After his ouster as speaker, JDV calls GMA an ingrate

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – First, she was described as “evil.” Then a governor-supporter called her a “b**ch.” Yesterday, her estranged chief political ally in Congress labeled her as an “ingrate.”

Former speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. accused President Arroyo yesterday of being an “ingrate” for giving her blessing to his ouster as the country’s fourth highest-ranking official last Feb. 4.

At Malacañang, the head of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group claimed yesterday that De Venecia tried to influence him into entering into a compromise with an oil supplier in relation to a case filed against the firm.

PASG head Antonio “Bebot” Villar Jr. told reporters at the Palace that he had a meeting with De Venecia at his home in Forbes Park, Makati City about a month after the May 2007 elections.

According to Villar, he received a call from the President asking him if he had talked to De Venecia because the former speaker was asking her about Oilink International Corp.

But the former speaker described as “complete foolishness” Villar’s claim that he had asked him to drop the smuggling case against Oilink.

“On the contrary, I told him that if he has case, then by all means, file the necessary charges and prosecute them,” he said.

He admitted Oilink’s owner Paul Co is a friend of his. But he said Co and his son-in-law Antonio Roxas Chua are also friends of the Arroyos.

De Venecia said despite the fact that he remained loyal to her and stood by her when her political enemies tried to impeach her twice and when her presidency was on the verge of collapse at the height of the “Hello, Garci” scandal in July 2005, she readily turned her back on him.

De Venecia recalled that shortly before the presidential election in 1998, then Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pleaded with him to be his vice presidential running mate under the banner of Lakas, of which he was standard-bearer.

“I had to talk to several vice presidential aspirants among our party members, including the late Sen. Robert Barbers and Sen. (Heherson) Alvarez, to give way to her. And I was able to convince them. So we adopted her in Lakas,” he said.

De Venecia lost the presidency to then Vice President Joseph Estrada, while Mrs. Arroyo won the vice presidency.

The former speaker said shortly after Estrada assumed the presidency, he forged a unity government with him and suggested that he appoint the newly elected Vice President Arroyo as secretary of social welfare and development.

“That’s the reason why she became Erap’s first secretary of social welfare and development,” he said.

But the biggest help he gave his “ungrateful” running mate in 1998 was when he and former President Fidel Ramos showed up in Malacañang on July 8, 2005 amid mounting calls for her resignation, he said.

“We came to her succor and that enabled her to weather the most serious threat to her presidency until this newest scandal on the NBN (national broadband network) contract,” he added.

De Venecia said with the blessing of the President and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, administration allies led by the Arroyos’ two congressmen-sons ousted him as Speaker because of the Senate revelations of his son and namesake Joey, the whistleblower in the NBN scandal.

“Now, they want to remove me as president of Lakas, but I am staying with Lakas. Maybe she (Mrs. Arroyo) should be removed as our party chairman,” he said.

The ruling party is having a national directorate meeting early next month. Several party leaders, including new Speaker Prospero Nograles, have urged De Venecia to assess his situation in the wake of his scathing criticism of the President.

According to NBN witness Rodolfo Lozada Jr., former economic planning secretary Romulo Neri, who now chairs the Commission on Higher Education, described Mrs. Arroyo in a meeting with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal last December as “evil” and “at the center of the web of corruption in her government.” – With Marvin Sy, Jose Rodel Clapano

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