That was the query propounded by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago yesterday while she was asking questions of Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco (Navotas).

Rep. Tobias Tiangco

 Continuing his testimony that begun last Monday, Tiangco said the majority in the House of Representatives was called to a caucus in January 2012 by House speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte with an unclear agenda–though rumors were swirling in the winds that the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was the caucus’ main item.

Tiangco testified Belmonte opened the meeting with a declaration that Corona is major obstacle to President Noynoy’s anti-corruption program.  Ergo, he must be impeached.  

And then the game changer followed as far as Tiangco was concerned.  Belmonte reportedly told the assembly that no questions on the matter will be entertained.   And at this point, things became trickier.  Asked about physical copies of the Articles of Impeachment, Belmonte reportedly told the assembly that each can pick up their copies (after the caucus?) since they are still being reproduced.  It is also unclear if Tiangco testified that Belmonte directly threatened the majority to sign the complaint or suffer dire consequences.

What followed according to Tiangco, was a Powerpoint presentation by Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.–apparently a summary of the impeachment complaint.

Tiangco also did not make it clear if he read the impeachment complaint.  As far as he was concerned, Tupas’ presentation and Belmonte’s unwelcoming stance regarding questions were enough to convince him there was no probable cause against Corona.

Tiangco also revealed last Monday that he experienced delays in the release of his pork barrel funds when he refused to sign the impeachment complaint against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.  

Heel?

If you were a member of the majority, you are expected to vote according to the preferences of the leaders of the majority.  In the Philippines, the leader of the majority is the President of the Philippines and among his chief lieutenants is the Speaker of the House of Representatives.   It will never happen that the majority in the House will be ranged against the President.  After all, the President is the chief dispenser of public largesse (through his alter ego) notwithstanding the constitutional provision that Congress has the power of the purse.

President Noynoy Aquino (r) and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte (l)

If one belongs to the majority and defies the wishes of the President and the House Speaker, what does he expect?  

To be handed the keys to a 7-star hotel penthouse suite?

Or to be sent post-haste to the dog house?

As his testimony progressed, Tiangco admitted that he eventually received all of his pork barrel allocation for 2011.

Hero?

Tiangco may not have informed us about anything we do not generally know regarding Palace-Congress relations specially on how Malakanyang can persuade congressmen to accede to the former’s preferences through a carrot-and-stick approach.  However, a direct testimony on the matter is still useful and refreshing.

Tiangco also got himself in a collision course against 188 colleagues (already organized as Movement of 188) who signed the impeachment complaint.  That takes guts since Tiangco will be dealing with these same members of the House until the end of their terms in 2013.  Crossing one’s legislator-colleagues can affect legislative proposals and funding requests.  Tiangco also suffers the risk of alienation and being snubbed by fellow legislators.

In short, testifying at the Senate entailed great risks and costs.

And yet Tiangco testified.

And his testimony came to naught.  

The Senate impeachment court ruled his account was immaterial since it pertained to the preparation of the impeachment complaint.  Senators believed their job was to try the impeached official.  They thought they had no business in the sovereign business of a co-equal legislative chamber.  They will hear the impeachment complaint–warts and all.

Hero or heel?

The categories may not be mutually exclusive.

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