AKBAYAN party-list Rep. Walden Bello said Wednesday he would resign as a member of the House of Representatives, withdrawing his support for President Benigno Aquino III over his poor handling of the Mamasapano incident in which 44 police commandos were killed.
“I am withdrawing support from the President because I can no longer support a president who is washing his hands of responsibility of a mission he planned and executed. I am withdrawing support because I can no longer support a president engaged in a brazen cover-up of his role in the Mamasapano tragedy. I am withdrawing support because I cannot support a man whose behavior is a disgrace to the presidency,” Bello said.
House leaders adjourned the session early Wednesday, however, preventing Bello from delivering a privilege speech on his decision to bolt the administration coalition.
Bello said he was disappointed with the early adjournment of the session, but said he will resign next week as party representative of Akbayan while remaining a member of the group. “As fast as my future in Congress, I think our code of conduct as a party is that I cannot continue to represent an organization with which I have major policy disagreement such as on the question of support for the administration . So I have given notice of my intention to resign as Akbayan representative though I will remain in the party,” Bello said.
Bello heads the House committee on overseas workers affairs and is vice chairman of the House committee agriculture and food. The Palace shrugged off Bello’s resignation, describing it as an isolated case. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Palace did not expect more allies to withdraw support from the President. “Representative Bello’s decision to withdraw is his own. My understanding is that Representative Bello’s statements are not that of Akbayan,” he added.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also played down Bello’s resignation, saying his action was “not unusual.”
“It is not unusual. He has made conclusions in the past that are different from the conclusions of others. He is entitled to it,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte also said there was no need for a loyalty check among its allies in the House over the growing discontent over President Aquino’s handling of the Mamasapano case.
“Actions would speak louder than loyalty check,” Belmonte said. Belmonte also pointed out that Bello’s action was not a loss to the House majority bloc.
“Considering that more than 92 percent of everybody in Congress belongs to the majority, it doesn’t really matter if one or two drop out,” Belmonte said.
Bello drew the ire of President Aquino when he started to criticize the President’s handling of the affairs of state, particularly during the controversy over the Disbursement Acceleration Program, parts of which were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. At one point, the President even dared Bello to run for president if he thought his views on how to run the government were correct. Akbayan was part of Aquino’s Liberal Party-led coalition that ran in the 2013 polls.
Fellow Akbayan party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez said Akbayan has “to give serious consideration” to the statement made by Bello. “Well, obviously coming from our senior representative in Congress, we have to give serious consideration to the statement made by Representative Walden. I haven’t had the chance to talk to him since his interview appeared...but we will definitely take up his statement in the appropriate party deliberation as soon as possible,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez added: “I personally feel very strongly that he should stay and I think the party leadership shares this statement. But just the same, his expressed desire will undergo the appropriate party processes for serious consideration.”
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the House minority bloc, said Bello’s move proved “the President is losing his allies.” United Nationalist Alliance interim president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said Bello should resigned and withdrawn his support for the President a long time ago.
“He realized only now that many of the things that this administration is doing are illegal? I knew that a long time ago, and he should have listened to me,” Tiangco said.
House Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal, however, said Bello’s move was expected.
“I guess we’ve all seen it coming. His rants against Pnoy (Aquino) and this administration are well documented by media because he was portrayed as an ally of Malacanang with an independent perspective. I wish my colleague, former Palace ally” Representative Bello, well,” Banal said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said he expected Akbayan to continue being a “valued ally” of the Liberal Party. “Rep. Walden Bello belongs to Akbayan, and our alliance is with Akbayan. He is the partylist representative, but the matter of alliance is with the party, and not with him, personally,” Drilon said.
He said Bello is free to criticize the President and his administration, or anybody.
The leftist youth group Anakbayan said Bello’s move was an indication of a deepening crisis in the ruling coalition. The group’s chairman, Vencer Crisostomo, said Bello’s withdrawal of support only showed the people’s disgust over Aquino’s “corrupt and anti-people” rule.
He also said it also exposed Akabayan as a lapdog that was subservient to “yellow politics.”
In his privilege speech, copies of which were handed to the press, Bello explained why he was leaving the ruling coalition. “During the last few weeks, we have seen how the Mamasapano encounter has shaken the foundations of the administration. Many of those who consider themselves allies of the President have witnessed how the legacy of reforms initiated by the administration has been threatened by the manner in which the President has handled the question of responsibility. We have been especially concerned by the threat posed to the Bangsa Moro Basic Law by the deadly questions surrounding the fatal mission that resulted in the deaths of 44 SAF policemen, 18 Bangsa Moro militants, and four civilians. — With Macon Ramos-Araneta
“Unfortunately, an already tragic event has been been made worse by President Aquino’s response to the national clamor for the truth about Mamasapano. The President seemed more interested in expressing his regret at the resignation of Gen. Alan Purisima as PNP chief than at getting at the truth. He consistently avoided the question of command responsibility for the mission and its consequences. He invited members of the House, ostensibly to talk to them, about saving the Bangsamoro Basic Law, but in reality to convince them that he was ‘fed lies’ by his subordinates on the hourly developments in the SAF mission. I did not expect that our colleagues who were present in that meeting to fall for the President’s story, and they did not. “The President, unfortunately, has a problem listening to people. When it comes to constructive criticisms and suggestions, he is tone deaf,” he said.
Reports reaching The Standard said other members of Akbayan supported Bello’s call to withdraw support from the President. The party chairman, Risa Hontiveros, and her close associate, top Aquino political adviser Ronald Llamas, were still said to be defending the President, however. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.