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DAVAO City Rep. Prospero Nograles emerges from a caucus before the start of the fireworks on the House floor on Monday. RAFFY LERMA

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THE DIE IS CAST Speaker Jose de Venecia denounces Malacañang in a nationally televised speech for allegedly colluding to oust him and urges lawmakers to stop begging for funds for their projects which he says could only be released if they go through the two sons of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. ERNIE U. SARMIENTO


De Venecia ousted, Nograles is Speaker

By Maila Ager
First Posted 07:36:00 02/05/2008

Filed Under: Politics

MANILA, Philippines ? Representative Prospero Nograles of Davao City has been elected as speaker of the House of Representatives.

?It?s God?s will. It?s probably my destiny,? Nograles said minutes after he was sworn in as new speaker.

In his speech after taking his oath, Nograles thanked ousted Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., who nominated him on the floor shortly before 1:00 a.m. Tuesday.

?I?d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this vote of confidence,? Nograles sad.

?Tonight, I?d like to thank Speaker Jose de Venecia for nominating me in this position. I also wish to thank Speaker De Venecia for all the years of service that he has done in the House of Representatives,? he said.

?I accept this position with all humility. I asked myself what I?m doing here and I tell myself it?s God?s will. It?s probably destiny,? he further said.

Nograles then asked everyone to respect the vote they had taken as he also promised to address the issues raised on the floor at the proper time.

?Though there were some harsh words and some controversial issues that were raised, they will all be addressed and answered at a proper time. Not now, not tonight.?

The newly installed Speaker also said he also accepts the challenge to continue reforms in the chamber and improve its image.

Erstwhile Speaker De Venecia, who lost his position in a vote of 174 against 35, with 16 abstentions, nominated Nograles for the position of speaker.

Without a further vote and with no objections, Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco moved to close the nomination for Speaker, prompting Majority Leader Arthur Defensor to declare as "unanimous? the election of Nograles as speaker of the 240-member House.

Despite avowals of undying support for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, De Venecia?s trusted allies went against him in a nominal voting on a motion introduced by Palawan Rep. Abaham Kahlil Mitra to declare the speakership vacant.

Hours earlier, De Venecia anticipated his ouster in an impassioned speech and in an interview with reporters said he would join the political opposition and was declaring ?war? on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

De Venecia in a 59-minute speech accused Malacañang of orchestrating moves to remove him as speaker.

He recounted the times he had stood to defend President Arroyo, and said, ?It pains me grievously to hurt the President and to hurt the First Family because I have invested so much more than any of you in this chamber to help the President become Vice President, become President?.?

In his speech, de Venecia disclosed having knowledge of the alleged attempts to tamper with the results of the 2004 elections but was quick to say that he would speak about it at some other time.

?I know that there were many attempts to tamper with the results of the elections in 2004 and I shall speak on this in greater length at some other opportunity,? he said.

Reporters later asked De Venecia whether his accusations against the President, members of her family and close associates were a declaration of war. He replied, ?Yes.?

?I will join the opposition to denounce corruption in this administration. I will join the battle against corruption,? he said.

De Venecia said First Gentleman Jose Miguel ?Mike? Arroyo and Malacañang?s ?millions? orchestrated the filing of a corruption case against him before the House ethics committee.

In his speech, De Venecia said that Malacañang was in "collusion" with a private lawyer who had filed several complaints against him and his son, Jose ?Joey? De Venecia III, before the Ombudsman.

He was referring to lawyer Roel Pulido, who had also filed an ethics case against him at the House.

He accused the presidential palace of inaction on alleged assassination threats against him and his son, who blew the whistle on bribe offers in connection with a government contract to put up a multimillion-dollar national broadband network.

He said the project, later scrapped by Ms Arroyo, was overpriced by $200 million.

He also revealed that the Palace had control over the lawmakers? district allocations or pork barrel, which they could not get without going through the President?s sons, referring to Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel ?Mikey? Arroyo and Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado ?Dato? Arroyo, whom he said were taking advantage of the neophyte solons.

The congressmen?s share of their road users? tax to build and repair highways in their respective districts could not be released without also going through the ?agents of Malacañang,? the ousted Speaker said.

He denounced ?corruption, perfidy and double-cross? under the Arroyo administration.

?What is happening to our country? Everything is for sale. Is this the Philippines that we want to call our country,? De Venecia said.

He said congressmen had to go through Mikey and Dato Arroyo before they could get a release of funding for public works projects. He said Malacañang also provided the contractors for the projects.

?I propose a new majority not beholden to Malacañang so that you and I can avail of our entitlements as a matter or right ... so that we may no longer be beholden to the President?s sons,? De Venecia said.

De Venecia indicated he would reopen the ?Hello Garci? controversy.

Referring to extrajudicial executions, De Venecia recounted that murder complaints against three generals who he said had plotted to assassinate him and his namesake son had been ignored.

De Venecia said that retired Gen. Jaime delos Santos had gone to his house and had told him and his son ?to keep quiet? because ?they can kill you and I know they have killed other people.?

On the day Joey reported the threat, Delos Santos ?changed his tune,? De Venecia said.

He said he wrote Ms Arroyo about the alleged assassination threat.

?Should not the President order the PNP (Philippine National Police) to order the investigation and render unto me a written report?? De Venecia said.

?How can the complaint for the (extrajudicial) murders ... be investigated, be given due attention by the security when my own appeal to the President she chose to ignore.?

Before ending his speech, De Venecia also identified port magnate Enrique Razon, who served as treasurer of Arroyo?s senatorial candidates last year, as having control of the pork barrel, road users? tax funds and many projects of the administration.

He described Razon as ?partner in the corridors of power in Malacañang.?

Representatives Matias Defensor, chair of the committee on justice, and Raul Gonzalez Jr. cited De Venecia?s scathing privilege speech against the Arroyo administration as the main reason for their turnaround.

?This is a sad day. I?ve decided to vote in favor of the status quo,? said Gonzalez. ?I owe the Speaker a lot. But he burned his bridges. It was totally unexpected.?

Dato Arroyo, who along with his brother Mikey, initiated the signature drive to get rid of De Venecia, declared during the nominal voting that the Speaker ?thinks of Congress as his kingdom.?

?We will not be threatened. We will not be blackmailed,? Dato Arroyo said.

In voting yes to declare the position of the Speaker vacant, Dato Arroyo assailed De Venecia for making the House a ?chamber of deals, illicit transactions, and misused pork barrels.?

?Five terms, Mr. Speaker, five unprecedented terms under his (de Venecia?s) leadership? We were perceived as a chambers of deals, illicit transactions and misused pork barrels. Where has he taken us Mr. Speaker and where exactly are we headed?? the congressman said.

If the Speaker was sincere when he spoke of moral revolution, De Venecia should have opened the book of funds of the House to the public, the President?s son added.

Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, casting a ?no? vote, said: ?I do not believe in the wisdom of removing a leader just for somebody else to survive,? apparently referring to Ms Arroyo.

With reports from TJ Burgonio, Norman Bordadora and Christine O. Avendaño

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