THE "Hello, Garci" controversy and the impeachment process have exposed the seamy side of party-list politics and showed how supposed representatives of the marginal sectors of society may have been eaten up by what they themselves call "dirty politics."
Wednesday night, ABS-CBN reporter Aladin Bacolodan interviewed ex-Alagad party-list representative Diogenes Osabel, a former friend of impeachment-complaint-endorser Rep. Rodante Marcoleta. In that story, Osabel's main contention was that the party had expelled Marcoleta last year for failing to share congressional funding with Alagad and for refusing to consult with his party-list colleagues on vital issues. The expulsion, Osabel says, stripped Marcoleta of the right to sit as member of Congress and to endorse the first impeachment complaint.
Osabel also added to what former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman revealed on Tuesday: that it was the Arroyo administration that put Marcoleta up to it as part of a "grand conspiracy" to thwart a genuine impeachment process.
In an interview with PCIJ, Osabel alleged that Marcoleta's close ties to the administration began when the party first filed a case before the Commission on Elections months ago, asking the poll body to revoke Marcoleta's nomination as party list rep. The Comelec's second division has washed its hands of the issue, saying it was the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal that had jurisdiction over the case, now on appeal at the Comelec.
Osabel alleges that this was how Marcoleta may have developed close ties with Garci himself, Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, and with Presidential Political Affairs Adviser Gabriel Claudio. With a case pending before the Comelec and placed in a vulnerable position of possibly losing his seat, Marcoleta may have struck a deal with the administration. (In a subsequent talk with PCIJ, Osabel clarified he was not aware of any friendship between Garcillano and Marcoleta.)
Not true, according to Marcoleta, who denies he and Garci are friends. In fact, Marcoleta told PCIJ, it was Comelec Commissioner Mehol Sadain and not Garci who handled the Comelec case. "I know them (Comelec commissioners) by name only. As for Garcillano, ngayon ko lang nakita yun with this Garci tapes controversy (The first time I saw Garcillano was in connection with the Garci tapes controversy)," Marcoleta said.
Marcoleta has tossed back the accusations to Osabel, a friend of Soliman and former official of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, who Marcoleta claims has hung on to power, refused to give up the party presidency for the past seven years and was actually the one disowned by Alagad. What's more, Marcoleta said, there's a reason ABS-CBN gave Osabel airtime. Marcoleta cites a House resolution his erstwhile partymate Osabel filed in 2000 asking the water utility office MWSS to help bail out Maynilad water, a company that like ABS-CBN is owned by the influential Lopez family.
(Osabel also clarified in a later phone conversation with PCIJ that many members of Congress signed that resolution because "they were aware of Maynilad's problems at that time. The resolution sought to stop the financial hemorrahage the company which was then implementing the pro-poor Tubig Bayan in our communities.")
Osabel, however, insists that the point is Marcoleta's role in the impeachment process. If indeed Marcoleta was not a pawn of the administration, why did he not cast a vote in favor of the "sufficiency in form and substance" of the original impeachment complaint?
Osabel asks: Why did Marcoleta allow the majority to dismiss the original Lozano complaint, the very complaint that he endorsed on June 29? What did Marcoleta do to defend what to civil society was the "legal, proper and peaceful" manner of resolving the political crisis?
Once upon a time, all of them—Marcoleta, Osabel and Soliman—were on one side of the fence, counting themselves part of civil society. These days civil society has been wracked by dissension and power struggles. Some of its members have gone their separate ways and are far from civil.