MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Sept) – An ally of President Gloria Arroyo has supported a complaint by a top-caliber layer against House Speaker Jose de Venecia for allegedly intervening for his son’s telecommunication business interest with the government.
Rep. Luis Villafuerte (Camarines Sur), president of the administration’s KAMPI party, has thrown his support for the “breach of ethics” complaint against De Venecia by lawyer Roel Pulido.
Pulido has filed the complaint against De Venecia, however, he stressed that he would rather that the 25-member House committee on ethics and privileges look into and address his complaint against the veteran politician “based on merit.”
Pulido, who once served as counsel to the Magdalo group of rebellious junior military officers, has welcomed Villafuerte’s move.
“The last thing I want is for me to be reduced as a pawn in the political wrangling in the House,” Pulido said in a statement sent Wednesday to the Mindanao Examiner.
“The complaint that I filed on September 20 is sufficient in form and substance, and deserves a fair, impartial and reasonable hearing by the House committee.”
“If Representatives Villafuerte, Jose Solis of Sorsogon and Pablo Garcia of Cebu as well as their allies wish to unconditionally champion my complaint, then they are absolutely welcome to do so. After all, they are supposed to be leaders of the so-called House reform bloc,” Pulido said.
But Pulido appealed to lawmakers to endorse his complaint. “I am appealing to them and to every House member to endorse my complaint strictly based on merit – because this is the right thing to do – and not just because this happens to be politically convenient for them to so do,” he said.
Villafuerte and Solis led the group of pro-administration House members that tried but failed to field Garcia as De Venecia’s challenger in the race for the top House post in July.
On Tuesday, Villafuerte revived his row with De Venecia after being accused of instigating the plot to oust the House leader.
In a heated privilege speech, Villafuerte threatened to openly support Pulido’s complaint before the ethics committee.
“If the Speaker keeps on accusing me, I myself will pursue this ethics case. I want that on record,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte said that if there is something De Venecia should be worried about, it is the complaint filed by Pulido.
“But if ever disciplinary action is meted out against the Speaker, and whatever that will be, it will not come from me but from the ethics committee,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte’s outburst almost triggered a shouting bout with colleagues loyal to De Venecia on the House floor. Villafuerte became furious after he was tagged as the one who allegedly offered to depose De Venecia.
According to published reports attributed to the Speaker’s camp, in a recent meeting with President Arroyo, Villafuerte supposedly volunteered to lead a House mutiny against De Venecia.
In his complaint, Pulido asked the House committee on ethics and privileges to investigate and discipline De Venecia on two causes: failure to stop a criminal act and failure to discourage the wrong perceptions of his role as dispenser or peddler of undue patronage.
According to Pulido, the Speaker’s son and namesake, Jose De Venecia III, by admission and by record, managed to corner a lucrative congressional franchise for a previous broadband venture. The son’s franchise was granted by Congress in 1995 and expanded in 1997, both while his father was Speaker.
In November last year, the son also submitted an unsolicited bid for the national broadband network project that was later on awarded to China’s ZTE Corp. -- the same concession that his father is now urging Malacañang to throw out.
In his complaint, Puildo said that De Venecia Jr. was obviously aware of his son’s business interests -- in spite of the prohibition under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act -- as the Speaker publicly hailed his son as "the father of broadband in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia."
Pulido cited the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which says: “It shall be unlawful for the spouse or for any relative, by consanguinity or affinity, within the third civil degree, of the President of the Philippines, Vice President of the Philippines, the President of the Senate, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to intervene, directly or indirectly, in any business, transaction, contract or application with the government.”