Goodbye, Joe

This is my column today.

It was difficult not to be moved at the sight of Jose de Venecia standing forlorn in the middle of the Hall of Congress last Monday night, looking beaten and dejected, striking blindly at Malacañang and the President and flailing around like a drowning man.

His pain, and the very personal way in which he took his ouster as speaker of the House of Representatives, became palpable when he looked at the assembled congressmen and moaned “Someday, this can happen to you.”

It was sad and moving because we all knew the man was not feigning the pain. The betrayal from the hands of the same people he fed, nurtured, perhaps even bought off with his own money, was all too real. He had come to the end of the road to find that most of the people whom he thought were his allies and friends had already deserted him, proof that in politics, there are no permanent friends nor enemies, just permanent interests.

But sadder still is the fact that despite the drama and the hysterics, it was even more difficult to fully empathize with the man. A cousin who was watching the live telecast of De Venecia’s impromptu swan song summed it up quite crudely, but in a very Pinoy way: “Kawawa naman, pero buti nga sa kanya? [what a pity, but serves him right].”

It is not right to kick a man when he is down. But how are we expected to react when the man in question refuses to go with dignity and fight with honor? What are we expected to feel when the man in question does the political equivalent of a man running amok threatening to take everyone else down with him?

Sorry, Joe. We sympathize with your situation, we feel your pain, but we have difficulty empathizing with you.

The simple fact is that De Venecia lost out on one of the major political power plays in recent history, but he is far from being the victim in the whole sordid scheme of things. De Venecia is not a neophyte politician. He has been the longest-serving speaker of the House and has served as congressman for decades. The man is a master in the art of political warfare.

And please, De Venecia is the last person who should preach about morality and fairness and ethics. To trump up an old cliché, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others.

His time was simply up and events simply caught up with him. It was time for him to go.
De Venecia could have done better for this country if he had chosen to cut his ties early on, like perhaps two years ago. But up until a few weeks ago, he was still singing paeans to Malacañang even when his son and namesake was singing a different tune altogether.

The man could have cut cleanly and with his dignity intact. He could have taken the higher moral ground and chosen a more principled and strategic fight. He could have delivered a better-crafted valedictory address instead of incoherently rambling on about how people owed him politically and how he was royally kicked in the posterior by everyone else. He could have chosen a better venue and a better way of delivering his threats.

Instead, De Venecia chose to wallow in misery. Worse, he chose to do it in public. It was a good thing the television networks decided to cut the live coverage because De Venecia was getting more and more pathetic as he rambled on.

Of course, De Venecia and his wife are privy to many of the shenanigans that have happened and continue to happen under this administration. Gina de Venecia even gloated on public television that she was always with the President during the 2004 campaign and on many other occasions, in effect validating that yes, she is in possession of damning information that could spell more trouble for an already-beleaguered Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. For crying out loud, that’s not exactly surprising, please tell us something we don’t know.

The thing is that De Venecia and his wife cannot claim to be mere passive observers of and innocent bystanders to the crimes of this administration. There is no way De Venecia can fully convince the Filipino people that he was never a party to whatever dastardly acts committed by this administration.

Besides, De Venecia is aware that the most among us abhor traitors and snitches. Many among us don’t like people who cheat and make fools of us. But we hate even more people without loyalty, people who turn their backs on their friends and superiors and then assert moral superiority on the basis of their self-proclaimed redemption.

So I doubt very much if De Venecia is going to follow up his threats with substantiated accusations. As of yesterday morning, he was already more subdued and conciliatory when he was interviewed on television.

De Venecia’s stint as speaker of the House has now come to an end. Nograles will take over the vacated seat.

Does this bode well for the Filipino people? Nope.

In fact, if we come down to it, the whole thing stinks because replacing De Venecia with Nograles does not do anything for the country other than to protect the status quo. The two may look different physically but everyone knows that they are political animals of the same breed. It doesn’t really matter either way—whether De Venecia or Nograles is speaker of the House of Representatives. Both owe their positions to Malacañang and both are beholden to the President and her party.

