, OCTOBER 20, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Former President Fidel Ramos is willing to help patch up the reported differences between President Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. if asked to do so.

Ramos’ spokesman, Ed Malay, said the former leader “is simply watching the political developments from the sidelines but is well abreast with what is going on.”

Mrs. Arroyo and De Venecia are chairwoman and president, respectively, of the ruling Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats. Ramos is the chairman emeritus of the party.

“Unless he is asked to mediate, I don’t think the former president will get into the picture unless it will affect the Lakas-CMD,” Malay said.

He said Ramos’ stance explains why he hasn’t spoken openly on issues involving the two leaders.

“It is not in the nature of FVR (Fidel V. Ramos) to meddle on matters that do not involve his person especially when they involve two responsible leaders who know what should be good for the country and thus are in a position to handle whatever differences there may be,” Malay said.

He however said the former president wanted to see things clarified between Mrs. Arroyo and De Venecia.

But there may be no more need for Ramos’ counsel as De Venecia himself said he is willing to repair his ties with the President, which he claimed have been “impaired by Machiavellian intriguers in the snake pits in Malacañang and the House of Representatives.”

He said a group of House members “who are loyal to the President and to me” started conducting “shuttle diplomacy” on Thursday to bring the two of them closer together again.

“They had lunch with me in my house, and they had dinner with the President in Malacañang,” the Speaker told reporters.

The group was composed of Deputy Speakers Eric Singson and Amelita Villarosa, and Majority Leader Arthur Defensor and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who is appropriations committee chairman.

“I still have no feedback on the result of their meeting with the President,” De Venecia said.

He said he hopes to establish closer rapport with Mrs. Arroyo so that they could achieve his vision for a “revolution.”

“I think this moral renewal will save her presidency and the nation. She has to take action immediately in view of the fact that there are again mounting calls for her resignation in the wake of widespread corruption in government,” he stressed.

The Speaker did not identify the “intriguers” in the Palace and in his own backyard.

He said the Palace “snakes” are those “who do not appreciate the fact that I am able to foist a veto on the President, that I can say no on certain things.”

“These are those who want to monopolize power, those who resent power sharing,” he said.

But responding to questions, De Venecia said he was inclined to believe that Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, judging from his “wild accusations against me, is one of those intriguers.”

“But I want to acknowledge the fact that he helped me during the fight for the position of Speaker,” he added.

By “wild accusations,” De Venecia was referring to Puno’s allegations that the money distributed to congressmen after a breakfast meeting with the President in Malacañang Thursday last week “came from the office of the Speaker.”

He said the culprits could also be members of Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino or Kampi party that lost in the speakership fight in July: in particular, Rep. Pablo Garcia of Cebu, who is his defeated challenger for the top House post, Rep. Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, Danilo Suarez of Quezon and Jose Solis of Sorsogon.

De Venecia lamented that Mrs. Arroyo has been listening to intrigues.

He revealed that toward midnight of Tuesday last week, when the House was rushing work on the proposed P1.227-trillion national budget, the President called some congressmen to inquire if it was true as reported to her that the chamber was discussing changes in the impeachment rules.

He said one of those called was Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III.

He said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, on the other hand, phoned Majority Leader Defensor to make a similar inquiry.

“They did not call me. Had they, I would have told them they received false information because we were busy with the budget,” he said.

He also said he hopes the military would not intervene in the current political crisis the President is facing.

“If they do, we will (fall into) anarchy, and that will set us back many years,” he stressed.

In a related development, Gov. Jose Zubiri of Bukidnon called The STAR to say that not all governors attended the meeting of local officials with the President on Thursday last week.

“I was invited but I did not go. Had I gone there and they offered me money, I would have surely refused,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nueva Vizcaya officials who were Lakas-CMD members bolted the party and moved to the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Chairman Thompson Lantion of the Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), also the concurrent Lakas-CMD chairman for Nueva Vizcaya, said that all the local officials, including the mayors and long-time political party leaders have resigned in the wake of controversies that deluged the administration. – With Jess Diaz and Charlie Lagasca

JDV must lead by example by quitting’ By Delon Porcalla Saturday, October 20, 2007

(STAR) Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. should “lead by example” and begin his “moral revolution” by resigning as House leader.

