A Scourge in the Arroyo House

By exposing the Abalos bribe attempt, De Venecia III may have cast a figure as a well-meaning businessman but he cannot entirely extricate himself from the NBN mess with clean hands, either. The anti-graft and corrupt practices act (RA 3029) prohibits close relatives of top government officials from participating in government transactions. His company, AHI, founded only in 2002, is reportedly under-capitalized thus raising questions whether the firm is qualified to undertake the multi-million broadband project. Aside from the fact that AHI is actually not registered in The Netherlands, it has reportedly incurred a $10-million debt with ZTE. [2]

De Venecia ouster

Arroyo’s allies in the House, led by Rep. Luis Villafuerte, have tried to repair the damage by circulating feelers about the possible ouster of Speaker de Venecia, speculating that the pressure would force the latter’s son from treading on dangerous grounds anymore. But both father and son have cleared the name of Mrs. Arroyo – they called her “my President” – for a possible involvement in the NBN controversy.

The Speaker is a seasoned traditional politician who has remained unscathed by rough seas since the Marcos years. [3] He ran for President and lost, and took back the position that he has held for several terms. De Venecia and former President Ramos backed Mrs. Arroyo from a possible impeachment and for her to stay in office in 2005 in the midst of the 2004 presidential election fraud. [4] In return, Mrs. Arroyo supported De Venecia’s charter change move that was supposed to pave the way for the latter’s prime ministership.

The Speaker cannot pick a fight with Mrs. Arroyo or her husband over the NBN deal as it would also eventually put his House leadership under threat. Moreover, he needs the President’s support for the charter change plan which he has not altogether shelved. This may leave the coalition between Lakas-CMD, De Venecia’s party, and Kampi, Mrs. Arroyo’s party, intact even just for purposes of short-term convenience. Such a setting constitutes an obstacle against any move to impeach Abalos over the NBN mess and election-related cases. Ruling coalition votes will be marshaled to stop the impeachment out of fear that hailing the Comelec chief into the impeachment court is like opening a Pandora’s box that could pin the President and her husband once more to electoral fraud and other scams.

The political stakes involved in the NBN fiasco are high that administration officials and their allies may just likely bury it. How the anti-Arroyo opposition camp including the presidential hopefuls will handle this would be interesting to look at. If left unsolved, the scam will leave the people – the primary victims of state plunder, corruption, and misgovernance – wondering whether to allow such things to happen without making those responsible to account for their crimes. Posted by Bulatlat

[1] Before the NBN scam, Mrs. Arroyo, her husband, allies, and other officials were linked to major cases of alleged corruption including the P1.1 billion Diosdado Macapagal boulevard project, the $2-million extortion charge against former Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, the P200-millon Jose Pidal secret bank accounts case, the $503-million Northrail project, the P728-million fertilizer fund, PhilHealth, and others.

[2] De Venecia III used to serve as chief operating officer of Multi-Media Telephony, Inc. whose franchise was approved and extended by Congress in 1995 and 1997.

[3] Speaker Jose de Venecia is known as the staunch defender of the enactment of pork barrel allocations in the national budget. His name was also dragged into the PEA-Amari deal, tagged as the “grandmother of all scams” during the Ramos administration. He supported Ferdinand Marcos’s 1973 constitution that gave legitimacy to martial rule during which he was alleged to have acquired P5 billion in private debts from his defunct Land Oil Resources, Corp.

[4] De Venecia again became instrumental in the defeat of the second impeachment of Arroyo in 2006.

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