NOW that Benjamin Abalos Sr. has resigned as chairman of the Commission on Elections, can the public expect more government officials implicated in the controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) project to do the same?

House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. [PCIJ file photo]As far as House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. is concerned, there is no reason to do so, even though his name has been dragged into the controversy after his son and namesake, Jose ‘Joey ‘ de Venecia III, testified at the Senate that his company, Amsterdam Holdings Inc., had lost out to ZTE Corporation over the broadband deal allegedly brokered by Abalos. Some senators have alleged that the Speaker had intervened on his son’s behalf in pushing for AHI’s own proposal.

Interviewed on ABS-CBN Interactive, de Venecia said his only involvement was arranging the meeting between Abalos and his son, not to help the latter secure the broadband contract, but to facilitate a reconciliation between them. “They requested a reconciliation for them to reconcile their differences. I am the quintessential peacemaker. If they can reconcile their differences, stop quarreling, so much the better,” he said.

That, however, as well as his other previous (in)actions, are now the subject of an ethics complaint recently filed by lawyer Roel Pulido before the House committee on ethics. Pulido claims Speaker de Venecia committed a “breach of ethics by failing to stop a criminal act and (to) discourage the wrong perceptions of his role as dispenser of undue patronage.”

Read Pulido’s complaint.

In his complaint, Pulido argues that the Speaker allowed his son to take advantage of his office, as evidenced by Joey de Venecia’s repeated application for legislative franchises, and his direct intervention in contracts with the government.

“De Venecia even set up breakfast meetings between his son and Abalos to provide a venue for discussing clearly illegal machinations to win a government contract,” says Pulido. “He made a public endorsement of his son’s bid, with the knowledge of his direct interest in the NBN deal. He was also aware that his son submitted a losing proposal for the project when he called for the suspension and review of the winning proposal.”

Pulido also indicts Joey de Venecia for violating Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when AHI, a company that he organized and incorporated, applied for a legislative franchise in 1995 and an amendment to its franchise in 1997 with Congress. The older de Venecia was then an incumbent congressman, as well as Speaker of the House. The young de Venecia also violated RA 3019 when he submitted an unsolicited proposal on behalf of AHI last November 2006.

Section 5 of RA 3019 prohibits any relative within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity with the Speaker from intervening in any business transaction, contract or application with the government.

Pulido adds that the Speaker knew of his son’s violations of the law, and also had knowledge of the latter’s interest and active intervention in the broadband contract through AHI. De Venecia, he says, also witnessed his son actively intervening as a proponent in a contract with government, and Abalos actively intervening as broker in contract with government. Both acts are illegal.

“As fourth-highest public official of the land, (Speaker) de Venecia was duty-bound to prevent the commission of illegal acts, especially in cases involving his immediate family,” says Pulido, pointing to the House leader’s failure to do so as constituting ‘unethical conduct.’

For his actions, the Speaker could also be held liable under the following:

  • Section 3 (i) of R.A. 3019 which prevents public officials from becoming interested in any transaction requiring the the approval of groups they belong to
  • Article XVI, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits the financial interest and intervention for monetary benefit of any member of Congress in any government contract

Though de Venecia does not have a direct financial interest in his son’s dealings, Pulido insists he still has a moral and ethical obligation to remove any appearance of his office being a peddler of undue advantage, but which, he believes, the Speaker failed to do.

Pulido’s complaint therefore seeks an investigation of de Venecia, and that after a hearing, if found liable, he be disciplined in accordance with the rules of the Lower House. The complaint was received by the House ethics committee last September 20, but the committee is still organizing itself, and has yet to act on it.

De Venecia says he is ready to face the complaint against him. “We’ll look into that at the ethics committee.”

Not everyone is keen on the resolution of the case though. For one, unlike those that involve violations of the law, determining breaches of ethics is more complex, says lawyer Marlon Manuel of the Alternative Law Group (ALG). He says the Speaker may have committed a possible violation of the code of conduct of public officials. Yet he also points out that no one has filed a criminal case against him.

Manuel is not optimistic that the case will prosper. “When it comes to the House of Representatives, voting is politicized. I think the voting will be determined more by the alliances of congressman rather than ethical violations.” He doesn’t think the committee on ethics will impose any sanctions on the Speaker of the House, even if the latter’s conduct is unethical or not.

There is also a tradition of reluctance in the House to discipline its wayward members — broken only in the case of Alan Peter Cayetano, now a senator, who was meted a 45-day suspension for his alleged efforts to “malign” the First Family. In 2003, a PCIJ report found that of the 83 complaints that the Center was able to retrieve from the House’s archives, 41 percent were dismissed or unacted upon, even though these complaints included allegations of mauling, rape, and murder. The PCIJ also found that the reasons cited in dismissing the complaints were usually technical. As a result, a mere handful were subjected to sanctions.

Some rules have also tended to shield erring legislators more. For instance, and this should be happy news to the Speaker, alleged acts or omissions committed by congressmen in previous terms no longer fall under the jurisdiction of the present ethics committee.

3 Responses to What about JDV’s ‘breach of ethics’?



October 2nd, 2007 at 8:31 pm

still, jdv should be investigated. just because he’s son is the whistleblower he can come out scot-free from this controversy. he is liable for violating several laws. i believe the de venecias are opportunists too. enough of chavit.



October 3rd, 2007 at 2:57 pm

Yes I agree w/ Jr_lad, JDV should be investigated, it’s impossible that he has nothing to do w/ all this things.It’s even strange that his son who is surely not qualified for the project behave as if his above the law.Not to mention that JDV Jr sounds & looks like a sumbugnero who got left out of a deal.I honestly can’t see anything patheotric in him.


Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » Good to the last crumb

October 4th, 2007 at 12:41 pm

[…] big tuna most likely will be the Speaker himself. But Yoda says, strong the force is: De Venecia: I’m watching my […]

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