, FEBRUARY 5, 2007 (STAR) ‘They could have fooled us, had we not known them to be the worst of “trapos.”’

One side banners the call for a moral revolution. The other waves the flag of reforms. Had we landed from Mars, we would be awestruck by the high principles that appear to animate the current battle for Speaker.

As we were writing this, a motion was pending before the plenary to declare the speakership vacant. The motion was hanging because of the repeated suspension by the chair of the proceedings. But parliamentary dilatory tactics would sooner or later have to yield to the motion on the table. By last night, we would know whether the motion would be carried. If so then it would be a foregone conclusion Jose de Venecia would be out. Possibly also by last night; at the latest by today.

As everybody waited to see what fate had in store for De Venecia, minority leader Ronaldo Zamora provided a sober take on the brouhaha. He said the minority was staying out of the fray. The row was internal to the ruling coalition. All the minority was interested in was why the allies of long standing were now at each other’s throats. Zamora said he was voicing out the thinking of the people who elected these now brawling worthies.

De Venecia, one of our favorite politicians for his gift of gab, has lately been incoherent on why he won’t go into the night without a fight. He was talking about a moral revolution to put an end to widespread corruption. He hailed the decision of his son, Joey, to expose the overpriced $329 million national broadband project which allegedly was being pushed by Mike Arroyo.

De Venecia, however, could not – or would not – push his argument to its conclusion. And that is, the worsening corruption could directly be traced to the greed for gold and power of Gloria Arroyo, her family and their allies. For that would also be an indictment of himself, he who had served as a partner of the Arroyos.

And on the other side? Let’s not talk about brothers Mikey and Dato Arroyo and their uncle Iggy. We know where they are coming from. They cannot forgive Joe for failing to stop Joey from exposing the NBN deal and bringing his father in the much .

We are left with Luis Villafuerte, president of Gloria’s party Kampi, and the other members of the De Venecia wrecking crew. They said the House should pursue legislation needed to sustain the economic momentum of the Arroyo administration. They said they wanted greater sharing of powers and responsibilities among House members. So Joe had to go.

And so we have this spectacle of both sides wrapping themselves in principles. They could have fooled us, had we not known them to be the worst of "trapos."

STAR  EDITORIAL — Leadership change Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The first casualty was Benjamin Abalos, who was forced to step down as chairman of the Commission on Elections a few months before his seven-year term was over. With his departure, the $329-million broadband deal between ZTE Corp. and the Department of Transportation and Communications also flew out the window.

Now it’s the turn of the other side to draw blood. Last night Jose de Venecia Jr., in a battle against forces led by the eldest son of President Arroyo, fought to keep his post after a long reign as Speaker. Most people saw a direct link between the battle and the ZTE deal, which had to be scrapped after De Venecia’s son and namesake, Joey III, testified about corruption in the deal and linked the President’s husband to the anomaly. Last week, as the Speaker’s fate hung in the balance, Joey backed off from facing the Senate anew.

Congressional leaders come and go, more quickly in some countries, and more frequently in the Philippine Senate than in the House of Representatives, where De Venecia has won the top post for an unprecedented five terms. As in a presidential impeachment, ousting a speaker boils down to a numbers game. The public, used to horse-trading in the halls of Congress, knows the nation can survive such leadership changes without fear of adverse consequences. As many have pointed out, all is fair in love, war and politics.

The only time the public takes notice is when leadership change is precipitated by something that even by the abysmal ethical standards of Philippine politics stinks. Joey denounces government corruption after being eased out of a big-ticket contract, and his father loses his House post. When people ask — “What was that all about?” — you wish there could be a better answer.

De Venecia is not the first congressional leader to be the target of ouster moves fueled by political vendetta. He should not let his experience go to waste. With the opposition ready to welcome him, De Venecia should work to let the truth come out and promote good governance. The quintessential politician may not have the moral high ground, but cleansing has to start somewhere.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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