Tuesday, October 02, 2007 [ 8:29 PM ]
ABALOS' RESIGNATION, A TACTICAL MOVE?
Though very much urged, the resignation of Benjamin Abalos as comelec chair still surprised a lot of people. From his sympathizers to his detractors and even the spectators watching the development of the controversy Abalos is allegedly involved with, never expected that such an act will be made by him.
Just weeks ago, after the controversy in the National Broadband Network project erupted, Abalos was firm in his stand that he will never resign from his position despite the huge clamor of different groups calling for it. He said that resignation is an acceptance of defeat and an admission of guilt. The events that followed this was of course the investigation of the senate on Abalos’ involvement in the NBN deal as per Joey De Venecia III’s testimony and the filing of an impeachment case against him by Ilo-ilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico duly endorsed by three house representatives.
The unfolding of these events was very much anticipated, and when everyone is just waiting for either the result of the senate investigation or the progress of the impeachment complaint, Abalos resigned. He said, contrary to what he said before, that it was not an admission of guilt but just his way of clearing his name. He also said that the controversy of the broadband project has hounded his family and affected them negatively.
Many speculations about the resignation have surfaced minutes after Abalos publicly announced it. Some sympathized with him but others were still suspicious. Of course, no one can really blame the public for doubting the sincerity of the act given the way the administration and its allies have tried to hide the truth through their anomalous moves. I agree that the resignation was an act of statesmanship and I salute him for that even if it was long overdue. I was surprised by it and so I thought of some possible reasons of why he did it.
First is maybe he is expecting the senate investigation to stop and consider the issue moot and academic after his resignation. If this is what he is thinking, then he obviously miscalculated because the senators are still adamant to continue its probe. Also, with the coincidence of his resignation and the arrival of the first gentleman, it is also possible that he didn’t really want to resign but just forced to; possibly by the people or person or woman (most possible) who wants to protect the first gentleman from the hands of the senate. Maybe it is them who miscalculated about the senate investigation and not Abalos.
Second possibility is that maybe Abalos is anxious about the impeachment complaint filed against him. Though still far from the number of signatures required to transmit it to the senate, he may not be brave enough to take the risk. He knows of course that even after the complaint is dropped due to his resignation, he may not be completely out of the woods yet. He knows that the case against him may still be dragged to the ombudsman but he would rather take his chances there than in congress. With how the ombudsman conducted its investigation on some controversial issues such as the Mega Pacific deal and Joc Joc Bolante’s case, resignation could be his better option.
Third is that it is also likely that Abalos was forced to resign by the president to avoid a showdown of power between her and speaker Jose De Venecia. Since it is JDV3 against Abalos, it is obvious that the speaker will favor his son even if the president says otherwise. GMA knows the power of JDV in the house and she may not want a clash with him yet. With the issue of legitimacy still hounding this administration, an impeachment complaint against the president can still be revived and if that happened, to lost her most powerful ally in the house is a nightmare she don’t want to happen.
Thursday, September 27, 2007 [ 12:15 PM ]
The difference between a whistle bomb and a whistle joy is that the first starts with a loud long noise then ends with a loud bang. The latter starts with a loud long noise then will suddenly stop. No exclamation point, no spectacular ending. That is what the testimony of former NEDA chief Romulo Neri yesterday was like.
Most people thought his appearance in the senate was a sign of bravery and he was ready to squeal all that he knew about the controversial broadband deal. But as we all saw he didn’t, or maybe he tried but he wasn’t successful. All he did was to tell that Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos bribed him with “200” and that the president told him not to accept it. Every time the senators tried to dig in to what the president did after she was informed of the event, Neri invoked executive privilege. He said that he can’t tell anything about what the president told him as per order of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita. Neri said that he was allowed by Ermita to tell about the bribery and the order of the president not to accept it but nothing more.
Obviously it can be translated as an order to pin down Abalos and to clear the name of the president. But more to that, it also means that the president knows that there was a bribe but she approved the contract just the same, without doing anything about Abalos’ alleged illegal act. Cabinet members can of course argue that there was a discreet investigation made, but no one seems to know who were investigated, who conducted the investigation and how it went, except of its result that Abalos is innocent. Even after being urged by some senators that yesterday was the day Neri could do the country a great favor by not hiding under the executive privilege, he still insisted that he was only following Ermita’s order.
That was a clear sign of Neri’s loyalty to the administration, but is the administration loyal to him? I don’t think so. In fact Ermita just denied that he was the one who ordered Neri to invoke the privilege. If Neri wasn’t lying about it then Ermita is. Neri should take that as an indication that even how much he shield Malacañang, he is not assured to get the same protection. Who knows, if the controversy becomes even bigger, he might be the next fall guy for the couple in the palace.
