PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — MOVES to unseat Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. gained momentum Tuesday night as 30 congressmen from different parties met to call for reforms in the House of Representatives.
Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis, a member of the pro-administration Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino and one of the leaders of the House reform bloc, confirmed that the meeting took place—despite denials by Kampi president Rep. Luis Villafuerte that his party was behind efforts to oust the speaker.
“It is not Kampi but the House reform bloc that is spearheading the oust-JdV campaign,” Solis said, adding his group was soliciting support from other congressmen who opposed De Venecia’s style of leadership.
The reform bloc at the House was formed during the heated speakership fight for the 14th Congress between De Venecia and Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, whose bid was supported by some Kampi members.
“With the presence of some 30 congressmen in the meeting, we believe that the House reform bloc’s oust-JdV campaign is garnering support from our colleagues,” Solis said.
But Solis said his group wanted a change of leadership to institute reforms—not because of the bribery and influence-peddling scandal that has cast a shadow over De Venecia, who has been accused of lobbying for his son’s losing bid for the national broadband network.
A private lawyer, Roel Pulido, has filed a complaint before the House ethics committee against De Venecia for alleged conflict of interest for granting a franchise to his son’s company, Multi-Media Telephony, while he was speaker.
The Senate yesterday said it would continue its investigation into the $329-million national broadband network contract with China’s ZTE Corp., and despite President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s decision to cancel the deal.
Senate President Manuel Villar rejected a Palace assertion that there was no longer a need to continue hearings on the issue.
In testimony before the Senate, the speaker’s son accused Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos of offering him a $10-million bribe on behalf of ZTE. But the investigation also revealed that the speaker lobbied in behalf of his son, and that De Venecia III’s company had received two congressional franchises while his father was speaker.
Solis and another member of the reform bloc, Nueva Ecija Rep. Carlos Padilla, said there would be no reform in the House as long as De Venecia remained speaker.
Padilla said one of the House reforms they were seeking was the scrutiny of the more than P3.5 billion annual House budget, which was being kept from the public and the lawmakers themselves.
Villafuerte yesterday insisted that Kampi was not behind the moves to oust De Venecia. He asked House Minority Leader Rep. Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan to stop sowing intrigues against the Kampi party.
Other Kampi members also denied a party move to oust De Venecia.
“As far as Kampi is concerned, there is no move, and it is not true that there is a signature campaign coming from Kampi regarding the alleged plot to oust De Venecia,” Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said.
House Majority Leader Rep. Arthur Defensor of Quezon City said the speaker enjoyed overwhelming support from the various political parties that elected him to an unprecedented fifth term as head of the 240-member Chamber.
“We see no compelling reason why this support and cooperation should change. The fact remains that Speaker De Venecia is best to lead this institution to enact the wide-ranging reforms sought by the majority coalition,” he said.