Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Murder in the House - Part 1

Like a masochist just dying for another jab to the jaw, I made my way to the Session Hall of the House of Representatives today for probably the second to the last time in regard to the present Impeachment Complaint.

Some of us felt it was important to listen to Alan Peter Cayetano's privilege speech on the graft and corruption charges in the Impeachment, give him a little moral support. It was also a good day to make last minute preparations for tomorrow's plenary vote as far as the Complainants were concerned.

Walking into the Minority Leader's office is a bit like entering a holding pen before being herded into the lion's den, but more appropriately, in this case, the hyena's lair. The office is in the North Wing, and if there isn't a floor below it, it's in the basement. Perfect.

But, hey, it has it's pluses - the staff is friendly, hard working and courteous, the food's simple but nourishing (we always get our veggies), the coffee's good, and thankfully, in here the company's great.

In the beginning, although enthusiastic about becoming a Citizen Complainant, I was less excited about working with the Minority Congressmen. We all had different ideologies, working styles, and personalities - would we gel? We brought baggage with us, mainly our personal doubts about each other. But it was clear that we had to push our fears about each other aside, give everyone a chance, if we wanted to get justice done. Trust is indispensable in an endeavor like this. So is the need for confidence. And we all knew that if we didn't trust each other, all this would be for naught. And so we just did.

The Citizen Complainants are a motley lot. There are almost 3000 of us, and we haven't met everyone. There just isn't enough room in Chiz's office.

Allow me to tell you about a few of them. I particularly enjoy observing Nini Quezon Avancena. Her elegance, dignity, and commitment strengthen all of us. Tita Nini is certainly not a Complainant for show. She is right there with all of us, attends all the major meetings (they're all major meetings), and she weighs in on the points she finds important. Then there is the irrepressible Josie Lichauco. No one is allowed to call her "Tita", and no one does. Josie has more energy than all of us combined. Except maybe for Dinky, who makes every meeting flow easily because of her sharp facilitation skills. Not everyone is familiar with Beth Yang, our BnW co-convenor who provides us with good humor and wry commentary on the Majority.

Among the gents, Paco Alcuaz is helpful with insight, and the Nats (Nato Reyes and Nat Santiago) always have something constructive to say. Ronald Llamas provides us with things to laugh about, he has great one-liners. Professor Randy's so into his teaching, he can give only a little of his presence, but it is felt in every word he writes. Bien Lumbera strikes you as a mild mannered old gent at first, but when he speaks there is strong conviction.

But the most important Complainants are the mothers, fathers, siblings and spouses of the murdered, as well as the marginalized. They may be overshadowed by the personalities I've mentioned, but they have the most invested in this Complaint.

I have written about Chiz and Alan Peter in an earlier post. They are the captains, so to speak, but their favorite word is consultation. They consult with all of us, and with their fellows most importantly. Our Reps are a feisty crew. And now that I've had the opportunity to work with them, I am thankful that these lawmakers are on our side. None of us doubt their commitment, made at great personal and political cost.

This afternoon, I had another good look at their Majority counterparts. They don't make a pretty sight. There is a patina of sliminess about them, they of the furtive look and leery smile. None of "our guys" wear the heavy jewelry and badly cut suits that make many of the Majority look like bad copies of Leisure Suit Larry. And they certainly aren't very eloquent or erudite speakers. Many of them strut around the Plenary floor, but they never meet your gaze. Well, I can't expect them to be nice, we did wave white envelopes in their faces.

Earlier today, the Majority did their best to show the Minority who was "boss" by railroading the House Committee on Justice's report on the Impeachment Complaint. No ifs and buts, clarifications or amendments, they approved the report, never mind that the pro-Impeachment Reps registered their disgust by not voting. No wonder the adminstration's Reps wanted a closed door meeting. They couldn't stand being watched, knowing that what they were doing wouldn't stand up to the light of accountability.

But Alan's privilege speech on the alleged illegally amassed wealth of the Arroyo's (houses, buildings, land, and more land), in full view on the Plenary floor, managed to once again embarrass the Majority. Interpellated by Teddy Boy Locsin, Alan defended the pro-Impeachment stand admirably. Meanwhile, the Majority slunk in, and it took a while for them to realize what was going on. Finally, Douglas Cagas loudly interrupted the proceedings, citing some infraction or other. Tempers exploded, but everyone was reduced to laughter not long after by Cong. Espinosa, who was acting as Speaker.

Espinosa is known as a likable fellow, even by the Minority, but he is also rumored to be a bit of a tippler. Have no idea about the veracity of the claim, but he was pretty funny while having a difficult time trying to control the proceedings, not quite taking the verbal cues from the Reps on the floor. He kept confusing the words "aye" (Boying Remulla pronounced it with a long "a" sound at first) and "nay", and wondered why they had to call the roll before taking a vote. Hmmm... no wonder we're in such big trouble.