‘Nogi’ to lead by consent

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — NEWLY installed Speaker Prospero Nograles yesterday vowed to adopt a consensual, consultation- based style of leadership and to do his best to maintain the House’s independence from Malacañang.

At his first press conference as speaker, Nograles said he did not owe his position to President Arroyo and denied claims that money from the Palace helped him oust Rep. Jose de Venecia.

The Davao City congressman said the first order of business was to heal the wounds inflicted by the leadership struggle and to create a committee to smooth the transition of power in the House.

“The no. 1 complaint of congressmen is the lack of transparency in the use of House funds, and I will make sure that this will change,” Nograles said.

“My leadership will be based on consensus and consultations with my peers. Our decisions will be based on the general sentiments of my peers.”

De Venecia’s supporters in the House claimed that those who voted for his ouster were rewarded P1 million in cash and P10 million in development funds.

Nograles quickly denied the charges.

“No money came from Malacañang. We took a vote. The Arroyos [Rep. Mikey Arroyo of Pampanga, his brother Diosdado of Camarines Sur and their uncle Ignacio of Negros Occidental] have only three votes,” Nograles told reporters in an interview.

“I will not make promises because that is out of my character. Right now, I’m still learning the ropes but I’m determined to do my best as speaker,” he said.

De Venecia said going back to being an ordinary congressman gave him the needed break.

“I’m very relieved. I’m freed from anxieties, worries,” said De Venecia who accused Arroyo administration officials and their allies of corruption and election fraud hours before his ouster.

The Palace yesterday dismissed his allegations as the “rantings of a sore loser.”

“We can only ask why he chose to divulge [the allegations of wrongdoing] only now, and why up to the last minute, he was projecting the support of the President for his leadership,” Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said. “Up to the last minute, he was moving heaven and earth to have a photo opportunity with the President during a golf game to show that the President is still supporting him.”

Palawan Rep. Abraham Mitra, who moved to declare the speaker’s post vacant, said Nograles’ leadership would open “the floodgates of reform.”

He said the House under Nograles would be “more independent but cordial” with Malacañang, and “more transparent and fair” with all its members regardless of party affiliation.

Also yesterday, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said opponents of the Arroyo administration could exploit De Venecia’s attack on the President.

Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the change in the House leadership was not a security threat, brushing aside suggestions that anti-government forces could take advantage of the political crisis.

“That’s part of the democratic process that we have,” he said.

Esperon also dismissed De Venecia’s claims that three retired police generals were planning to kill him.