This is being written early in the morning of Thursday.
Wednesday was apparently spent by the Speaker (depending on the version one heard) avoiding all contact with people, or in a series of meetings with his loyalists from the House. (update: see Newsbreak’s After Son’s Revelations, Will JDV Allow GMA Impeachment?)
The President’s day and strategies are described in the blog of Jove Francisco. As were some reactions from the President’s children.
By late afternoon there was word that a meeting had been called at the Palace for later that night. Set for 9:30 pm, at first word spread that members of Kampi viewed as loyal to the President would attend. Then, word was that besides presidential loyalists in Kampi, those considered loyal in Lakas-CMD would attend. Then, word was the meeting would be open to all members of the House who were committed to maintaining the President in office until 2010.
Details, as of shortly before dinner time, are in the blog of Ricky Carandang.
Around dinner time (that is, a few hours ago), firmer details emerged from various sources. The meeting had been called by the President’s sons, Reps. Mikey and Dato Arroyo (that afternoon, their sister, Luli Arroyo had appeared on TV to lash out at Joey de Venecia). The President’s sons were hopping mad; the meeting in the Palace was their initiative (confirmed by multiple sources).
Members of the House showed up at the Palace (reportedly, at Bonifacio Hall, the former Premier Guest House) at the appointed time: interestingly, Sec. Ermita had been sent out of the Palace to represent the President in meetings outside, so he may or may not have been around. The President’s sons led the faction demanding retribution against the Speaker. The President appeared, joined the meeting, but didn’t say anything. Some congressmen were silent; others advocated a conciliatory policy, and cautioned against rocking the boat; others, irritated that events had moved too quickly to topple the Speaker earlier that day, argued plans had to be made to change the House leadership when sessions resumed on Monday.
At that point, the Speaker arrived unannounced at the Palace. The President left the meeting to confer with the Speaker in another room. The congressmen waited where they were. A while later, someone was sent to inform the gathered congressmen that a change in the House leadership was off the table. The Speaker (according to the functionary who was sent to the gathered congressmen to inform them of developments) basically threatened the President: if she moved to topple him, he would spill the beans on her. And so, the advisory that the status quo would be maintained. These are details from a source that attended the meeting.
As of about half an hour ago, it seems the congressmen were still at the Palace, the President was still huddled with the Speaker, and so it can’t be said for sure, if a stalemate is where things are.
12:55 am Winnie Monsod on TV saying she believes Joey de Venecia 100% and says President owes an explanation, if she knew Abalos was involved, why didn’t she tell him to back off… And Tony Abaya is pissed, because he’s been targeted by a government smear campaign. See Uniffors:
Monsod closed her weekly TV show, Palaban,with the following statement (as best as I can recall)addressed to Gloria
“Joey de Venecia is telling the truth… I admire Joey and I accept his reasons for exposing the corruption….One does not make accusations against very powerful people if he has no basis in fact, specially since doing so would endanger his father’s position and his personal safety… You owe us an explanation….Why did you change the policy on telcoms….why did you..(I forget the other two “whys”)… If your husband told Joey to back off because his father was speaker, then why didn’t you tell Abalos to back off when you found out he was involved in the ZTE dea….I have defended you before but this time you have to defend yourself…”
I’ve never seen or heard Winnie attack Gloria personally. If she ever attacked Gloria before, it was over issues.
(addendum, 9:53 am Denials from some quarters as to the Speaker showing up at the Palace and his conversation with the President. Counting of heads in House supposedly ongoing. Addendum 11:52 am See Admin solons, sans JDV, meet with Arroyo in MalacaÃƒÂ±ang: what Rep. Garcia said was he “did not see” JDV; a separate update I received was that 150 representatives showed up at the Palace: addendum to the addendum, 12:57 pm: another source says 120 congressmen).
8:54 am update: Let me quickly list some insights I’ve been given into what’s going on, by people who have served in government and know some of the protagonists.
1. The modus vivendi in the past was that the Speaker had the franchise on all deals involving China. Obviously the problem now is that the agreement’s not being honored and his economic turf muscled into. This turf is what gave Joey de Venecia room to maneuver, and his method was by means of a proposal that earned him profit while not raiding the treasury (a very traditional scheme). It seems other parties then moved in, and kept him in orbit and then decided to cut him loose, and the icing on the cake was they treated him like dirt. This, Joey himself, could not accept, and this is what stiffened his resolve. It then became an outright assault on the Speaker’s turf.
2. Pragmatically speaking, there is no reason such a squabble should have turned into a political crisis. Particularly since the Speaker has been described as the sort of individual who would take a bad deal over no deal at all, whose instincts are always for the less confrontational way out, and who prefers disagreements ironed out if brokers are available. The reason things tend to escalate all the time is that the President’s inner circle has increasingly adopted a take-no-prisoners approach; gradually, officials useful for brokering peace deals, and who can engage in diplomacy with allies and even enemies have been eased out. Therefore, there’s no one to pacify allies and so matters tend to quickly spiral out of control.
3. The sons of the President are now political players on their own, and they are also aggressive personally and politically. Their involvement in trying to mold events is reminiscent of 1986 when the Marcos children tried to run the Snap Election campaign, with disastrous consequences.
4. The real action may not necessarily be in the Senate, but in the Supreme Court: if it voids the contract then the President is left holding the bag.
5. The Chinese government has warned the Philippine government that to renege on the ZTE deal will put all Chinese government investments and concessions in peril. The Palace itself is saying this. But the Chinese government is probably more pragmatic than this, and even if it made such a threat, is posturing.
6. The weakest link among officials who will go before the Senate today is former NEDA chief Romulo Neri.
Poor Bel Cunanan is obviously worried. This morning’s news stories: ‘Luli’ Arroyo leads counterattack on De Venecia son (in his blog, Jove Francisco has details on the Luli Offensive); Lawyer: Mike Arroyo met De Venecia III; Abalos decides to face Senate but not on Thursday ; Chinese press RP on broadband deal; NBN deal should’ve been junked from get-go.
(addendum 10:19 am) Here is a report on GMANews.TV: Arroyo Cabinet members hold emergency meet on ZTE deal:
Hours before they were to face a Senate investigation on the $329.5-million broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp., Cabinet members of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo held an emergency meeting to discuss their “strategy.”
Radio dzBB reported before dawn Thursday that Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, who attended the meeting, said they would insist the deal was “a conditional contract.”
The report said the meeting was held Wednesday night in Malacañang.
While Mendoza refused to elaborate on the “conditions,” he said he is confident that they could establish the contract was clean and above-board.
Mendoza, Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairman Romulo Neri were among the Cabinet members President Arroyo allowed to attend the hearing.
The Senate hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
(For the historical record, 9/21/07: see De Venecia assured anew of Speakership , which generally confirms that the meeting of congressmen and then a talk between the President and the Speaker took place)