Find stories by date    or keywords  

Deals, pork behind impeach votes

By MIRIAM GRACE A. GO

By driving a hard bargain with vulnerable solons, the Speaker helped the Palace double the original impeachment vote

MANILA, Philippines—The number of votes originally secured by the administration to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez almost doubled by the end of the eight-hour plenary session early Tuesday (March 22) morning, with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. carrying the show for the ruling party.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte (Photo from congress.gov.ph)

From having 120 sure votes that both the majority and the minority acknowledged was there as of Monday morning, the articles of impeachment against Gutierrez was approved past midnight with 212 votes.

What happened in the backroom?

Belmonte drove a hard bargain with vulnerable congressmen, according to sources from both the House leadership and the opposition. It was an offensive that not many in the LP were involved in or even aware of.

Some congressmen who are respondents to election protest cases before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal were reportedly approached. The subtext of the talks was, if they voted against the impeachment, the HRET could decide against them and boot them out of Congress.

Still some legislators were given assurances that their pending cases with the Ombudsman would be dismissed once Gutierrez is replaced as ombudsman.

The solons who each exchanged several text messages with us shortly after the session adjourned were not clear if Belmonte took up these matters with congressmen only on Monday, before or during the eight-hour-long plenary session, or if talks were initiated early on and commitments were clinched only on voting day.

A minority solon also quoted their colleagues from the majority as saying that Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad “talked to them” about funding “needs” in their districts.

We earlier reported that Belmonte was said to have talked to congressmen who commanded bloc votes from the regions, like Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos, who belongs to the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). The congressman had been sounding off Malacañang for hundreds of millions in additional funding for building facilities in time for the Palarong Pambansa in Dapitan City in May.

At the end of the House’s voting on the impeachment, sources from the  minority said that it was not only Jalosjos and his bloc of five congressmen from Zamboanga whom the House leadership tried to win over. The NPC as whole was targeted not only for its considerable membership (30 congressmen) and their known tendency to vote as a bloc.

The administration felt that, compared to other parties, the NPC was more open to aligning with the LP because NPC’s founder, business Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, supported President Aquino, his nephew from the erstwhile estranged branch of the family, in the last election.

Another opposition congressman was more blunt with what happened. “Tinakot ng Palasyo ang marami (The Palace threatened many [of those who were planning to abstain]),” the congressman said.

Another congressman explained that many of them were “afraid of [a repeat] of the GMA experience” where those who went against the Palace’s wishes under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “got zero” pork barrel.

The LP was believed to have resorted to the same carrot-and-stick approach when a text message, supposedly from appropriations committee chair Joseph Abaya (LP, Cavite), was forwarded by Zamboanga City Rep. Isabelle Climaco to congressmen last Saturday. It threatened to withhold the pork barrel of those who would vote “no” or abstain. Abaya denied that the message came from him.

In an analysis posted earlier on Monday, Newsbreak pointed out that the impeachment verdict would be not so much on the Ombudsman but on the real power that the new ruling party now wields in the House of Representatives. (Read: Today’s vote will be about LP’s rule, not Merci)

We pointed out that the composition of the 120 sure votes at that time showed that:

  • LP was in an unstable position as the ruling party because a big percentage of that would be provided by party-list representatives and by “perennial absentees” who were vulnerable to threats of disciplinary action by the House leadership, and from among “flexible” congressmen who were being enticed with promises of SAROs or release of funds.
  • LP was unable to forge a broader coalition with the other political parties with considerable memberships, because congressmen from these parties had earlier intended to vote against the impeachment or to abstain.

The failure to consolidate votes from a broader base was due to the fact that the LP “didn’t have a point man” in the negotiations, according to some lawmakers.

Individual LP congressmen tried to project their own importance and influence, while it appeared that Speaker Belmonte was the only one exercising the power of his office more astutely. The rest, congressmen added, were “kanya-kanyang pasikatan.”

