(L to R) 1. Bank armored car: last minute delivery? 2. The Arroyo’s corner 3. Dato surveys his domain
(L to R) 1., 2. Audience in the galleries 3. JDV’s last moments presiding over the session
(L to R) 1. Kampi huddle 2. Admn Reps. talk to reporters 3. JDV perorates from the floor
(L to R) Two scenes from the media frenzy after JDV finished his speech
As I suspected, the announcement from the Palace, that there wouldn’t be fireworks in the House on Monday but instead, hopefully a tidy handover of power on Tuesday, was a ruse. The Palace was hoping that the galleries would be empty, the media absent, and public attention unfocused, so that it could minimize the risks if de Venecia decided to go down fighting.
A few days before the session resumed, both sides, the pro- and anti-JDV camps, conducted meetings one after the other. Some congressmen gave commitments early while some attended meetings on both sides. Signatures on manifestos were gathered, and there are even reports of congressmen signing on manifestos from both sides.
Both sides claimed they had the numbers and for a time, it was seen as a bluffing game. But it became clearer after the majority caucus held in Malacanang. It was a make or break caucus for JDV, where he was expecting (probably more accurately, hoping) that the President would step in and advise everyone to uphold the status quo.
According to information I gathered, the President instead tried to craft a set of procedures on how the showdown would happen, which was seen by others as the final nail on the coffin of JDV’s Speakership. On its face, it is a neutral act, but Congressmen saw it as a withdrawal of support from JDV and a blessing to the initiative of her sons to oust the Speaker.
After the adjournment of that caucus, word already spread out among congressmen about the position of the president and as expected, tides began to turn in favor of Cong. Prospero Nograles. The two camps held meetings after the caucus, the JDV camp in Rembrandt Hotel and the Nograles camp in Luk Foo, a Chinese restaturant near Congress.
There, the numbers and warm bodies were finally seen. At around 3:30 PM, thirty minutes before session was to begin, there were 47 congressmen in Rembrandt and 123 in Luk Foo. 121 votes were needed to oust De Venecia.
Jose De Venecia’s fate was sealed.
As it was, since no one really believes the Palace or trusts it, everyone due to show up on Monday showed up on Monday. At first things looked like they were headed for business as usual until Rep. Abraham Mitra of Palawan, soon after the referral of bills, rose and threw down the gauntlet.
He moved that the speakership be declared vacant. Ronaldo Zamora tried to derail the motion by rising on a point of inquiry but fellow minority member Plaza then rose and derailed Zamora’s inquiry. Datumanong, who was presiding, suspended the session. At that point, two hours of furious caucus-holding and negotiations began.
The two hours were spent basically hammering out two issues between the Nograles and the de Venecia camps.
The Nograles, or Palace, camp wanted to deny de Venecia the opportunity to demand nominal voting where each and every congressman would have to rise and put their vote for or against the motion, on the record. Furthermore, the Palace wanted to deny de Venecia the opportunity to make a valedictory speech.
Along the way, de Venecia clung to the hope he could, somehow, preserve his office and at one point, inquired with Rep. Tanada of the Liberal contingent whether, if he came out strongly enough against the President, the Liberals would reconsider their pledge to support the Palace’s candidate. Tanada responded by going out to the lobby and telling media they were foursquare behind Nograles (later on, after de Venecia’s peroration, Rep. Jun Abaya, great grandson of Emilio Aguinaldo and member of the LP, had the decency to try to register his vote on the motion by nodding; but Rep. Fuentebella, presiding at the time, insisted, rightly, that every congressman rise from his chair, go the mike, and state clearly what their vote was; Abaya sheepishly went to the mike and mumbled “Yes”).
At a certain point, about a half hour before he returned to the floor, de Venecia apparently knew his game was up and summoned his wife and son to his office. They returned to the gallery about ten minutes before the soon to be ex-speaker reappeared on the floor -there was an audible gasp from the galleries when he took his place by the rostrum. All the while, Rep. Mitra had hovered by the microphone repeatedly asking that the session be resumed and his motion carried out. The Arroyo brothers at various time surveyed the scene with proprietary interest and from time to time, Mikey Arroyo would disappear.
So when de Venecia returned, the question became, would he be permitted a swan song? Villafuerte and Pabling Garcia’s blustering were foiled by the intervention of Rep. Teodoro Locsin, Jr., Rep. Dilangalen, and the father of Chiz Escudero; in a nuanced and quite interesting ruling from the chair, Rep. Fuentebella said that a congressman has a paramount right to free speech, by means of making a privilege speech, after which the division of the House on the question of Mitra’s motion could then take place.
As for the speech of de Venecia, the various press reports will suffice: see The Speaker speaks — And How; and how De Venecia goes down fighting. See also Nograles is new House Speaker and Gonzalez: ‘He has burned his bridges with the President’.
The great defect of de Venecia as a politician was revealed for all to see, when his often rambling speech kept returning to a complaint that he was speaking off the cuff, because he’d been assured -and believed- that he’d have until Tuesday to state his case to his peers. Obviously the Palace was not inclined either to keep its word or do him any favors, yet the man thought that a pledge was a pledge. In a nutshell, that is the great defect of truly traditional politicians -they believe that there are some lines no one will cross.
To be sure, presidents can’t tolerate disloyal speakers. After Manuel Villar, Jr. transmitted the articles of impeachment against Joseph Estrada to the Senate, the ruling coalition deposed him and elected Rep. Fuentebella speaker instead. This time, de Venecia had to go, and hardly anyone sympathized with him.
