(From: Tinig ng Akbayan! sa Kongreso… May 00)
How far will the payola issue be pursued? The answer lies on the House of Representatives and on concerned citizens.
Since it was made known to the public that this representation received P500,000 on April 12. 2000 and immediately returned the money right after the marathon sessions and voting of the House on the Omnibus Power Bill, the following events have taken place in the House:
1· Privilege speech delivered by Rep. Renato Magtubo
15 · Privilege speech delivered by Rep. Loretta Ann P. Rosales
16 · House Committee on Ethics met to discuss letter from Deputy Speaker Erico B. Aumentado dated 18 April 2000 and HR 1530 authored by Rep. Allen Quimpo, directing the Committee to investigate, in aid of legislation, the alleged P500,000 lobby fund given to Reps. Magtubo and Rosales
23 · House Committee on Rules met and discussed HR 1537 authored byReps. E. Herrera and H. Alvarez, asking for the formation of an independent body to investigate, but the Committeearchived HR 1537
30 · Committee on Ethics met; Rep. Rosales presented her position statement, calling for an independent nvestigation
Since the House is under a cloud of suspicion, we in Akbayan! have repeatedly insisted that the House should allow for an independent investigative body to probe into the case of the payola. We have thus strongly supported HR1537 of Reps. Ernesto F. Herrera (1st District, Bohol) and Heherson T. Alvarez (4th District, Isabela) and HR 1553 of Rep. Jack Enrile (1st District, Cagayan) which clamor for the same request.
Reps. Alvarez, Herrera and Enrile asked for an external investigation based on argument that it is the whole House which has been indicted by the allegations that legislators were bribed to pass the controversial Power Bill which will privatize the National Power Corporation (NPC). The three lawmakers asserted that an independent probe could prevent a whitewash.
Recent developments, however, particularly the junking by the House Committee on Rules of HR 1537 is discouraging. Rep. Raul Gonzales (Lone District, Iloilo) said HR 1537 “contravenes the Constitutional mandate of the independence of Congress as a separate and co-equal branch of government. He also said that when the plenary referred the speech of Rep. Magtubo on the bribery scandal to the Ethics Committee, it has in fact authorized said committee to conduct the investigation.”
In response to the action of the Committee on Rules on HR 1537 of Reps. Herrera and Alvarez, this representation wrote to Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas, the Committee’s Chair, requesting that: “1) the authors of the different resolutions calling for an independent probe be invited by the Committee on Rules and be allowed to discuss the merits of their proposals and to formally present their arguments and/or 2) the Committee refers the issue to the plenary session of the House for full discussion, debate, and eventual decision.”
If the Committee on Ethics would undertake investigation, it should clarify what and who is being investigated. In this regard, Akbayan! believes that “the Committee should investigate where the money came from and for what purpose, and not the two party-list representatives for having made the exposè .”
Outside of Congress, meanwhile, certain people whom this representation has had the pleasure of meeting with, expressed their concern for the House. These include some 3,000 public school teachers from across the country, representatives from the 45,000 basic Christian communities, grassroots communities in Zamboanga City and former rebels in Negros Occidental. All are making a collective claim to the House. They remind lawmakers that the Congress belongs to the people
Considering the progress of events related to the payola issue, Akbayan! urges every citizen to be vigilant. Follow through the proceedings on the payola case. Collectively and individually, whenever and wherever we can, let us push for political reforms that will truly make Congress a repository of public trust and confidence..