House majority not surprised by Tiangco's move

by Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Dec 15 2011 12:28 AM | Updated as of Dec 15 2011 08:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The House majority is not surprised with Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco's decision to leave the majority coalition.

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said Tiangco had long voted along the same lines as the house minority.

"Toby has always been the maverick of the majority coalition... He has more than many times identified himself with the minority," Gonzales said in a phone interview on [email protected]

Gonzales noted that Tiangco, who is part of any big party in the majority coalition, may not have been privy to consultations on the House impeachment bid.

"Hindi niya alam yung nangyayari. Unfortunately for him he does not belong to any big part of the majority coalition," Gonzales said. "Wala kaming itinatago dito. As of Sunday night, mayroon na kaming decision. Hindi pwede pirmahan ng Linggo."

Tiangco, a member of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, said he has decided to go independent.

He blamed the failure of the House leadership to protect the integrity of the House of Representatives for his decision to bolt the House majority coalition.

"It's not about the impeachment. I can't follow the leadership of the house that did not protect the integrity, independence of the house," Tiangco said on ANC's "Headstart."

He, however, added he has no plans to join the majority and remains supportive of President Aquino's programs.

House leadership questioned

Tiangco cited the failure of the House leadership to observe proper procedure in gathering votes for the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

"Even if you get one-thirds, it should go through the Committee on Justice. Sana ginawa munang pasagutin, idaan sa proseso at pasagutin ang Chief Justice in 10 days bago pagbotohan."

Instead he said, the complaint was put up for signing without lawmakers getting a chance to read or question it.

"Speaker Sonny Belmonte is a friend of mine pero whether alam niya o hindi, it was orchestrated. Nagkagulatan eh... pila na yun pipirma, so siyempre pag ganoon magkakagulatan. Ang sabi ng iba maiiwan lang tayo, kaya sumama na."

Tiangco said he came close to signing the complaint for fear of losing his pork barrel fund, but couldn't bring himself to do it.

"Naranasan ko nung bumoto ako sa impeachment ni Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, hindi ako nakakuha ng Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) noon, na-delay ng six months."

"I was trying to psych myself up na bumoto ng yes. Pangalawa, yung one-thirds na ang nakuha nila bakit hindi hindi boboto. Pangatlo, I don't want trouble with the most powerful man in the country. Life can be miserable for you."

However, Tiangco insisted that his decision not to sign the complaint should not be read to mean he is protecting Former President Arroyo.

"I was never an ally of President Arroyo. I will never defend her."

"This is not about President Aquino against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This is about the independence of the Supreme Court and the independence of the legislature. Ang sinsabi ko lang hindi ko kayang sumuporta ng liderato na hindi kayang ipaglaban yung independence at integrity ng House of Representatives, but I will remain supportive of the programs of the President that I think are for the good of the people."

"The issue of impeachment is beyond us. It's now up to the Senate to decide," Tiangco said.

Senators will sit as judges in the Corona impeachment trial.

Majority consensus

Gonzales, meantime, denied claims that the House railroaded the impeachment complaint to preempt the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the joint DOJ-Comelec panel investigating alleged fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

"That's absolutely untrue. Yung acts prior nung Lingo has nothing to do with hearings in the SC," Gonzales said.

He insisted that members of the majority coalition were consulted on the impeachment bid before Monday's caucus. He added they arrived at a consensus on the matter as early as Sunday.

"There were several consultations made with Nationalist People's Coalition, Nacionalista Party, Lakas and the Liberal Party before the actual caucus, a decision was made, that was also the decision of the principal leaders of the political parties concerned."

"As of Sunday evening, we expected the vote to reach 200," he said.

A total of 188 congressmen signed the impeachment complaint accusing Corona of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution. The articles of impeachment were transmitted to the Senate on Tuesday.

Moot and academic

However, the House majority leader said in the event that investigations prove the election results favoring Arroyo are fraudulent, calls for Congress to posthumously proclaim FPJ as winner of the 2004 presidential elections may legally be a lost cause.

"Hindi pwede i-undo what's been decided by the canvass. Wala na ring prescription ang Presidential Electoral Tribunal. All this has become moot and academic," Gonzales said.

"Even on the assumption that Committees of the Senate and the House after the probe find that FPJ should have been proclaimed, nothing can be done about it. It only becomes part of records of the house, but they can't proclaim FPJ."

Interviewed on [email protected] on Monday, FPJ's widow Susan Roces and daughter Grace Poe-Llamanzares said they would still want the King of Philippine Movies proclaimed winner of the 2004 polls.

Llamanzares said 7 years after the death of FPJ, the Aquino administration provided a golden opportunity to correct history and restore credibility in Philippine elections.