A pdf file of Joey De Venecia III’s affidavit in the senate investigation can be downloaded here.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007 [ 9:33 AM ]
PR GOING WRONG
If there is one thing that the controversy of the National Broadband Network project that the government signed with China’s ZTE Corporation did to this administration, it was to give its PR team and political spinners a startling uppercut.
In boxing there is what they call a lucky punch. In basketball there is the lucky shot and the friendly roll. In both cases, you didn’t really expect your opponent would make it but they managed to. That same thing happened to team gma. They never thought that this broadband contract will make it this big and that the opposition and the public will want more expose about it than the Hello Garci controversy.
It has been too late for them to realize that the broadband deal is coming to hit them straight in the face. The first indication that they already felt it was only the day before Jose De Venecia III appeared before the senate and testified how his president’s husband told him to back off with the deal. Mike Arroyo suddenly flew out of the country. A sudden move that just made things very obvious it was like they poured gasoline to fire.
Possibly because of their outrage on JDV3’s revelations, GMA’s allies in the House planned to oust Jose De Venecia from the speakership. Another sudden move that the PR managers of the administration never thought will backfire on them. It was again too late for them to realize that JDV still has strong influence in the lower house that might complete the magic number of the opposition to pursue an impeachment attempt against the president. This again was an attempt that made things look like the administration is hiding something because they withdrew it the moment they sensed JDV’s power.
At this point, nothing seems to go in favor of the administration. So to rub out the speculations that they are really hiding something, Mrs.Arroyo decided to allow all her cabinet members to attend the senate investigation on the broadband deal. That was what gma or her advisers thought. Because after being placed under scrutiny, the cabinet members seemed to confirm that the broadband deal is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Because of the political noise as gma herself said, she suspended the contract. It was here where I realized that gma’s PR team was really rattled and confused. They chose to suspend a contract that was already suspended by the Supreme Court. As Ricky Carandang and the Inquirer editorial said, it was a plain publicity move that the people didn’t buy. Even General Hermogenes Esperon discharged speculations of coup attempt and even martial law thoughts just to be able to divert the issue.
Gma’s political advisers and press relations people is one of the best I’ve seen. Maybe that’s because I’ve only seen a few but it cannot be denied that during the height of the Hello Garci controversy in 2006 they managed to pull off the right spins to prevent another uprising despite the people’s outrage. That was before. Now, with the way things are going and the way they are doing their hastily moves, it looks like they cannot always be lucky especially when caught off guard.
Ringtone of ABZTEFG can be downloaded in txtpower website .
Thursday, September 13, 2007 [ 10:14 AM ]
MERE PASSING OF BURDEN
As all of us should know by now, former President Joseph Estrada was declared by the Sandiganbayan yesterday guilty of the crime of plunder and was sentenced a penalty of reclusion perpetua or 20 to 40 years in prison. (Former Chief Justice Andres Narvasa defined the difference between life imprisonment and reclusion perpetua here) Part of the decision is the acquittal of the former president in the crime of perjury and the acquittal as well of Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Atty. Eduard Serapio in the crime of plunder as co-accused of Erap.
Yet again, the country is divided, maybe not equally but divided just the same on whether the decision made by the graft court is right or wrong. Obviously, it has been rightly predicted that an acquittal on all charges is unlikely to happen because it will heavily put in question the already tarnished legitimacy of the present administration. But unlike what the media made it looked like, yesterday’s decision is not the end of it. Though it is the end of the 6-year long trial in the Sandiganbayan, it’s not yet the end of the legal process.
Whether the Erap lawyers decide first to file a motion for reconsideration in the Sandiganbayan (something that Sen.Miriam Defensor-Santiago said is not possible anymore because the decision was already “beyond reasonable doubt”) in the end it will be the Supreme Court who will have the final say on the matter. Of course, the Sandiganbayan knows this and it seems that they just decided to pass on their burden to a court of higher credibility.
Though they may look audacious in convicting the former president in the heavier crime of plunder, what they did was just to pass the ball to the higher court. Although there were accessory penalties given to Estrada, the court still was not brave enough to allow his detention in Muntinlupa. This is even after the declaration of Atty.Rene Saguisag that his client is willing to be detained in a regular prison. Not to mention how Presiding Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro kept ignoring Atty.Dennis Villaignacio’s attempt to insist that Muntinlupa is ready to accommodate the former president. So what’s the difference?
The situation of Erap before the decision is not so much different after the Sandiganbayan’s decision was made. He will stay in Tanay, Jinggoy is back to the senate and his lawyers are back on the court to defend their client. It’s just the same. The only difference is that this time, it will only be Erap alone who will wait for the final verdict and the decision lies on the Supreme Court. With the way I look at it, we’re back in square one just with a different court and a lesser number of accused.
HERE is a pdf file of the full decision of the Sandiganbayan I got from Manolo Quezon’s blog.