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 governor 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 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 pm, 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 Fuentevella, 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."
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."
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.