By virtue of his position, Belmonte—a long-time leader of Lakas party until he transferred to the LP in time for the elections last year—almost single-handedly carried out the work for LP in the House in relation to impeaching the Ombudsman.

Originally, about half of the chamber intended to either vote against the impeachment or abstain, owing to what they said was a weak case against Gutierrez. The perceived weakness of the case stems from the fact that the complaints are basically about the Ombudsman’s supposed dismal performance. It’s an argument that may not exactly hold against a “betrayal of public trust” charge in a quasi-judicial proceeding, solons with legal background said.

“If non-performance is an impeachable offense, dapat pati si P-Noy puwede naming i-impeach (then we can also impeach President Aquino),” the congressman said.

With the vote ballooning to 212, which surprised even many in the party, has LP finally strengthened its grip on the House?

Sources from among the House leadership and the minority are not about to concede that yet. “It was Sonny Belmonte who carried the show. LP can’t rule without him,” one congressman said. - Newsbreak

CATEGORY: Commentary
TAGS: ,
  1. Well, the slave of yesterday is now the master of tricks!

  2. Jerome Guevarra says:

    212 votes and this is not about her? Feel the people, please. I have no doubt that this is a political process but you cannot ignore the will of the people. Give me a break, Newsbreak.

  3. Talaga namang pinaninindigan ni Ms. Go ang kanyang unang sinulat tungkol dito! Inulit pa ang mga haka-haka (“analysis” kuno) pagkatapos matambakan ang mga galamay ni OMG…

  4. why give the credit to just one man( Belmonte) i believe that the congressmen voted according to their conscience..those who voted agains are still slaves of the past administration and those who abstain are protecting their own hides.

  5. jose miguel ramirez says:

    congressmen have consciences? hehehe

  6. Tanggapin na lang kasi na “things have changed”. GMA has no clout anymore and it is probably true that these honorable members of the House will side with whoever is the party (of the President). I do not think PNoy would resort to what GMA was wont to do-dangle or refuse the pork whenever she wanted something to be decided in her favor. Give this gov’t the benefit of the doubt. Also, the Congressmen who voted Yes, it is not because Belmonte was such a compelling Speaker, the constituents have made their reps feel it’s about time they (the reps) act on behalf of the ones who put them in power. Kaya to the 46 who chose Merci over their contituents- may a specially generated tsunami engulf you soon- your contituents’ ire. Please list down the names of these traitors so the voters will remember to forget them in the next elections.

    If Newsbreak will always insinuate on things being like they used to be- sobrang negativism na yan.

  7. well kapag di ayon sa gusto mo at di ka pabor sa sinulat ala eh negative talagang dating sayo nun, masakit tangapin na ginagawa ngaun ng congress ang dati nilang gawi ,ika nga nakaugalian na kc.. ang classic nito ang ayaw nila noon gawain din nila ngaun… sabi d2 same same

  8. PS SANTOS says:

    WORDS SUCH AS REPORTEDLY,QUOTED AND PHRASESLIKE”WAS SAID TO HAVE TALK TO”,WAS BELIEVED TO HAVE RESORTED TO” ARE ONLY PROOFS THAT WHAT MS GO HAD WRITTEN ARE MOSTLY HEARSAYS AND SOURGRIPING FROM THE MINORITY WHO HAD IN MANY WAYS BENEFITTED FROM HAVING GMA AROUND AND HENCE CONTRIBUTED TO THE GRAFT AND CORRUPTION THAT HAPPENED DURING GMA’S TIME.

  9. Sorry, but I don’t think the congressmen even convinced themselves logically of Gutierrez’ guilt. They’re just following what is being told to them: that Gutierrez is guilty and that she should be already impeached. That is to prejudge like what you just did now. Someone should list you down for being judgmental.

    You’re just buying what other people are telling you is happening.

  10. Proofs? You mean pieces of proof?
    I don’t get the connection of getting benefits from GMA and thus contributing to graft and corruption. Non-sequitur; and please be patient enough to spell sourgraping right.

