Arroyo impeach rap filed at House : Replay of movie that never took off

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 07:43:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 6) Beating the filing of what they call sham impeachment complaints, anti-Arroyo critics have filed another, the fourth one seeking the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The case was filed at 7:40 a.m. Monday before director Ricardo Roque, the officer-in-charge at the Secretary General’s office at the House of Representatives, although the complainants were at the House as early as 6 a.m.

Present were Joey de Venecia III, son of former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., Iloilo vice governor Rolex Suplico, Josefina Lichauco, former official of the Department of Transportation and Communication; lawyer Harry Roque; and representatives from civil society — Renato Constantino, Jr., Henri Kahn, Francisco Alcuaz, Rez Cortez, Virgilio Eustaquio, Jose Luis Alcuaz, Leah Navarro, Danilo Ramos, Concepcion Empeño, Elmer Labog, Armando Albarillo, Roneo Clamor, and Bebu Bulchand.

De Venecia III and other complainants tried but failed to file the 97-page impeachment complaint late Saturday at the House because its secretary-general, Marilyn Yap, who receives such complaints, had gone on a foreign trip.

The law allows only one impeachment bid each year against the president and the previous one-year period lapsed last weekend, De Venecia said.

Unlike last year’s two-page impeachment case by lawyer Roel Pulido, the complaint filed Monday was “strong” and “would be able to hold its own based on merits and evidence,” De Venecia III.

The complainants raised the national broadband network agreement with China, human rights violations, the Northrail project, the Mt. Diwalwal project, fertilizer fund scam, alleged bribery of members of the House, the swine scam under the Rural Credit Guarantee Corporation, and electoral fraud in the 2004 election as among the impeachable offenses committed by Arroyo.

They decided to withdraw however the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) from the list amid objections by some lawmakers.

Lawyer Roque said that most of the corruption charges made against the President were backed by conclusive reports from the Commission on Audit while the allegations of human rights violations were supported by an investigation report by the United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston.

“This impeachment complaint in the House is the real deal unlike the first three, the House members have no choice but to look, accept it or reject it, based on merits rather than technicalities as they did in the past years,” said Roque.

Bayan Muna partylist Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela Representative Liza Maza endorsed the complaint.

Former Speaker De Venecia Jr. did not endorse the case, which his son said he would discuss with him and ask him to back it.

In the document, the complainants said they wanted to impeach and bring to trial Arroyo “for her [alleged] betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, graft and corruption and other high crimes.”

Suplico, one of the officials who exposed the alleged irregularities in the NBN contract with China’s ZTE Corp., said it was time for the President to be held accountable for the anomalies in her government.

“This is a simple message to the President, you cannot kill, you cannot steal and get away with it,” he said.

De Venecia III, a key witness in the scandal, said congressmen should go through the complaint carefully to see that there was strong evidence to impeach the President.

He dismissed speculations that the move was politically-motivated amid his alleged plans to run for senator in 2010.

“Parang nagiging fortune-teller ang mga nasa Malacañang [People from Malacañang are becoming fortune-tellers]. They’re saying there would be an election in 2010, I don’t think there will be an election in 2010. There’s nothing political about this,” he said.

De Venecia III added that it was not too late to initiate the impeachment move against the President, adding that in her remaining 18 to 19 months in office, “a lot of anomalies can still happen.”

In a summary of complaint prepared by Bayan Muna, it said Arroyo committed impeachable offense based on the following:

• betrayal of public trust and bribery when she abetted and/or tolerated the commission of crime on the ZTE contract, willfully obstructed, impeded or delayed the apprehension of suspects and the investigation of criminal cases arising from the same, and participating and giving support to or approving the contract despite her knowledge that the same is tainted with graft and corruption;
There were also allegations that Arroyo’s husband was promised a huge commission to back the agreement, which the President scrapped last year. Her husband denied the allegations and ZTE has denied bribing any official.

• culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes by explicitly and implicitly conspiring, directing, abetting, and tolerating with impunity as a state policy extrajudicial executions, involuntary disappearances, torture, massacre, illegal arrests and arbitrary detention, forced dislocation of communities and other gross and systematic violation of civil and political rights and engaging in a systematic campaign to cover up or whitewash these crimes by suppressing and obliterating the evidence, blaming the victims, terrorizing and intimidating and physically attacking witnesses, their relatives, lawyers, and supporters, and human rights workers.

• culpable violation of the Constitution by entering into the overpriced Northrail project without the approval of the monetary board and without giving preference to Filipino labor and investment;

• betrayal of public trust by selling the country’s gold reserve in Mt. Diwalwal to China’s already controversial ZTE Corp. under the terms of agreement that are grossly disadvantageous to the country’s interests.

• bribery when she bribed members of Congress to dismiss the genuine impeachment complaint last year in favor of the “sham” Pulido complaint

• graft and corruption by allowing the improper use of at least P5 billion in loans obtained by the Rural Credit Guarantee Corporation (QUEDANCOR) to fund her administration’s 2004 electoral campaign, and by profiting from the fertilizer fund scam.

• betrayal of public trust by tampering with the results of the 2004 election.

The complainants also pointed to the “rising dissatisfaction rating” against Arroyo as a reflection that “the public believes that she had betrayed their trust.” Citing the first quarter survey of the Social Weather Stations, the complainants said it was only during Arroyo’s time that there was negative satisfaction rating, “or an overall negative feeling against a sitting President.”

After the complaint is filed at the Office of the House Secretary General, the Secretary General then transmits it to the Office of the Speaker.

Under House rules, the Speaker has 10 session days to forward it to the rules committee to schedule for plenary.

Since Congress is on recess, Roque said the chamber could act on it only when session would resume on November 10.

From the floor, the complaint will be referred to the House justice committee, which has 60 session days to determine whether the case is sufficient in form and substance.

After the determination of form and substance, the committee report will be submitted on the floor for either adoption or rejection.

The complaint will only reach the Senate for trial if it gets the vote of one-third of the total membership of the House.

Presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said the complaint contained recycled allegations that had no chance of success, and accused the complainants of being self-serving when the country needed to brace against impacts of the global financial crisis.

“It’s like replaying a movie that never took off,” Golez said.

Meanwhile, Cerge Remonde, head of the Presidential Management Staff, refused to answer allegations by Suplico that “Christmas will be early” for allies of the President, referring to possible bribes in exchange for the dismissal of the complaint.

“No Comment. Palace will focus on confronting global economic crisis,” said Remonde in a message.

But Trade Secretary Peter Favila, a member of Arroyo’s economic team, said some businessmen have expressed apprehension upon hearing reports of the impeachment.

“The business community some…called me yesterday [and they said] it’s a pity that during these times when the whole world is focused on what we need to do, here in RP we’re still bogged down by politics,” said Favila.

Arroyo has survived three opposition impeachment bids, which were dismissed on technicalities by her dominant House allies. At least one-third of the 240-member House would have to back a complaint to impeach Arroyo and send it to the opposition-dominated Senate for trial.

But the opposition controls only 28 House seats.

“If you look at the numbers, it’s really an uphill battle,” said Congressman Casiño, who backed past impeachment attempts. “But it’s not just a complaint, it’s a political statement, an exercise of our right to stand up against official wrongdoing.”

Arroyo, who was swept to power in 2001 after then-President Joseph Estrada was ousted by a non-violent “people power” revolt, has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in office. She won a six-year term in a regular presidential election in 2004.

With reports from Thea Alberto,; Gil Cabacungan, Inquirer; Associated Press


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