House ethics probe looms over lawmaker John Bertiz

MANILA, Philippines – ACTS-OFW Representative John Bertiz's own allies are eyeing an ethics complaint against him following the backlash over his recent controversial actions caught on video.

No less than House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said that the more than 44 lawmakers in his bloc are already set on triggering an investigation by the House committee on ethics.

"We're gathering all the narratives of the event, but at the same time, I have consulted the leaders of the minority because we are quite 44 [in number already]. There may be a possibility that we may have to take this up with the ethics committee," Suarez told reporters on Monday, October 1.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was standing beside Suarez, referred reporters' questions on Bertiz to Suarez because Bertiz is currently a deputy minority leader. 

According to Suarez, the minority bloc is still waiting if any outside parties would file an ethics complaint against Bertiz. Otherwise, the lawmakers themselves will file the complaint. 

"We'll initiate it. We will definitely [push] for [an] investigation on what happened," said Suarez. 

Why is Bertiz controversial? A video of Bertiz confronting a Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) security checker went viral over the weekend.

The video shows Bertiz supposedly refusing to remove his shoes at an airport security checkpoint on Saturday, September 29. Bertiz then confronted the security checker who appeared to tell him to remove his shoes. 

Bertiz neither confirmed nor denied whether or not he took off his shoes at the airport. Instead, he said he confronted the security checker because some Chinese passengers allegedly escorted by NAIA staff were able to skip the checkpoint.

On September 25, Bertiz was also caught on video joking to the new batch of agricultural and biosystems engineers that they would not get their respective licenses from the Professional Regulation Commission if they will not say they know Special Assistant to the President Bong Go.

"Marami na nga 'yung lumalabas na issue. That's precisely the reason why we're calling for a deeper investigation on this issue. It's not just the incident at the airport, but meron pa ring mga [issue with] OFWs (overseas Filipino workers).… Ang laki ng pagtingin natin sa OFWs," said Suarez.

(There are a lot of issues coming out right now. That's precisely the reason why we're calling for a deeper investigation on this issue. It's not just the incident at the airport, but there's also an issue with OFWs.... We look up to our OFWs.)

What happened with Bertiz and some OFWs? Following Bertiz's recent controversies, social media users have revived an old video of Bertiz in a heated exchange with a leader of an OFW community in Hong Kong in January 2017.

Bertiz accused the OFW leader of being an undocumented worker and of failing to fight for OFWs' rights.The video uploaded by HKPinoyTV identified the OFW leader as Eman Villanueva of United Filipinos in Hong Kong Migrante HK. 

The Facebook page said Bertiz and Villanueva were arguing over the abolition of the overseas employment certificate and the P550 airport terminal fee. 

 

Social media users have also been spreading a document supposedly signed by ACTS-OFW officials indicating that Bertiz has been removed as a member of the party since March 2018.

The same document states that ACTS-OFW has allegedly withdrawn Bertiz's nomination for a seat at the House and has declared him persona non grata.

In a press conference on Monday, Bertiz said the document was "fake" and denied being involved in an internal conflict with other members of ACTS-OFW. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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