September 3, 2017

Gordon’s Ethics Complaint: Recent discoveries suggest Trillanes is toast

Recent discoveries about dynamics inside the Senate virtually ensure Trillanes’ expulsion.

A Quick Recap

In “Bye-bye Trillanes? How far will Gordon’s ethics complaint go?”, I analyzed the Senate’s possible voting behavior on Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon’s prospective ethics complaint against Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, based on each senator’s political interests.

If you haven't read that article, I strongly suggest that do before you read this one.

In that article, I explained the steps involved in the processing an ethics complaint, namely:
  1. Someone files a complaint.
  2. Ethics committee (EC) hears the complaint then votes on it. The complaint will be endorsed to the senate plenary if a simple majority (50% + 1) approves of it. The committee has seven in it, so four votes are required.
  3. If EC endorses the complaint, then senate plenary tackles it and votes on it. The complaint will successfully cause the suspension and/or expulsion of the senator-in-question if it gathers two-thirds of the senators’ votes. There are 22 in the plenary, so fifteen votes are required.
In seven-person Ethics Committee, I predicted that the Sotto, Lacson, and Pacquiao will almost certainly vote for the complaint, so the vote of either Honasan or Poe is necessary.

In the 22-person plenary, meanwhile, I predicted twelve “yes” senator-voters, namely: (1) Pimentel, (2) Ejercito, (3) Zubiri, (4) Pacquiao, (5) Sotto, (6) Lacson, (7) Honasan, (8) Villar, (9) Binay, (10) Angara, (11) Gordon, and (12) Legarda.

I also predicted the five “no” senator-voters, namely: (1) Aquino the Ninoy Cosplayer, (2) Pangilinan-Cuneta, (3) Drilon, (4) Hontiveros, and (5) Trillanes.

With this, I explained that it would be necessary for three of the remaining five “maybes” – (1) Gatchalian, (2) Villanueva, (3) Recto, (4) Poe, and (5) Escudero – to vote for the complaint if the Trillanes is to be expelled.

Discovery No. 1: Trillanes will be forced to inhibit

DLSU Political Science professor Antonio Contreras informed me today that the “defendant” in an ethics complaint is not allowed to vote on it, and this totally changes the ballgame.

Let’s recall the members of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges:
  1. Sotto
  2. Lacson
  3. Pacquiao
  4. Honasan
  5. Poe
  6. Hontiveros
  7. Trillanes
Trillanes is a part of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges. If he will not be allowed to vote, then the total number of members is six. Like what I’ve explained in the previous article, Sotto, Lacson, and Pacquiao will almost certainly vote in favor of the complaint. Thus, even if Honasan, Poe, and Hontiveros vote to dismiss the complaint, the tally will still be 3-3.

The committee chairman – in this case Sotto – usually provides the tie-breaker vote, but owing to the sensitivity of the issue, my senate insider-friends and I predict that Sotto will push for the convening of the “Committee of the Whole”, similar to what happened in 2010 when then Senator Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal filed an ethics complaint against then Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar, Jr., over the C-5 controversy [Senate].
The “Committee of the Whole” rule refers to the whole membership of a legislative house, in this case the Senate, sitting as a committee and operating under informal rules [MW]. Thus, even a 3-3 tie vote will result in a de facto endorsement to the Senate Plenary, as the members of the “Committee of the Whole” and the members of the Senate Plenary are, pretty much, one and the same.

In short, Trillanes’ forcible inhibition inevitably results into a endorsement of Gordon’s ethics complaint to the Plenary.

Now, Trillanes will also inhibit from voting at the “Committee of the Whole”, so the total number of voter-senators will thus be 21.

But wait, there’s more!

Discovery # 2: Trillanes may move to exclude Gordon from voting

As the defendant, Trillanes may file a motion to exclude the complainant Gordon. Gordon may accede to Trillanes motion, although this will still be subject to voting by the Committee of the Whole. Thus, we are left with two scenarios: (A) Gordon votes, and (B) Gordon inhibits.

If Gordon votes, the total number of senator-voters in the plenary will be 21, so that the required two-thirds majority vote to expel Trillanes is 14. If Gordon inhibits, the total number of senator-voters in the plenary will be 20, and two-thirds will still be 14.

Truth be told, I believe it won’t matter much because Trillanes has made so many enemies in the Senate, it won’t be too difficult to find someone who’ll vote against him.

Let me explain further.

Discovery # 3: A not-so-solid Liberal Party

Let’s exclude Gordon and assume that only 11 will surely vote to expel Trillanes, so we need three more for 15 votes (2/3 majority), as only 20 will be voting on the ethics complaint.

As you may recall, four (4) senators – (1) Aquino the Ninoy Cosplayer, (2) Pangilinan-Cuneta, (3) Hontiveros the Kidnapper, and (4) Drilon – have already issued a statement in support of Trillanes [Star]. All these four Senators are from the Liberal Party (LP). Well, Hontiveros is Akbayan, but we all know that Akbayan is “LP Lite”.