Now, he is on probation: opponents of the administration will more likely than not, wait and see if he will fill in the details of the official chicanery he only painted in bold strokes in his valedictory. People inclined to be neutral, will be watching, as well, as INKBLOTS puts it,
As an ordinary citizen, I am more interested with his expose. While it may be too late a hero to expose the Presidency and its allies in its alleged lapses and involvement in various controversies, I realized something good was coming out of it, after all–that is the unveiling of some hidden truths and burning issues that the Filipino nation must face.
What will happen in the coming days is for us to see. As JDV said, it is just the start and the Filipino people would expect more in the coming days. That is for us to hear and see.
After some period of stabilization, we are again riding a political roller-coaster. I just pray that this move to expose the Presidency’s alleged shortcomings would do good for the country. Definitely, this move by JDV will turn tides. I just hope that many Filipinos would become more vigilant of those turncoat politicians who would take advantage of this situation, and that the people behind it would not resort to violence.
Returning to Ruffy Biazon’s blog, he states, clearly enough, I think, what the whole exercise was all about:
I believed that the ouster move was not motivated by a desire for change and reform in the House. It was never a secret that the primary movers of this move were the two sons of the President, who were hurt by the testimony of JDV’s son Joey against their father regarding the ZTE scandal. In the House, congressmen complain about JDV’s tendency to make promises and not make good on them, but there wasn’t any drive to remove him from office because of this. Issues about transparency in the House expenses were raised, but nobody ever really made a move to scrutinize them. During the budget deliberations, where the golden opportunity to ask questions about the House budget is there for everyone to take, no one grabbed it. The Commission on Audit annual report on House expenses is always ready for anyone interested to go over and review.
Some have said that the Speaker was responsible for the plummeting ratings and deplorable image of the House. But the House of Representatives is a collective body. The Speaker is said to be only the First Among Equals. The image of the House is the responsibility not only of the Speaker but by all congressmen as individuals and the entire House as an institution. Even if we have a Speaker with impeccable character, if a majority of congressmen still abuse their power, act arrogantly in their distrcits, involve themselves in questionable deals and transactions and perform their duties poorly, the House will remain a house of ill repute. It can be redeemed through extra spending in publicity and public relations, but those will never reform the House.
I have due respect and admiration for him as a colleague, but Cong. Nograles couldn’t have made it on his own. As the current head of the House contingent on the Commission on Appointments during this Congress, he is often not in the House, understandably because of his duties as head of the contingent. For the past months of the 14th Congress, he was concentrated on his duty instead of campaigning for change and reform in the House. Besides, going for the Speakership involves the mobilizing resources which I don’t think he has on his own. It had to take someone else with more clout and resources to organize and convince the congressmen to support him.
The House of Representatives elected three Speakers last night: Rep. Nograles to represent the castrated Lakas-CMD; and the brothers Dato and Mikey Arroyo through whom all public works flow.
And as I mentioned in my column, yesterday, the signal sent by this move is that Kampi is now the real mover and shaker in the House. It hatched the plot to oust de Venecia, a party man and leader with stature equal to, at least, the President; it sustained that plot and accomplished it; in other words, it is the party that matters, and its gaining the greatest numbers is merely a matter of time. As will be its deposing, in turn, Nograles the moment, say, the President decides that he has become a liability.
For example, the enmity between Nograles, a third termer out of the House by 2010 anyway, and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, is famous. By all accounts, Duterte isn’t going to take Nograles’ election as Speaker sitting down. Who will the President need more, in the coming years, if there are efforts to accomplish Charter Change? After Nograles delivers in the House, the effort will sink or swim depending on how local governments marshal their forces. At which point the President will need Duterte more than she needs Nograles. And his being a member of Lakas-CMD will matter little by that time.
I received this text message, today, which for now will have to be in the caveat emptor, scuttlebutt department:
Per Palace insider, Lakas convention set this week has been deferred to another date. Press con for FVR being arranged. They’ll next try to oust Villar. JPE is coy to be Senate Pres. but Angara agreed. ConAss preferred over PI which can’t change form of govt. Plan is for unicameral with PGMA as PM. JDV chopping is a 3-pronged plan: Revenge related to ZTE, reduce his influence in the House vis-a-vis ConAss, and break the Lakas which is not PGMA but FVR and JDV. Ermita is also in chopping board. Bunye asked to be moved to Monetary Board. Esperon to DND.
There will be easy ways to refute or prove this and previous scuttlebutt, much of which has ended up being verified publicly by the Palace, anyway.The EQualizer, on the other hand, makes some bold predictions.
Mon Casiple, in his blog, offers up this reflection:
We are witness to the final act of GMA’s current crisis of presidential legitimacy. In so doing, he has thrown the gauntlet at GMA’s feet, accusing her of orchestrating his ouster and hinting of stormy days ahead.
GMA has no choice but to pick up this gauntlet — issues are already joined. The fuse was lit by de Venecia and the clock is ticking. If taken to its logical conclusion — and if no major damage control is taken, however remote its possibility — the crisis of legitimacy has entered its final act. Jose de Venecia cannot be permitted to speak of living, breathing demons in the Malacañang closet.
GMA faces the specter of serious political opposition with the present and future JDV revelations. In a situation of negative presidential popularity, this is an explosive situation. The possible scenarios basically are open-ended. They certainly include a shortened GMA term or a possible desperate declaration of an emergency situation.
Malacañang’s political strategists miscalculated on this one. It may cost all of them their heads.
And Iloilo City Boy proposes something I’ve pondered upon, too: perhaps the best thing would be to have a permanent, single-term limit for officials, without any possibility of ever returning to the same office.