thinks the minority walked out prematurely; he says they should have done so after the 2nd vote: “now would have been beautiful.”
5:56 The Chairman has moved to discuss verification as to form: whether it subscribes to the rules of court and was properly endorsed by a member of the House.
5:58 Rep. Cagas asks the Chairman (Datumanong) for his opinion; the Chairman says he’d rather hear from Cagas; Cagas says then he’d like to hear from Rep. Villafuerte; eventually, the one answering is Rep. Lagman.
Lagman: The complaint does not explicitly state it says it’s verified.Since the complaint is in the form of a sworn affidavit, it is more than merely a verified complaint; and as a lawyer, it is covered by the lawyer’s oath, and thus complies with the requirements for verification.
6:00 Motion made to vote on sufficiency of form. Seconded.
6:01 Villafuerte wanted to explain his views, but meeting has been suspended (majority antsy to keep the express train chugging along!)
6:10 Vote begun on sufficiency in form of Lozano complaint.
6:12 Result: 46 upholding the sufficiency; 1 abstention. The Lozano complaint has been declared sufficient in form by the Committee. Rep. Villafuerte promptly launches into defense of his vote, which TV coverage doesn’t bother to carry.
6:14 Ariel Ureta preempts Congress on ANC. Boo, hiss. Will try to find coverage on AM radio. It turns out State Television is also covering the proceedings live. Whew.
6:24 After Villafuerte ends, one lady representative adds her affirmative vote.
I’m signing off at this point, 6:36 pm, or soon. A congressman is talking as the deliberations on substance begin. He says, the anti-wiretapping law makes the complaint insufficient in substance.
6:41 Rep. Villafuerte argues the Lozano complaint is “grossly insufficient” in substance.
Rep. Defensor rises to say similar things: the Lozano complaint is insufficient in substance.