  11. scorpio15 says:

    Ang article na ito ay parang napakalaking tsismis ang pagkakalahad. Ayon kay ganito at kay ganon ganito yon.

  12. Hindi rin!?

  13. Well, that’s the concept of being fair and impartial; unless you don’t like what you see. Ideal journalism has to get both sides of the argument and it should leave the readers to judge.

  14. Yeah, this is what we do when we do not agree with one’s comment-we point out the incorrect spelling and grammar.

  15. So why begrudge those who did not like what this “fair and impartial” article is trying to say?

  16. Did any of you read what the article said? It says that Congressmen were THREATENED & BRIBED into voting the way the administration wanted them to even though they thought there was NO CASE! We used to complain about this being done in GMA’s time, but now all of a sudden because it is PNOY and his allies doing it, it is to be COMMENDED?

    Talk about a double standard.

    We have no proof whether this article is true or not but please don’t say that the actions that they allege were done are something that is PRAISE-WORTHY.

  17. I don’t agree with the logic (non-sequitur), I’m sure you know what that means. I also think that when people write comments they should take a bit more time before they publish them and then hold their peace.

  18. I was just making a remark, I’m attacking the argument and not the person. If you hate something and you see it, it’s very difficult to exercise impartial judgement, and that’s why I made the follow-up remark.

  19. Sometimes people take the luxury of speaking without the opportunity to sit and think.

  20. If you hate something, I doubt you’ll easily be able to correctly perceive something as either fair and impartial or unfair and partial.

  21. Oh and you got me there, right, I’m not supposed to perceive this article as fair and impartial without proof, how moralistic of me.

    Well, I believe that the reporter was able to present both sides of the argument, what she had heard and had seen, without adding anything more or giving anything less. I don’t want to copy-paste excerpts but the reporter was able to analyze both sides and their particular remarks.

  22. If you feel that this article is full of lies, you might as well go ahead and complain about it.

  23. and if you think the writer is being partisan, you SHOULD complain about it, this is supposed to be an independent journalism site. Make sure to present your arguments and evidence in a cohesive manner.

  24. di talga mtangap na gawain na talaga ng mga congressman ang kumampi sa nakakarami lalo na sa may control ng mga pondo nila,ika nga kung nasaan ang mainit pang tae andun mga bangaw eh kung may bangaw malamang may langaw..

  25. And you know everything…

  26. I think this is what the comments up there were saying-they were actually commenting and some begrudge them that. Obviously, the article didn’t come across in the same manner to everyone who read it that is why the differing comments.

  27. I don’t.

  28. Good point.

  29. Yuch! Ang baho ng analogy.

  30. EJ Flores says:

    Does this accusation have basis? Was it truly established who started the text message that those who would vote NO will not receive. The cry of bias and injustice could have come from those who engineered it. The past administration is very good at psy-war. The team of attack dogs are still very much in place. Funding never ends. Media must be careful not to succumb to fat envelopes.

  31. True.

  32. Jeffrey Mendiola says:

    i think we can debate endlessly on what motivated representatives to vote on whatever side… if the LP threatened them or not just like what GMA did in the past… but the more essential thing is, who is being impeached? the ombudsman right? what is an ombudsman anyway? why on earth is there an office of the ombudsman? what is its function? and now, what has the present ombudsman done? what had she not done? now, if public officials who were appointed can be simply removed by the appointing power. if you are an employee and your employer can simply just fire you, how would you now remove a sitting ombudsman? an independent office with a fixed term? impeachment dba? so i think we should not dwell much on this things and instead focus… facts are simple to see.. just look at the ombudsman records…

    that is why it is also far more important to have a freedom of information law so that the public would now what they are doing… thats the principle of accountability… that u simply dont get with away without any punishment…

  33. merci must be a very fortunate government official. she was able to wither out the first impeachment attempt against her when GMA and her partisans control the house and she wants the new house to do what the previous house did. unable to have her way, she conveniently calls the new house judgmental and bias. the house will only be fair and impartial if it agrees with her.

    the congressmen who impeached her have the mandate from the people and their votes reflect the voice of the people. this is the very essence of a representative democracy. that these congressmen can do wrong during their term is not an argument that they ceased to be the voice of the people. the institution of regular elections provides the escape from the tyranny of their elected representatives, but until the next elections, these representatives are the alter-ego of the sovereign people and their acts carry the people’s absolute imprimatur.

