Speaker: Impeachment is a ‘numbers game’

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 16:49:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sent a clear signal on Monday that they will use their overwhelming numbers in the House of Representatives to scrap the fourth impeachment complaint against the chief executive.

“This [impeachment] is a political exercise and we will deal with it head-on. At the end of the day it will be a numbers game,” Speaker Prospero Nograles said in a text message from Switzerland, where he is attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Nograles said even members of the minority acknowledge difficulty getting the required one-third vote, or 74 of the 240-member chamber, to get the complaint going.

House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora admitted as much in a radio interview earlier in the day.

“Right now, up to this point, I will tell you honestly, I see no reaction from the other congressmen aside from those in the minority. We are not that many [but] we hope the others [members of the House] will see the 97-page complaint and read the evidence,” Zamora said.

Nograles said since impeachment is “largely a partisan issue,” House members would take a stand according to their leanings.

He called the impeachment complaint “ill-timed” and slammed those who filed the case for “preaching the gospel of instability” in the face of the global financial crisis.

In a separate interview, House justice committee chairman Matias Defensor said his committee will look at the complaint “squarely” but pointed out that any move to impeach the President always disrupts the normal function of the chamber and the government.

Deputy minority leader Roilo Golez said they have no position yet on the complaint but vowed to discuss it with members of the opposition.

Bayan Muna (People First) party list Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño said the latest impeachment complaint, unlike those filed before, is “very strong” and urged members of the House to take a close look at the issues and evidence.

Ocampo also said they are giving former speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. time to go over the complaint, filed by his son Jose III, and civil society and militant groups.

The elder De Venecia has yet to endorse the complaint.

“What is important is for him to convince members of the majority to support the complaint once it is taken up by the justice committee,” Ocampo said.

Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, one of the signatories to the complaint, said the public would be watching if former speaker, who used to be president of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, is now a “one-man army” who will have to influence others to support the impeachment, or “has an army with silent supporters.”

Suplico said the fact that Arroyo has barely two years in office and is now considered a “lame duck president” could make a difference on how House members stand on the impeachment.

“I think each and every congressman recognizes the fact that she is on her way out as president, therefore that will embolden members of the House to stand on principles and rely on their reading of the impeachment complaint whether or not it contains the necessary documents to sustain impeaching the president,” he said.


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