, OCTOBER 14, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. have vowed to keep the ruling coalition intact in the wake of recent intrigues hounding them, Presidential Management Staff head Cerge Remonde said yesterday.

He said the President has full trust and confidence in the leadership of De Venecia in the House of Representatives.

The latest impeachment complaint filed against Mrs. Arroyo triggered a slew of speculations that things are not right between the President and the Speaker.

This came following the controversy generated by the canceled national broadband network (NBN) contract with China’s ZTE Corp. which implicated several high government officials on allegations of bribery and corruption.

Forced to resign in the wake of the controversy was former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos who quit last month after being accused by the Speaker’s son, Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, of bribery and brokering the NBN deal for ZTE Corp.

The testimonies made by De Venecia III in the Senate soured the political relationship of his father with the President after he also implicated First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in the botched deal.

A group of administration lawmakers took the initiative to move for the ouster of De Venecia as Speaker.

Reports said the President gave the go-signal to proceed against De Venecia in retaliation for the alleged approval of the impeachment proceedings against her at the House.

Remonde claimed there are interest groups who are out to destroy the coalition by sowing intrigue between the President and De Venecia.

The latest impeachment complaint filed against the President drew various reactions from the members of the ruling political coalition, particularly from the ruling Lakas-CMD party and Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), the political party founded by Mrs. Arroyo.

De Venecia initially expressed his reservations in acting on the impeachment complaint filed by private lawyer Roel Pulido against the President following reports of bribes allegedly offered by Kampi to certain lawmakers to endorse the complaint.

But after the meeting between Mrs. Arroyo and some 200 administration congressmen at Malacañang last Thursday, De Venecia decided to inhibit himself from the impeachment process and allowed Deputy Speaker Raul Del Mar (Cebu) to refer the complaint to the committee on justice.

An impeachment complaint was also filed by Pulido against De Venecia and according to Remonde, Malacañang has nothing to do with this, either.

“I will reiterate that insofar as the President is concerned, she is committed, as the Speaker is committed, for the preservation of the ruling political coalition,” Remonde stressed.

“I believe that there are groups sowing intrigue against the President and Speaker De Venecia. I believe that there are political elements who want to destroy the ruling coalition. As to who these people are, I think the answer to that question is to question who will benefit from the destruction of the ruling coalition,” he added.

Remonde also denied allegations of bribing some administration congressmen during the meeting in Malacañang last Thursday.

Reports said some of the lawmakers were given cash on top of the promise to facilitate their pork barrel funds.

“We categorically deny the bribe. Insofar as the President is concerned, we did not bribe anyone,” Remonde said.

He reiterated the reported admission of Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco about receiving cash during the meeting was merely a joke as indicated by Cuenco himself.

“When we confronted him about it, he told us he was only joking,” he said.

Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo is not affected by these reports and remains focused on governance.

“She does not allow these things to distract her from the more important business of governing the country, making the economy grow and winning the peace in the south,” Remonde said.

‘Garci’ applies for retirement By Sheila Crisostomo Sunday, October 14, 2007

Controversial former Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Virgilio Garcillano has applied for official retirement from the poll body.

A source said Comelec officials, however, have blocked the application pending the results of the internal investigation being conducted by the poll body on the “Hello Garci” wiretapping scandal.

“The Comelec has decided to withhold his (Garcillano’s) application for retirement because the results of the investigation have not yet been released,” the source said.

Garcillano was a career official who rose from the ranks, having served as election officer, election supervisor and regional director of the Comelec for Northern Mindanao, Western Mindanao and the Socsargen (South Cotabato, Sarangani, and General Santos City) region.

But he will go down in history as the Comelec commissioner who was wiretapped while talking with someone widely believed to be President Arroyo about alleged irregularities in the 2004 presidential polls.

Garcillano and the President were allegedly wiretapped while they were talking about her lead over opposition presidential bet actor Fernando Poe Jr.

The “Hello, Garci” scandal even led to several impeachment complaints, which were later dismissed by the House of Representatives.

Garcillano stayed away from the public eye until last May 14 when he ran but lost in the congressional elections in Bukidnon.

Comelec sources said while nothing happened in the investigations conducted by the House and Senate on the “Hello, Garci” tapes, Garcillano is not yet off the hook as far as the Comelec is concerned.

The source said the Comelec has already directed lawyer Alioden Dalaig, director of its law department, to immediately release the results of the internal investigation that his office conducted over the “Hello, Garci” scandal.

Sources said Garcillano’s retirement benefits depend on the outcome of this investigation.

“Unless he is cleared by the law department, Garcillano would not be able to get his retirement benefits. And if there was, indeed, an anomaly, the Comelec will file appropriate charges. Who knows, the Comelec might have gotten new evidence,” the source added.

A couple of months ago, Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento proposed the re-opening of the investigation into the “Hello, Garci” controversy to bring closure to the issue.

But Sarmiento’s proposal was junked by the Comelec, then headed by Benjamin Abalos, citing the inconclusive House and Senate inquiries.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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