BACOLOD

Abaya: 'Zero pork barrel' text a mind game

MANILA -- A text message threatening to withhold the pork barrel of congressmen who vote against impeaching Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is just a mind game, the man who allegedly sent it said.

Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, denied sending the message, adding he does not know why Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay of the House minority would say he did.

Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III, a member of the Liberal Party (LP) like Abaya, said the move is meant to portray the Liberal Party "as no different from the previous administration."

He said the alleged text message was black propaganda being spread by "those who want to see the Ombudsman remain in office."

Tañada added that he has known Abaya for close to 10 years and that sending the threatening text message was not in his nature.

Ombudsman Gutierrez has said the impeachment proceedings against her are part of a vendetta by the LP.

In recent weeks, President Benigno Aquino III reportedly gave LP members in the House to make sure she is impeached.

Two LP senators, Teofisto Guingona III and Francis Pangilinan, have been vocal about wanting her removed from office.

Guingona has even called on the House to impeach the ombudsman and recommended the same in a partial Senate Blue Ribbon Committee report on the plea bargain agreement in the plunder case against dismissed general Carlos Garcia.

According to Magsaysay, the text message from Abaya told House members not to abstain or oppose when the impeachment complaints against Gutierrez come to a vote.

"Those who will vote no or absent/abstain on impeachment will get zero as in zero. At least, walang sisihan that there was no forewarning," the message allegedly read.

But the warning, if real, was not sent to all members of the House.

ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio told Sun.Star that he received no such message. (Kathrina Alvarez/With Jonathan de Santos)
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