FRANCIS VER AND THE PULIDO IMPEACH RAP
The existence of lawyer Francis Ver was practically unknown until last Oct. 9, when Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran delivered a privilege speech at the House of Representatives accusing him of having offered a P2-million bribe three days before in exchange for supporting what was described as a “fake impeachment complaint” against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Vol. VII, No. 6, October 14-20, 2007
The existence of lawyer Francis Ver was practically unknown until last Oct. 9, when Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran delivered a privilege speech at the House of Representatives accusing him of having offered a P2-million bribe three days before in exchange for supporting what was described as a “fake impeachment complaint” against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Beltran’s disclosure has not only brought public attention to Ver; it has also uncovered what appears to be a rift within the administration coalition in the House of Representatives – not only between Arroyo’s party, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi or Partner of the Free Filipino), and House Speaker Jose de Venecia’s party, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) –- but also within Kampi itself.
Filed Oct. 5 by Roel Pulido, who was until last September known as the lawyer of the dissident soldiers who have come to be called the Magdalo Group, the impeachment complaint cites Arroyo for betrayal of public trust in relation to the National Broadband Network (NBN) scam.
The NBN project is a $329-million contract that aims to connect government agencies throughout the Philippines through the Internet.
The deal was signed in Boao, China on April 21 – when the government was not allowed to sign contracts because of the then-upcoming senatorial and local elections. It has become controversial for allegedly being overpriced and for supposedly having been signed without going through the proper bidding process.
Jose de Venecia III, son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia and co-founder of Amsterdam Holdings, Inc. which is one of the losing bidders in the NBN deal, has accused former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos of offering him $10 million in exchange for backing out of the NBN deal –- an accusation the former Comelec chief has denied.
In a privilege speech on Aug. 29, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla said it was Abalos who brokered the deal between the Philippine government and ZTE Corp. Padilla also said Abalos was seen playing golf with ZTE officials in Manila and Shenzen. He also accused Abalos of receiving money and women in exchange for brokering the NBN deal.
In his three-page complaint, of which Bulatlat received a copy courtesy of Beltran’s office, Pulido said:
“During her incumbency as President of the Republic, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications, Sec. Leandro Mendoza, on April 21, 2007 entered into an agreement with the ZTE for the latter to provide equipments, construct and install the same for the National Broadband Network Project under terms and conditions apparently disadvantageous to the Filipino people.
“It appears that entering into such contract was actually dictated by the illegal and corrupt machinations undertaken by high government officials, including but not limited to Chairman Benjamin Abalos of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. and the Speaker’s son, Jose de Venecia III. In fact, in an affidavit executed by Jose de Venecia III, he admits that a breakfast meeting was organized by House Speaker Jose de Venecia to allow the two proponents of the National Broadband Network Project, ZTE and AHI, to consolidate their proposals and corner the broadband project...
“That these corrupt and illegal negotiations were being undertaken was not unknown to the Respondent. In fact, in his testimony before the Senate, Jose de Venecia III claimed under oath that his father, House Speaker Jose de Venecia told him that the Respondent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr., and Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos discussed the respective proposals of AHI and ZTE during a golf game in China.
“Worse, Sec. Romulo Neri, in his Sept. 26, 2007 testimony before the Senate, admitted under oath that he was offered a P200-million bribe by Comelec Chairman Abalos, and that he reported the matter to the Respondent President. Despite being told of the bribe offer, the Respondent did nothing.”
His complaint was endorsed by Laguna Rep. Edgar San Luis –- who is identified with the administration coalition.
On Oct. 8, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez –- who ran under the Genuine Opposition in last May’s senatorial and local elections -– hinted in a TV interview that an “ally of Malacañang” had approached and asked him a few days back to endorse an impeachment complaint against Arroyo. “Since I know him to be from Malacañang, I immediately got the impression that this is a ploy to prevent a more substantive complaint,” Rodriguez told ANC.
Under House rules, only one complaint can be initiated against any single impeachable official in a single year.
The next day, Beltran stunned the public with his privilege speech in which he said that Ver –- then Kampi’s deputy secretary-general -– had approached him twice on Oct. 5, offering a bribe in exchange for endorsing an impeachment complaint against Arroyo. This, Beltran said, was a few hours before Pulido filed his complaint.
“For all we know, this impeachment complaint could be a sinister plot concocted by Malacañang to save President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from a substantial, just and genuine impeachment complaint,” Beltran said.
Beltran’s allegation of a bribery attempt by Ver has triggered a string of denials, accusations and counter-accusations.
Ver has denied offering bribes to Beltran, Rodriguez, and Fernandez –- although he admitted talking to them. Malacañang has denied having anything to do with Pulido.
Pulido has denied alleged links with Ver and Malacañang. A former lawyer of the Magdalo Group, he is reportedly working in the staff of Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, who was implicated in the “Oakwood Mutiny” of 2003 as well as last year’s alleged “Left-Right conspiracy” to topple the Arroyo regime.
A few months before last May’s elections, Honasan –- who is identified with the opposition –- was reported to have gone into negotiations with Malacañang in relation to the rebellion charges against him. He ran as an independent senatorial candidate and won in last May’s elections.
Meanwhile, Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia –- who is a Kampi member –- has pointed to Kampi chairman and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno as the mastermind of the impeachment complaint. Puno has denied Garcia’s accusation.
Puno has subsequently declared that Ver had been fired as Kampi deputy secretary-general.
On Oct. 11, Malacañang called House members aligned with Kampi and Lakas-CMD to a breakfast meeting. No less than De Venecia admitted that the “stability of the administration coalition” in the House of Representatives was discussed in the meeting, although he denied reports that Malacañang was conducting a loyalty check. But after the meeting, De Venecia inhibited himself from the referral of the impeachment complaint and gave the go signal to the Deputy Speaker to refer it to the justice committee which would start the process of killing the “weak” impeachment complaint.
Who is this Francis Ver, whose alleged bribery attempts on a number of opposition congressmen has provoked finger-pointing left and right?
A relative of Gen. Fabian Ver, a distant cousin of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos who served as Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff during Martial Law, Francis Ver graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law in 1981. He was supposed to have graduated the year before, but had been turned back for a year.
According to Puno, Ver worked for a long time as a lawyer at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Puno said Ver resigned from DILG in the late 1990s. “I don’t know where he went after that,” Puno told reporters in an Oct. 9 press briefing.
Rodriguez said he knew Ver as the chief of staff of one of the high government officials during the administration of ousted President Joseph Estrada (1998-2001).
During the 12th Congress (2001-2004), Ver served as a congressional staff member for then Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez, who was for a long time an Estrada ally.
In 2004, Puno -– who was then already with Kampi – was elected as representative of Antipolo City, a post to which he had also been elected during Estrada’s presidency.
Puno was allied with Estrada during the latter’s presidency. He disappeared from the limelight following Estrada’s ouster through a popular uprising in 2001 –- but resurfaced three years later as a representative of Antipolo City under the banner of Kampi.
Ver, he says, volunteered to join his staff when he was elected Antipolo City representative in 2004, and he decided to take the man in as consultant.
“In Kampi, he was designated as one of the deputy secretary-generals,” Puno also said. Puno said Ver served as the liaison between Kampi and Lakas-CMD during the run-up to the May 2007 elections.
Less than five months after the May 2007 elections, Ver was accused of bribing a number of opposition congressmen to support what has been described as a “fake impeachment complaint” against Arroyo. Bulatlat