View Full Version : Lame Duck

10-01-2007, 04:54 PM
The Manila Standard Today
Oct. 1, 2007
By Christine F. Herrera

ROMBLON Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, the newly designated chairman of the House committee on ethics and privileges that will handle the case against Speaker Jose de Venecia, granted the speaker’s son two legislative franchises.

This alleged breach of ethics is the subject of the complaint of a lawyer, Roel Pulido, who last week asked the 25-member committee to investigate and discipline the speaker for his failure to “stop a criminal act” and his supposed “failure to discourage the wrong perceptions of [De Venecia’s] role as dispenser or peddler of undue patronage.”

Madrona, in an interview with Standard Today, admitted he was the franchise committee chief from 1995 to 1997 when the two franchises of Multi-Media Telephony Inc., a company founded by the speaker’s son and namesake Jose de Venecia III, were granted.

But Madrona insisted that he could not recall the speaker’s son appearing when the franchise applications were being deliberated on.

“Yes, I was chairman of the franchise committee from 1995 to 1997, but I cannot remember the speaker’s son ever applying for franchises,” Madrona said.

But this early, Madrona seemed convinced he had no reason to inhibit himself from handling the case against the speaker, saying he would prove he would be fair in handling the ethics complaint against De Venecia.

“I am honored and pleased to be chosen as chairman of the ethics committee because it means I have my colleagues’ trust and confidence that I can be fair, even if a case filed is against the speaker,” Madrona said.

It was De Venecia who designated Madrona chairman of the ethics committee.

Madrona claimed that during his stint in the franchise committee, franchises were granted based on propriety and the merits of the applications.

“We granted the applicants’ franchises when the committee felt the applicants had passed all the requirements and were financially capable of running the company that would use the franchise,” Madrona said. “Still, I will check on the records if indeed I was the chairman of the franchise committee when the contested franchises were granted to the younger De Venecia’s company.”

Congress grants a 25-year franchise on transportation and telecommunications, among others.

Madrona said he would not sit on the ethics complaint, although he admitted not having read Pulido’s statement yet.

But this early, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, president of pro-administration Kampi party, said in a privilege speech that Pulido’s complaint was “sufficient in form and substance.”

“The ethics committee has yet to convene to draft the internal rules and procedures. But we also have other priorities like the national budget. In fact, the House will work night and day to be able to finish and approve the national budget before Congress goes on recess by Oct. 13,” Madrona said.

Madrona said it was likely that Pulido’s complaint would be heard after a month-long recess or by November, when Congress re-convenes.

He said the committee had already elected its members, two of whom would come from the House minority. He identified them as Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros.

Twenty-two of the 25 members of the committee would come from the majority coalition represented by De Venecia’s Lakas, Kampi, the Liberal Party, the Nationalista Party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition and several party-list groups.

He said at least 10 of the members would come from Lakas.

Pulido, the former counsel of the military officers belonging to the Magdalo group, filed a complaint against De Venecia for “abetting the criminal acts” of his son.

According to Pulido, the speaker’s son managed to corner a lucrative congressional franchise for a previous broadband venture through his company MTI.

The son’s franchise was granted by Congress in 1995 and expanded in 1997, 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 awarded to China’s ZTE Corp., the same concession that his father is now urging Malacañang to scrap.

Pulido said that the speaker was obviously aware of his son’s business interests, in spite of the prohibition under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when 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 that 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.”

Pulido also stressed that the speaker intervened for his son when he hosted a breakfast meeting between his son and Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos, and purportedly to discuss his son’s partnership with ZTE.

Earlier, Pulido said, De Venecia “lied” about his son’s interest in MTI, even if his son gave himself away in his Senate testimony.

Pulido has questioned the speaker’s claim that his son “did not have any interest” in MTI when the firm applied for and was granted a congressional franchise during his father’s term.

Pulido was reacting to the speaker’s Sept. 26 official statement, in which the House leader was quoted as saying: “Jose de Venecia III did not have any interest in Multi-Media Telephony Inc. when the company applied for a legislative franchise, which was eventually approved on Feb. 23, 1995, by both the House or Representatives and the Senate.

“At the time the franchise was approved, he was not a shareholder or officer at all, nor did he have any interest in the company. Only much later was he employed as chief operating officer by Multi-Media Telephony Inc.,” the elder De Venecia had said.

On the same day that the father issued the statement, and under questioning by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, the younger De Venecia categorically admitted that he was behind MTI, even if his name did not appear in the company’s documents.

At one point, Enrile asked De Venecia III: “So you knew you would be liable under Republic Act 3019 [the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act], so you hid behind the corporate veil?” The younger De Venecia answered: “No.”

When Enrile pressed on about the younger De Venecia’s reason for concealing his name in MTI’s corporate papers, the speaker’s son simply said, “No reason.”

“Perhaps the speaker should pay more attention to every word that his son is saying in the ongoing Senate hearing,” Pulido said.

The speaker’s Sept. 26 statement was silent on Pulido’s claim that MTI also had its original franchise, Republic Act 7908, expanded in 1997, through Republic Act 8832, which allowed the firm to provide broadband services.

This was also done while De Venecia Jr. was speaker.

Meanwhile, De Venecia’s move not to inhibit himself from the impeachment case filed against Abalos was aimed at protecting the interest of his son and to prevent his own ouster from his post, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño said yesterday.

In a telephone interview, Casiño said De Venecia refused to inhibit himself from the Abalos impeachment case because he needed to monitor the case, where a statement by his son in the Senate was used as part of the evidence.

Casiño said it was logical for the speaker to “watch over” his colleagues in the lower chamber, particularly the members of the House justice committee who would be deciding on the fate of the elections chief.

Last Saturday, the speaker said he would not turn his back on his duties and would be neutral in Abalos’ case because his son was one of the accusers.

Casiño said that although technically the speaker’s job in the impeachment case was ministerial, he should not prolong the agony and become subject to intrigues by waiting for 10 days to forward the complaint to the House committee on justice on Monday. With Romie A. Evangelista


If we only follow the rules, nothing this case will happen.