Palace behind blackmail text on impeach vote: Lagman

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2011 03:38 PM | Updated as of Mar 24 2011 05:22 AM

A key ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday tagged Malacañang in the sending of a text message allegedly blackmailing congressmen into voting for the impeachment of Merceditas Gutierrez or face zero pork barrel entitlements.

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman quoted a female congressmen who allegedly got the text and then confirmed it with someone "in the know" in Malacañang. He said the female congresswoman confirmed the text message is not a hoax.

“Whoever did that it was from the administration. Definitely. Plinano yun. Yes, galing sa Malacañang iyon. You're asking earlier--sino ba ang nag-engineer ng text? Ang sagot diyan sino ba ang magprofit from such text message who will reap benefits of such coercive threatening text message?  I have a personal account of member of House. She confronted someone in the know. She asked same question to someone in the know. This was told to a group in confidence. Nagtanong daw siya. Ito ba hoax or real? Sabi ng someone in the know this is real.”

Lagman has refused to divulge the name of the female congressman and the Palace personality involved.

He said the text message already achieved its purpose. “When you send that kind of message, that message had been delivered. And it took its toll on members of the House. Sila mismo nagsasabi unexpected (yung boto).”

He said the names mentioned were just used for their position and clout.

“Their names and position were used to deliver coercive message, which took its toll kahit dineny nila yun. Legislators are vulnerable to carrot and stick of executive as they scramble for funds. What we call bringing home bacon particularly during long break. Ano ba ang pasalubong niyo?”

Zero funds

Last Saturday, a text message purportedly blackmailing lawmakers into supporting the impeachment of Gutierrez was circulated among lawmakers.
The text message was attributed to Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, which oversees budgeting and releases of funding.
“Frm Cong. Abaya-Favor kindly disseminate to all reps - LP and non-LPs. Thisshud b made clear to all. Those who will vote no or absent/abstain on impeachment will get 0 as in zero. At least walang sisihan that there was no forewarning. Sir umiikot po na text Pinadala mo sa member namin FYI tnx po”

Majority Leader Boyet Gonzales and Justice Committee Chair Niel Tupas Jr. later sent sent separate messages denying it for Abaya.
Gonzales said: “I just talked to Jun Abaya. He denies it. It maybe a disinformation campaign to muddle the impeachment process.”

Abaya merely dismissed the rumor as “intrigue."

Carrot and stick

Senior Deputy Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said, many of the 1st term congressmen fell for the ploy. “Magaling ang strategy, masakit lang."

Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay said, “Kami nga last to know.  I don’t think they’ll have guts to offer. I heard it from majority colleagues something was offered to them.”

There has been talk in Congress that aside from the pork barrel threat, congressmen who voted to impeach Gutierrez would get P20 million in additional entitlements.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad denied the rumor. “No, they were not. Nothing was given to induce them to vote the way they did."

When asked if nothing was promised,  Abad replied, “You should have greater faith in the ability of many of our legislators to transcend their narrow parochial interest and aspire for the greater good.”

As this developed. Lagman reiterated his call for everyone involved in the text message to be investigated.

“I think we should investigate. It demeans the House. All those possibly involved should be investigated but no member the House not even chair of committee of appropriations would do that colleagues.”

Rubber stamp

Meanwhile the Minority appealed to the Senate  not to follow the House’s lead in being Malacanan’s rubber stamp.

In a joint statement read by Magsaysay, the minority said: “We hope the Senate acting as the impeachment court will act with judicious impartiality and courageous independence from the pressures of Malacanang. Sadly, we witnessed last Monday how Congress was reduced to a mere rubberstamp of the Palace.

"As was apparent in our interpellation of the sponsors of House Resolution 1089, the six Articles of Impeachment are either half-baked, baseless, or totally trumped up.  Certainly, these Articles do not deserve the imprimatur of a Congress.”

Meantime, Magsaysay said former President Arroyo herself did not seem bothered by the voting turnout.

“We were not talking about the process. She was on the phone. We were talking about other things. She didn’t even open up the topic. She was more interested about my daughters who were graduating. She’s not bothered," Magsaysay said.

Suarez also revealed his own conversation with Arroyo. “I was telling the president, let's not feel sad about it because 47 plus 4 abstained plus those who didn't attend. Considered a no vote. In effect there are 70.”

Suarez even recalled a light exchange between he and Arroyo.” Tinanong niya ko if it will be close fight? Sabi ko its closed already.”

Magsaysay, Lagman and Suarez are Arroyo’s seatmates in the plenary session.