Interestingly, the other two LP senators – Villanueva and Recto – did not sign the statement, and for good reason. Villanueva is technically from CIBAC but he ran under the LP ticket.
Senate insiders told me that both Recto and Villanueva strongly dislike Trillanes and they will almost certainly vote against the coup plotter. For one, my senate sources told me that both have less than rosy words to say about Trillanes when speaking about the latter in the senate corridors.

Yes, my senate sources are very confident that the two will vote against Trillanes, bringing the total of “yes” votes to 13.

One more.

Discovery # 4: Escudero likely to vote “No”.

The remaining “maybes” are Poe, Escudero, Gatchalian.
Let’s face it: Escudero is a TraPo (traditional politician) in every sense of the word. He looks like one, talks like one, and acts like one. Despite that, Escudero, unlike Hontiveros, is not stupid. He is an astute politician, in the sense that he knows how to play “survival politics”.

In that case, I am confident that he will vote “no” because of the prospective Andy Bautista impeachment case.

In “Andy Bautista exit more likely after Hontiveros kidnapping stunt”, I explained that Escudero may be convinced to acquit embattled Comelec chair Andres Bautista, because Bautista’s removal may uncover Escudero’s reported maneuverings during the 2016 National Elections.

According to my sources, Escudero gave the Comelec the go-signal to transfer votes for him to VP Leni Robredo, allowing the latter to overtake Bongbong Marcos by a hair's breadth [FB].

Thus so far, we have 13 “expel” votes and 5 “retain” votes.

Discovery # 5: Gatchalian’s and Poe's respective predicaments.

The remaining “maybes” are Poe and Gatchalian and we still need one more vote to expel Trillanes from the senate.
Gatchalian has a pending graft case at the Sandiganbayan, as I’ve explained in a previous article. Thus, it may be in his political interest to side with Duterte, since that case will probably reach the Supreme Court. By the time it does, Duterte would have appointed at least ten SC associate justices [TP: SC Math] or even eleven, as Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno may be removed as her impeachment case gains major traction in the Lower House [Star].

Poe, on the other hand, is part of Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel’s majority bloc. Poe’s term ends in 2019, and I am confident that she’s gunning for re-election. Even if she votes in favor of Trillanes (or abstains, which essentially has the same effect), she may still win in 2019.

The problem, however, is whether that prospective 2019 senatorial win, despite being a win, may still turn out to be an embarrassment. Recall the Poe was on top of the senatorial winners in the 2013 elections. Her placing anywhere lower than 3rd will be politically humiliating because it will imply that the populace isn’t as confident in her as before. And I think this will happen if she doesn’t vote to expel Antonio, who is probably the most hated public figure right now, except possibly for… No, Trillanes really is the most hated today.

Absolving Trillanes will also be disastrous for her long-term political ambitions. Remember that she ran for president in 2016 and lost, but the general consensus back then was that she’s still too young and inexperienced for the presidency. To be fair, many of those who didn’t vote for her, and even some who did, felt that she has better chances if she runs in 2022.

But if she absolves Trillanes, she might as well kiss those dreams goodbye.

Harsh? Yes, but true.

Discovery #6: Duterte will call Koko

Now, let’s recall that we have 13 “expel” votes so far, and we need one more vote from either Gatchalian or Poe. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said that he doesn’t meddle with the affairs of the legislature. But I have reason to believe that this is just lip service. Duterte isn’t stupid: he will use backdoor channels to get things done.

We all know that Duterte has publicly displayed his dislike of Trillanes, with him even announcing that he’d advise his son, Davao City vice-mayor Paolo Duterte, to remain silent at the senate hearings [CNN].

Earlier today, Duterte even likened Trillanes to a terrorist group when he said in a mix of Cebuano and Tagalog [Inq]:
“This Trillanes (is a) political ISIS. He has no talent. He will not… he does not even know (the difference) between a democrat and a member of a party. How can I expect (him to know)? He lacks… what he knows in life is not enough.”
The list goes on and on but what’s clear is that, if given the option, Duterte would probably rather have Trillanes become a private citizen. 

I expect Duterte to discreetly summon Pimentel to Malacañang and ask the latter to serve as a “senatorial whip” and influence the majority members to vote in favor of Malacañang’s interests. Poe and Gatchalian are both members of the senate majority, of which Pimentel, being the Senate President, is the de facto head.

Imagine the humiliation on Pimentel’s part if it turns out that the majority bloc is a majority bloc only by name?

I believe that Pimentel is an astute politician. Unlike Hontiveros, he is not stupid: he is a bar topnotcher for crying out loud! I am confident that he can find a way to whip Poe and Gatchalian into submission, if only for the sake of his own political survival.

Note, however, that he needs only one more vote, and I am confident that Poe and Gatchalian, neither of whom are idiots like Hontiveros, will yield. With that said, I predict 14 or even 15 votes in favor of expelling Trillanes, and only five votes against.

Thus, even with Gordon out of the picture, Trillanes will still be toast

UPDATE: 1:51 AM 04 September 2017

I was notified that Gatchalian's graft cases have been dismissed by the Sandiganbayan months ago, thus giving Gatchalian less incentive in voting against Trillanes. For now, I will assume that Gatchalian will vote to dismiss the ethics complaint, so that makes Poe's vote necessary for Trillanes' expulsion.

Grace, moment mo na! Don't let the people down!!![TP].


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