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.