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Philippines Opposition Continues Impeachment Drive Against Arroyo Despite Setback

  • Douglas Bakshian

Opposition lawmakers in the Philippines are keeping up efforts to win votes for an impeachment case against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, despite a major defeat in Congress.

The Justice Committee of the administration dominated House of Representatives threw out impeachment complaints against President Gloria Arroyo on Wednesday. But if the opposition gains the votes of 79 lawmakers, one-third of the House, the committee's decision could be overturned.

Opposition lawmakers claim they are only a few votes short, and there is still hope of reaching the magic number of 79 by Monday.

President Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, says the opposition should give up so the country can get on with the real business of the people. He says the political process has been fair, free and transparent, and he called the 79 figure a "pipe dream."

Ramon Casiple, an analyst with the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, says both sides are very busy wooing support.

"The administration is definitely doing its own monitoring of the situation, and if there is a possibility that a particular undecided congressman is being approached, they would already be there," he said. "So, it's a question of tit-for-tat."

Congressman Teodoro Locsin Jr., an independent, describes the opposition as divided, but he says Mrs. Arroyo's presidency has already been hurt by the impeachment drive.

"I do feel, that the government has been severely damaged anyway," he said. "I don't think that these people (the opposition) could topple this government, but I do think its disintegration may have started."

Meanwhile, Mr. Casiple says, as the political drama plays out, the people are remaining on the sidelines.

"The whole country is still waiting and watching. They know that the impeachment process has not yet ended," he said. "They have been frustrated in these whole committee proceedings. But I think there is no significant tendency yet to go to the streets en masse."

Leftist groups say they plan protests next week to pressure lawmakers to reverse the Justice Committee's action. But recent rallies have not produced big numbers.

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