Garcia wants graceful exit

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, the leading challenger to Speaker Jose de Venecia’s bid for a fifth term has conceded and is just seeking a “graceful exit” from a lopsided fight, sources in the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino party said yesterday.

Garcia, who is supported by a handful of Kampi members led by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, has reportedly given up hope of a 100 percent support from his party to challenge De Venecia as House Speaker for the 14th Congress.

Several Kampi sources who declined to be identified said that in several occasions, has asked some of his party-mates to give him a graceful exit in anticipation of his defeat.

To afford him a graceful exit, the sources said Garcia is seeking the party’s support to fight in the House floor the move for a “secret balloting” to elect the House speaker.

“Congressman Garcia has asked some of us to work for secret balloting at the session hall next week when the 14th Congress opens. He has stated that he wants this to happen so that ‘hindi sasama ang loob niya’ when he loses in his bid,” the source explained.

Villafuerte, Kampi president, Garcia and a group of Kampi solons have called for several party caucus, the latest of which was held at the Dusit Hotel in Makati City yesterday, to push for what was supposed to be the party’s agenda. But they failed to muster 100 percent support from their 58 party-mates.

In yesterday’s party meeting at Dusit Hotel, a little over 20 Kampi members were able to attend, while the rest, who are identified with Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Kampi party-chairman, were not around.

Garcia’s son, Winston Garcia of the Government Service Insurance System, was present at the meeting at Dusit Hotel, the sources said.

Senior Kampi member Rep. Junie Cua of Quirino urged his party-mates to drop their call for a secret vote to elect the speaker. “They should drop it because this would show contempt for the rules and set a dangerous precedent to destroy the tradition of the House.”

Cua said there is no danger of not electing a speaker when Congress opens on Monday. “But through blind ambition, there is danger of throwing the institution into disorder. Reason should prevail over ambition,”

He said a secret ballot would require an amendment to the [House] Rules on Monday, when the Chamber, by practice, should adopt provisionally the Rules of the last Congress and proceed with the election of the speaker and other senior officers.

“This has been the parliamentary practice for decades, guiding the House steadily and safely. There has never been a Congress when, on opening day, its first official act was to change the rules and elect the speaker,” Cua explained.

Meantime, De Venecia’s supporters at the House said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s presence at a dinner-get-together Thursday attended by some 135 congressmen from a multi-party coalition was a “clear signal of support for JDV.”

House Majority Leader designate Arthur Defensor said the President’s presence in the meeting held at the Rizal ballroom of Shangri-La in Makati City “is a crucial political and psychological boost” to De Venecia’s bid for a record fifth term. “Game over. JDV definitely is it,” Defensor said in a statement.