  34. Language of pork

    Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the leaders in the minority, made much ado about this in his speech during the plenary voting on Monday, March 21. But Abaya described the text message as pure “intrigue.” Tupas denied it came from the ruling party.

    Two sources however told Newsbreak it really did come from the ruling party. And that it obviously worked.

    - Ask the two sources of Newsbreak, baka Arroyo allies sila. Haha.

  35. The trial will be fair and impartial if people stop pressuring each other, if hecklers in Congress shut up and if the evidence is analyzed carefully and not haphazardly. There was no analysis in Congress, only a political vote: so people were basically free to pressure others to vote for the impeachment of Gutierrez. As was mentioned in the PDI, impeachment at the level of Congress is a political exercise. It’s not an exercise of jurisprudence.

    People were allegedly pressured into voting for Gutierrez’s impeachment and Newsbreak claims to have witnesses. So I don’t know what ‘voice of the people’ unsure congressmen heard but it surely isn’t the people of the Philippines. The majority was expecting only half the votes but they would’ve gotten Gutierrez into trial anyway as the impeachment approval needed 94 votes.

    It’s okay for people to taint the way they want to remove Gutierrez from office, the Philippines is a politically rundown country anyway.

  36. I have no doubt that I like the result of the impeachment vote.

    Yes, it is a step forward in fighting corruption in the government; but it is just too bad na na-achieve ito through horse trading. Too bad na yung mga congressman natin ay hindi bumoto according to their conscience (although what they voted for might be what is morally upright). This only goes to show the mediocre state of politics in our country,

  37. Jeffrey Mendiola says:

    just reposting..

    i think we can debate endlessly on what motivated representatives to vote on whatever side… if the LP threatened them or not, just like what GMA did in the past… but the more essential thing is, who is being impeached? the ombudsman right? what is an ombudsman anyway? why on earth is there an office of the ombudsman? what is its function? and now, what has the present ombudsman done? what had she not done? now, if public officials who were appointed can be simply removed by the appointing power. if you are an employee and your employer can simply just fire you, how would you now remove a sitting ombudsman? an independent office with a fixed term? impeachment dba? so i think we should not dwell much on this things and instead focus… facts are simple to see.. just look at the ombudsman records…

    that is why it is also far more important to have a freedom of information law so that the public would now what these public officials are doing… thats the principle of accountability… that u simply dont get with away without any punishment…

  38. this is my problem with this kind of argument. it is political rundown country from the perspective of those who did not agree with impeachment but it was not a political rundown country last year when the house agreed with merci that she should not be impeached. in one year the country has slid dowm from a very politically stable country to one that is rundown. wheewwww.. to think that those who made this kind of argument are those who preen about their minds operating on a higher altitude!

  39. if only i can read from someone who have agreed with merci last year that she should not be impeached because the political atmosphere in the house was “rundown” politically anyway then i can sleep tight secured with the thought that they were talking consistently atleast. :)

SECTORS
INSTITUTIONS
The Presidency
The Legislature
The Judiciary
BLOGS
Glenda M. Gloria
Marites Dañguilan-Vitug
Chay Florentino-Hofileña Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza
Lala Rimando
Marianne Hontiveros
Miss Go
Roel Landingin
Aries Rufo
Copyright © 2010 Public Trust Media Group, Inc.
Disclaimer | Site Rules