The head of the Philippine House of Representatives Jose C. De Venecia was effectively ousted early Tuesday morning after a marathon House floor vote to vacate his position.
Among 212 lawmakers present at the House plenary session, 174 voted affirmative to oust De Venecia, while 35 voted against and 16 abstained.
Outgoing De Venecia nominated his rival congressman Prospero Nograles, Jr. as the new Speaker, saying he wanted to "rapidly unite his divided House", according to the televised overnight House plenary which started Monday afternoon.
The House voted unanimously to elect Nograles, also a member of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats Party, as the new Speaker.
"I accept the challenge to continue reforms in this chamber and to improve the image of the House," Nograles said. "But I will never make promises that I cannot keep."
DESPERATE FIGHT BACK
The 72-year-old De Venecia, who is in his fifth term as House Speaker, was caught off-hand when a congressman pushed forward a motion to vacate the Speaker position soon after the House resumed.
The showdown came one day ahead of schedule as was decided in a multi-parties caucus meeting attended by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, De Venecia, Nograles and other coalition party elites Monday morning.
Given 10 minutes for a privilege speech, De Venecia, however, rattled on for one hour. In his emotional speech, the former close ally of Arroyo accused the administration of orchestrating the ouster plan and vowed to expose the secret dealings and corruption of the current administration. "Time has now come for us to speak out, of the power abuse and of corruption," De Venecia said.
He also promised to initiate a moral evolution to save the country from corruption and moral decline and finally lift millions of Filipinos out of poverty to strive for prosperity in a country where economy growth has repeatedly been held back by political infightings.
But the speech, apparently, failed to flick.
Congressmen and political analysts scorned of the timing of his "conscientious talk" which reveals his intention is still a sign of moral decline.
"Why now? He has been the speaker for five terms and only speaks out when his position is in danger," said congressman Rodolfo Atonio. "He just acted like a kid whose candy was about to be taken away."
The successful campaign to oust De Venecia was spearheaded by Arroyo's two congressmen sons and members of her party Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) in the lower House last week.
De Venecia, the president of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats which is the largest bloc in the ruling coalition, was known as a staunch supporter of Arroyo but their relations turned sour when De Venecia's son openly implicated Arroyo's husband in a bribing scandal.
The ouster marked the formal break-up of the pair of long-time allies. De Venecia passionately recounted times he stood for the president Arroyo and saved her political career by defeating three impeachment bids against her in the Congress and warned the lawmakers helping the administration to oust him that he invested more than anyone in the House for Arroyo in the past but did not get what his devotion deserves.
"One day, it will happen to you," he told the plenary as well as the public in front of the TV screen watching the House leadership row.
He responded with an affirmative "yes" to a television reporter ' s question on whether he would go on a war against the administration soon after his speech.
Several key opposition figures on Monday expressed their willingness to embrace the disgraced former speaker.
House minority leader Ronaldo Zamora told media that De Venecia is a "God-send" for them and the opposition should not let the opportunity pass.
De Venecia also confirmed his knowledge about a suspected rigging in the 2004 presidential polls which had been plaguing Arroyo since 2005.
Vice President Noli de Castro refuted the remark by urging De Venecia to come up with hard evidence. He added that De Venecia should learn to accept his fate because no one in government is permanent.
Whatever to unfold in Philippines' politics, the ouster itself might just remind De Venecia that no friends in politics are permanent.
(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2008)