Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sonny Belmonte for President?

Fidel Ramos has annointed Mayor Sonny Belmonte for President after GMA leaves.

MLQ3 seems unimpressed by the suggestion:

Billy Esposo reveals what he had everyone on tenterhooks for: the Anointed One of both he and former president Ramos as the next man to lead the country is… Quezon City Mayor Felicano Belmonte, Jr. I must say, I’m very happy as a Quezon City resident and Belmonte has arrested the tide of disintegration and inefficiency that had seemingly engulfed the city. Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista is rather under appreciated, too. But presidential timber?

Yeah. Color me underwhelmed too. I think we can do better than Belmonte, Mr. Ramos.

Anyway, if we switch to parliamentary (let's hope not), I think i have an idea on how belmonte will win the prime ministership and get the vote of his peers.

From the Inquirer article:

THREE members of the House of Representatives yesterday revealed that legislators were bribed into passing the Omnibus Power Bill last week.

Sanlakas Rep. Renato Magtubo and Akbayan Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales said they received P500,000 each although they voted against House Bill 8457, or the Electricity Industry Reform Bill, which seeks to sell the National Power Corp. after its P500-billion debt was transferred to the taxpayers.

Rep. Joker Arroyo of Makati City called the payoff the ''untold story'' in the passage of the bill.

''We might as well call that bill the corruption or racketeering bill because it's the biggest racket of them all,'' said Arroyo, who said he had nothing to return.

More here: napaka cryptic pa ni Joker re the person behind the payola scandal:

Newspaper owner

Arroyo said he had an idea who was behind the payoff.

''Not a single story on the power bill came out of the paper that person owns. Some stories were slanted but at least they got published,'' he noted. ''But the money did not come from him but from somebody else.''

Arroyo did not identify the newspaper owner.

A Belmonte staff officer by the name of Grace Andres was the one who distributed the money envelopes to the tongressmen

Finally, the highest official of the House of Representatives, Speaker Manny Villar, has officially broken his silence on the P500,000-payola issue.

.....Last week, three full weeks after the scandal broke, Villar spoke about the controversy. But to the public's disappointment, he merely said that House minority leader Sonny Belmonte should be the one to talk about the incident.

.....After all, it was Belmonte's staff member, Grace Andres, who admitted that she handed thick brown envelopes to lawmakers belonging to the minority bloc after the passage of the controversial Omnibus Power Bill.

An estimated P120 million in grease money is believed to have been distributed to members of Congress allegedly for ensuring that a quorum would be present for the vote on the privatization of the National Power Corporation.


The Magtubo privilege speech here. Is Grace Andres Belmonte's Joc joc?

Mr. Speaker, fellow Members of Congress: The House of Representatives is in crisis. This House is afire.

Numerous scandals have rocked Congress in its long and checkered history. Arguably this is the worst yet. For the first time an accusation of bribery at the House is backed up with prima facie evidence. And the whistleblowers have no intention of retracting their claims.

Mr. Speaker, the facts are simple, clear and undeniable.

On April 12, the day the Omnibus Power bill was passed by the House of Representatives, Rep. Etta Rosales and I, separately, were given P 500,000 in cash. I was told by Rep. Eleandro Madrona to go down to Rep. Sonny Belmonte’s office. There, Atty. Grace Andres, his chief of staff, handed over the money in exchange for our signatures on a piece of paper.

Are there any facts or circumstances to corroborate this allegation? First, Rep. Madrona publicly admitted that he talked to me and indeed told me to proceed to Rep. Belmonte’s office. Second, other solons like Reps. Eladio Jala of Bohol, Nancy Cuenco of Cebu, and Joy Young of party-list PROMDI, openly admitted to Cebu media of receiving money, only they call it "bonus" and "gratuity". Third, Speaker Manny Villar and Rep. Belmonte issued very weak denials, claiming only that they did not personally hand over any money, something beside the point and which Rep. Rosales and I never alleged. Fourth, personalities from outside the House, namely Sen. Serge Osmena and Earl Parreno, Pinoy Times Reporter, are knowledgeable too of the payola.

Sen. Osmena knows three majority congressmen who each admitted to receiving P 500,000. He confirms too that the bribery was not selective but for everybody. Parreno, on the other hand, has a detailed account of how the payola money arrived at the office of the Committee on Accounts chaired by Rep. Madrona and how it was distributed to the members of the House. Allegedly, four Accounts staff divided the money into P 500,000 packets. According to him, by 10:00a.m. of April 12, more than a hundred majority members have taken their money while by 1 p.m. seven minority members had been given theirs.

But even setting these facts and circumstances aside, the issue could be cleared up very easily. Rep. Rosales and I were both given the money by Atty. Andres. She is the key to the case. She could confirm or deny our story.

But she has not. It has been 22 days since we spilled the beans on the power bill payola yet Atty. Andres, the star witness-to-be, remains absent and silent. Is it not utterly suspicious that she has not shown her face to the public not uttered a single word on the issue? It is her deafening silence that closes this case in our favor.

Even if Atty. Andres suddenly surfaces today to deny our claims, nobody will believe her. She should have said her piece the very next day after we exposed the bribery. In fact she could have appeared and spoken immediately after our press conference since Rep. Belmonte was informed of our plans the night before. Rep. Belmonte has all the time to order Atty. Andres to go public and vehemently dispute our claims if our allegations were not true. The only way she can be credible is for her to tell the truth and confirm our allegations.

Nonetheless our expose deserves to be examined. But what should be scrutinized are facts, not motives. Thus the very first order of business of an impartial and honest investigation of the case is to subpoena Atty. Andres and compel her to testify. What this inquiry should establish is who else were given the money, how much was given to whom, where this money came from and what is it for.

It speaks of volumes of the character of this House, however, that its leaders called rather for an interrogation of our motives for revealing the power bill payoff. The tables were turned and the accusers became the accused.

Still these counter-accusations hold not a drop of water. I am accused of tainting the integrity of Congress and destabilizing the government. I ask, since when did exposing wrongdoing in government become the wrong thing to do? I admit then to destabilizing the status quo where legislation is passed in exchange for pieces of silver.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot besmirch the integrity of Congress since it is tainted from the very start. A single member like me cannot bring this House crumbling down like house of cards. But it can collapse on the weight of its own grave sins.

Need I repeat what the people outside the gates of Congress say of this institution? It is called a "den of thieves" and a "rotten pigsty". It is regarded as an idle talking shop where ambitious trapos grandstand and where laws are ratified for the right price.

The worse "crime" that I have done is to confirm to the people what they already regard as common knowledge. Of course it is an infraction not from the point of view of the people, but a trespass only in the eyes if my colleagues grown accustomed to a sorry tradition of backslapping and cover-up.

Same old, same old.

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