Published on June 2, 2009. Something was wrong with my PC; by the time we figured out the solution, it was 30 minutes to deadline. I ended up digging into my 2005 archive (which was when I first started keeping a blog).
A recent column deconstructing Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero’s deliberately vapid answers in last month’s ANC Leadership Forum prompted many questions, and not a few pointed comments. His speaking skills, after all, seem in large part to explain his popularity, especially among the youth.
I would like to expand on the young senator’s gift of gab, by recalling something I had written three and a half years ago.I had covered the first impeachment vote in 2005 (the longest session Congress ever had to endure in its sometimes rambunctious history), and “reported” the proceedings in 10 parts for my Newsstand blog. On Sept. 10, 2005, I wrote:
On other occasions I have written slightingly of Chiz Escudero’s speaking skills, because he seemed at times to use his eloquence to tell creative untruths, to mask the weakness of his position. The wild goose chase that led him to Los Angeles to speak with former Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy Jr., for example, ended with words that seemed like a promise of victory. Dy will speak at the impeachment trial, Escudero had said. But if you parse that statement, it quickly becomes clear that the House minority leader had actually misled the public into thinking Dy had already chosen one side over another. All Dy must have meant was, if the case reaches the Senate, where the President is almost certain of conviction, then I’m on your side. If it doesn’t, I’m not.
But Escudero’s remarks during the privilege hour last Monday [Sept. 5, 2005] convinced me that he does have a genuine gift. Even more important, his colleagues in Congress think so too. When he rose to speak, after session was resumed at 7:49 p.m., everyone on the floor stopped to listen. Congressmen turned their seats to face him (he used the same lectern that Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella used, the one at the back of the central aisle). And for most of his 25-minute speech, they stayed that way. Occasionally, a congressman would find himself busy with something else; Rep. Teddy Locsin, for example, his back hunched over his desk, seemed to be writing his own speech. But by and large, most of the congressmen on the floor, in that cavernous hall, paid Escudero the ultimate compliment. They listened to him.
He began by repaying that compliment, albeit in backhanded fashion. He quoted the first one to speak during the privilege hour, Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, who had accused “Hyatt 10” leader Dinky Soliman of insulting him in his own house. “This is the house of the people,” Escudero said, his pointed rejoinder drawing applause from the galleries.
He (and not Rep. Monico Puentevella, who was only alluding to him) brought up the now-notorious “saying” that got Sheila Coronel’s goat: “Dura lex, Pyrex,” he said, was a joke from his law school days, and a cynical one at that. It meant: “The law may be hard, but it is breakable.”
He riffed on the difference between what the law says cannot be allowed, and what the majority says should not be allowed. “Iba ‘yong bawal, sa ayaw niyo.” [What the law calls illegal is one thing, what you don’t want to happen is another.]
He began to eulogize the opposition’s failed efforts to muster the 79 signatures they needed to send the amended impeachment complaint straight to the Senate. “Hindi man namin makamtan ang 79, hindi po kami natalo.” [Even though we won’t reach the 79, we did not lose.]
He ended with another, forward-looking eulogy, this time in praise of “the younger generation in this House.”
Escudero spoke without notes, with mastery of material and command of phrase. His speech, in truth, was the opposition’s last stand, and should have been reserved for last. As it was, the privilege hour ran for two more hours after he spoke.
* * *
That bit about Dy is actually instructive, in my view, about why the House opposition under Escudero repeatedly failed to impeach the President, despite the young leader’s eloquence.
On Aug. 12, 2005, I had written:
I’ve been meaning to post something on a recent opposition statement. Earlier this week, Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio relayed a message from House Minority Leader Francis Escudero, who was in the United States to meet with the “Chavit-in-waiting” (to use Mario Taguiwalo’s happy phrase). [As it was reported:]
“Former Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy Jr. is sure to testify during the impeachment proceedings against President Arroyo, opposition leaders said yesterday.
“… South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio, who heads the impeachment secretariat, told a news conference that Minority Leader Francis Escudero, who is in Los Angeles, California, has obtained a commitment from Dy that the governor would testify.
“‘When and where, and what Governor Dy would say, we still do not know,’ she said.”
I also heard a news report (I forgot on which newscast) where Escudero was quoted as saying that Dy would testify in an “impeachment trial.”
My two centavos: The operative phrase is not the commitment to testify, but the venue where the testimony will be given. If the impeachment case reaches the Senate, then perhaps we can really expect a witness of Dy’s stature to testify. But if it doesn’t, forget it.
My point? This “witness” may still be counting the numbers. If opposition leaders do not muster enough votes to impeach the President, why cast his lot with them? Just a thought.