The challenge, raised by Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson, may prove to be tough for the Speaker who – while affirming his solidarity with the Arroyo administration – vowed to fight off any attempt to unseat him.

“Try to stop me, I’m ready to fight,” De Venecia said over Bombo Radyo Dagupan apparently addressed to his opponents in the House.

But Joson said De Venecia’s appeal for moral rebirth deserves attention. “His message was right but he should consider resigning as Speaker so that public officials will seriously consider his proposal for a moral revolution,” Joson, an independent, said.

Joson added that by quitting his House post, De Venecia might even inspire President Arroyo to make her own sacrifice by resigning.

“A concrete example is needed for his moral revolution. Who knows, the President could emulate his action by vacating her post also. He should not wait to be booted out of office. After all, there are serious threats to his position,” Joson stressed.

Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles, a De Venecia ally, for his part, urged the Speaker to be more transparent in what he intends to do in the face of possible challenge to his leadership.

“The Speaker himself must decide what his next action will be. He is keeping his cards close to his chest and we do not know really what he will do next,” Nograles, chairman of the powerful Committee on Appointments in the House, said.

“The problem is personal to the Speaker and the President. Only the two of them can resolve this. We all can’t,” Nograles said.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño said their group Bayan Muna called on De Venecia “to assert the House of Representative’s independence from the Palace and transform it into a genuine check and balance on the executive.”

“It is about time he stops taking orders from the Palace. This is a golden opportunity for him to redeem himself as a leader and politician,” Casiño said.

De Venecia hinted earlier that he may severe his ties with the President if she fails to heed his advice for a moral regeneration in government.

“I remain optimistic for the country that the proposal that I am making will be accepted by the President. For as long as that it is being considered and that is being supported by the President, I will be on her side,” the Speaker warned. “But if she turns her back on something that is very significant for our country… needed by our people then we would have to review the situation.”

But the Speaker told Bombo Radyo Dagupan that his partnership with Mrs. Arroyo remains “very strong and stable.”

“There’s nothing personal here. Principle is the issue here,” he said. “I’ve worked hard for her and invested a lot for her and she does the same thing to me.”

But he said their “partnership should be based on principle, justice, national interest.”

He appealed to Mrs. Arroyo to “stand up, cleanse the government and stop corruption.” He said he and the President have “misgivings” because “we’re just human.”

He said he hopes to make a formal appeal to the President in a letter that he would submit Monday or Tuesday.

“The time is now to change, to transform ourselves and put an end to corruption,” he said. “She can do it,” De Venecia said. “We must just marshal the strong political will to do it.”

He said that “what is needed is reforms, not just lip service, if we want to save our country, if we want to save our people, if we want to save the Presidency, so we can cleanse the country and for the betterment of the entire nation,” De Venecia added.

Venecia also denied reports that he is seeking the relief of some Cabinet officials as part of his proposed moral recovery program in the government.

De Venecia said there was no truth to an ABS-CBN news report that he was demanding the sacking of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group head Undersecretary Antonio Villar Jr., Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves. Duque and Villar are De Venecia’s provincemates.

“They are the best performers of President Gloria Arroyo’s administration,” he said of the officials.

Cabinet solid

At Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita laughed off reports that he had resigned and that the Cabinet was in disarray.

“It’s not true. These rumors are part of another effort to sow intrigue. They want to try to show that the administration is having troubles,” Ermita said.

Asked who could have been spreading the “rumor,” Ermita said “the usual critics of the President.”

Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said the rumors are part of a destabilization effort against the Arroyo administration.

Ermita also denied reports that he was behind the distribution of cash gifts at the Palace grounds to Mrs. Arroyo’s political allies.

He said he was not present during the separate meetings last Thursday of local officials and congressmen at Malacañang where the alleged gift-giving took place.

“I wish we can just forewarn some people to let them check their sources because wrong reports damage reputations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Secretary to the Cabinet Ricardo Saludo said the probe on the cash-giving incident by the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission should determine if any public funds were disbursed or if laws were broken.

“The political establishment, including the opposition, must undertake its own remedial measures, including campaign finance legislation, which the President had certified as priority in the past,” he said.

“Money politics did not start with this administration, and it will not end if only the administration will address it,” he said. – With Eva Visperas, Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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