Will a resigned Abalos do a Chavit?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-10-02
The indicators point to an impeachment for Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos. Interviewed by Pinky Webb of ANC Dateline Philippines last Friday, Congress Majority Floor Leader, Representative Arthur Defensor, confirmed the likelihood of garnering more than the required 30% of votes to be able to forward the impeachment case to the Senate.

Rep. Art Defensor's responses to Pinky Webb's questions were:

1. The Abalos impeachment is a rather simple case that requires very little amplification or further investigation. The testimonies were seen in real time on national television.

2. The case all boils down to who is to be believed: Ben Abalos on the one hand or Joey de Venecia and Romulo Neri on the other.

3. The two key witnesses, Joey de Venecia and Romulo Neri, are allied from the administration and so this is not considered a political issue ā€” unlike the impeachment case against Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA).

4. Unlike the Garci Tapes (the basis for the Arroyo impeachment case), the case against Abalos is based on credible direct testimony and not hearsay.

For Abalos, the real battle is in Congress. His best chances in saving himself from being booted out lies in Congress where the majority is allied with GMA. His chances of getting a reprieve from the Opposition-dominated Senate are as good as getting Osama Bin Laden to provide a safe passage for George W. Bush in Afghanistan.

Given that Art Defensor's statements are his own personal views, his forebodings are nonetheless grim for the Comelec chairman. Defensor was hardly optimistic that Abalos had a fighting chance in preventing the impeachment case from running its course and eventually reaching the Senate where the Comelec Chair's chances are virtually nil.

No Congressman endorsed the impeachment case filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano which is largely suspected to be a case that is planted to fail. But three congressmen, one from the Majority, have already sponsored the impeachment case filed by Iloilo Vice-Governor Rolex Suplico.

Defensor was optimistic that pro-administration Congressmen will also endorse the Abalos impeachment case. There is no denying that Speaker Joe de Venecia's Congress clout can easily add the votes needed to obtain the magic number for impeachment.

Abalos is poised to file a case against Joey de Venecia so we can expect a father to want to prop his son's legal position. And what could be a better way to do that than to succeed in impeaching Abalos and thus virtually validating Joey's assertions?

Abalos is of course not without options. Offhand, he can choose from two extreme courses in order to save his neck.

Abalos can either offer to turn state witness in exchange for the dropping of charges, or he can force GMA to move heaven, hell and General Hermogenes Esperon, if need be, in order to save his neck. If he thinks that GMA can and will go out of her way to save him, then he can take that chance and risk it.

Whatever course Abalos decides to take, it will be a very rocky ride. The Opposition smells blood. They know that what they have is a far clearer, more legally tenable case than the Garci Tapes for ousting GMA.

In what seems to be a pre-emptive move, Ben Abalos called a noontime press conference in his residence yesterday and announced his immediate resignation as Comelec Chairman. This move removes the embarrassing process of impeachment from the equation where other incriminating facts can surface and cause wider fallout.

It is smart move in that his resignation will tend to diffuse a lot of pressure and shift the process to the Ombudsman which has yet to elevate an Arroyo regime graft case to the Sandiganbayan ever since Merceditas Gutierrez took over.

The ZTE scandal is as clear as the plunder case that convicted Joseph "Erap" Estrada to reclusion perpetua. There are credible witnesses who gave direct testimonies and there is a trail of irregularities that mark the sloppy attempt to impose an inefficient, expensive white elephant on an impoverished nation.

The Opposition never had it so good because this ZTE case is an all-regime show. The ZTE scandal cast of characters are all regime affiliated ā€” from Joey de Venecia, Sec. Larry Mendoza, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and all the way to Romy Neri. GMA can't cry her usual spiel of dirty politics behind another demolition and destabilization attempt. Romy Neri and Joey de Venecia, one might say, may even be considered more credible than Governor Chavit Singson who brought down Estrada.

This ZTE mess is all about a very dirty regime that finally got caught in its own machinations and schemes.

Ben Abalos may want to do a Chavit to save his neck. Iā€™m sure he realizes that if Romy Neri was allowed to testify against him, then GMA may just be setting him up to be the fall guy.

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