PUNISHING Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello for his controversial speech four months ago is tantamount to exonerating the large-scale corruption and other crimes perpetrated by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime.
This was underscored by the Alliance of Progressive Labor as it joined the growing clamor of civil society for the House Committee on Ethics to dismiss the case slapped against Bello for his scathing privilege speech on Aug. 2 about the many big-time anomalies during Arroyo’s almost 10-year rule.
Aside from citing a series of irregularities involving Arroyo’s close associates, including some of her family members, Bello also suggested that the former president and now a congresswoman should be taken away to the New Bilibid Prisons for being the leader of a corrupt government whose top officials “acted like pigs and crocodiles.”
Bello later clarified that what he said was not only based on truth – especially the corruption charges – but an exercise of freedom of speech or expression as well.
He also would like the Congress not to be relegated into a “House of asylum,” where offenders, like Arroyo, would seek refuge from corruption and other criminal suits.
In his 11-page response submitted to the committee on Dec. 6, the party-list solon denied that he was guilty of “disorderly behavior” and “unparliamentary or indecorous remarks,” emphasizing that while his speech may have been harsh, he did not use even a single expletive.
“There is a world of a difference between such gutter language and words and expressions of disgust that are civilized and totally legitimate for use in any context,” Bello categorically stated.
He likewise accused GMA as the “real author” of the complaint, and vowed that he would only apologize to her “pagputi ng uwak” (when the crow turns white).
Josua Mata, APL secretary general, said that the labor center and its allies “find it despicable that the stooges of GMA are ganging up on Rep. Bello for speaking the truth,” adding that “if a morally upright lawmaker can be easily censured, how much more the ordinary citizens?”
Mata urged progressive House members to defend “Walden and the right to hear the truth.”
Five lawmakers identified with the ex-president, who is now a representative of the second district of Pampanga, first filed the complaint on Aug. 23 at the House secretary general office which in turn forwarded it to the ethics committee.
The 25-member committee approved on Nov. 23 that the case conforms to the requirements on filing an ethics complaint and thus instructed Bello to submit his response in 10 days after being formally notified.
It’s a first step either for the dismissal of the complaint or disciplinary action for the respondent, who is a sitting member of the House of Representatives or the Lower House of Congress. Punishment range from censure to suspension to expulsion from the House if 2/3 of all members vote for it.