The political firestorm over the January 25 Mamasapano incident continues for President Benigno Aquino 3rd after a key congressional ally quit his post as he accused the country’s leader of engaging in a “brazen cover-up of his role” in the botched police operation.
Walden Bello, a political activist since the martial law period and a professor of sociology and public administration before he joined Congress as second nominee of the Akbayan party-list, was supposed to formally announce his resignation in a privileged speech Wednesday afternoon but the session was adjourned for lack of quorum.
“I can no longer support a President engaged in brazen cover-up of his role in the Mamasapano tragedy. I cannot support a man whose behavior is a disgrace to the presidency,” Bello said.
Malacañang immediately brushed aside the lawmaker’s announcement.
Its spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Bello was his own man and his statements did not represent the position of Akbayan party-list.
“Rep. Bello’s decision to withdraw is his own,” Lacierda told reporters in a text message.
“My understanding is that Akbayan issued a statement that Rep. Bello’s statements are not [those]of Akbayan,” he added.
Akbayan was part of a coalition formed in 2010 and spearheaded by the Liberal Party (LP) to advance the presidential bid of then Sen. Benigno Aquino 3rd. The party-list group’s chairman, Risa Hontiveros, was included in the LP senatorial slate in the 2010 and 2013 elections. She was unsuccessful in both bids.
Other members of Akbayan who were named to key government positions include Secretary Ronald Llamas, the presidential adviser for political affairs, and National Anti-Poverty Commission chairman Joel Rocamora.
In a statement, Bello noted that he is withdrawing his support to the President who has kept on washing his hands of responsibility over a mission that he allegedly planned and was executed on his orders.
He was referring to the Mamasapano mission aimed at arresting high-profile international terrorist, Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan who was killed in the operation. Forty-four members of the police Special Action Force, however, were killed in an ensuing gun battle.
“I cannot continue to represent an organization with which I have major policy disagreement such as on the question of support for the administration. I have given notice of my irrevocable intention to resign as Akbayan representative though I will remain in the party,” Bello said in a text message.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the coalition is unaffected by Bello’s resignation.
“Numerically [it’s a loss], but really, considering that more than 92 percent of everybody in Congress belongs to the majority [bloc], it doesn’t really matter if one or two drops out,” said Belmonte, also the vice chairman of the LP.
“There is no need for loyalty check. Actions would speak louder than loyalty check. It [withdrawal of support]is a [decision]that Congressman Bello has made. He is entitled to it. It is good for him and Congress that he can concentrate on other things,” Belmonte added.
WITH REPORT FROM CATHERINE S. VALENTE