In the end, it’s still us, the Filipino people, who got screwed.


Anonymous said…
Bloggers are becoming influential as a tool of getting the people's voice heard. I alwyas believe that one day given the right time and a consolidated effort of blogger that blogging can be instrumental in changing the course of this country. Like what has been said many times before it is not the person occupying the seat or running the institution but it's more the system that is detrimental in our growth as a nation, economically, socially and politically. Some of the major issues that I believe bloggers can advocate on are the following:
1. Educating the people on Federalism (where the country is politically divided into states or provinces where there'll be governor and legislative and judicial institution autonomous to that of Federal government government. this way the burden of responsibility on making the state economically competitive, lies on the province/state's autonomous government.

2. Push for 2-political-party system where crossing over the lines is not permitted and where each party has clear priciples that a party member must uphold and abide by. for example conservative and liberals - we need only 2 party to which people can believe wether it is the principle of the concervative party or that of liberal party that can best serve the interest of the people. in the united states you can tell if u are democrat or republican because there is a big difference in the principle that their party beleive in. for example the Republicans which is the concervative are: prolife, for war, less government but less benefits to the people, low taxes, bans same sex marriage, oppose stem cell research, doesn't believe in global warming and etc. while on the other side of the part The Democrats or the Liberals are Pro-choice, more government and high taxes meaning more benefits / services to the people like health care, supports same sex marriage, global warming advocates, for ending the war, supports stem cell research and etc.
it's very clear - the issues are well defined and when people decide to vote they know what party to support based on the issue they identify themselves with.
there's a lot to be done in this country and quite frankly you bloggers if only will unite to push this much needed change in the system of our government can make a difference.
I always read ur column/blog Bong and I do believe that this is something you can advocate on.
Pipe said…
I think you managed to capture the dichotomy - between JDV as a "victim" and as a "perpetrator" - quite well, and kudos for that. I would truly like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Yet when you claim first-hand knowledge of corruption only when you've lost the power/influence to do much about it, even if what you say is true, you lose the moral high ground - and sadly taint any actions that may be taken on your claims.

Not that action should not be taken if JDV actually does make his threatened allegations... but it is saddening when one realizes the missed opportunities.
Anonymous said…
Hi, Bong! You are so right, he's pathetic and it's difficult to empathize with the man, and his family. 20 sec of listening to him after a busy day is enough for me to go queasy. And now the Lozada spectacle. I seldom watch the LOCAL news now and I beleive same with a lot of my colleagues, I'm just tired of the same old dirtbags. I'll just make the most of the family's improved finances (hey is that an indicator of the country's improving economy or are we an abberation?), work hard, and get my dissertation done. We refuse to be affected. However, at breakfast after reading the news (the PDI is really increasingly getting to be irritating), I told my 14-yr old: If Estrada and de Venecia will run in 2010 and win, get ready, we are migrating. I won't be able to stand it anymore.
Good day (hmm, that's positive greeting)! --MommyJo
alden said…
and as expected he went easilly and quickly with Erap...
Chapter 6 said…
Sir! Edward here, blogjumping! See you on tuesday! Tekker! =D
Bong C. Austero said…
Anonymous (I think I know who you are, but I don't wanna risk being wrong on identities, smile):

thanks! i do try to write about a wide variety of issues.

Like you I believe that a two-party system anchored on concrete platforms as well as distinct ideologies will go a long way towards changing the often chaotic political landscape that we find ourselves in.

thanks for reading me.

Bong C. Austero said…
Mommy jo, good to hear from you again. Yeah, an Estrada-de Venecia tandem is the ultimate last straw. I haven't entertained thoughts of leaving this country to work, much less, live abroad, but I guess that's a better option than having to see those two clowns in Malacanang.
Bong C. Austero said…
Bong C. Austero said…
good to hear from you again!
Bong C. Austero said…
sir edward! thanks for dropping by!

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