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Arroyo Expected to Survive Impeachment Vote

  • Douglas Bakshian

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is expected to survive an impeachment vote in Congress this week, but analysts say this is unlikely to end a political crisis haunting her presidency. Congressional leaders say a vote could come late Monday, or discussions could drag on.

The opposition needs one-third of the votes in the lower house to overturn a committee report that recommends killing the impeachment process. However, opposition leaders remain short of the 79 votes required to send the impeachment to the Senate, where President Arroyo would face a trial that could lead to her removal.

Last week the opposition lost a vote on three impeachment complaints in the congressional justice committee.

But at a press conference on Monday in Manila attended by a variety of opposition figures, one spokesman, Armin Luistro, said the aim is still clear.

"Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must go," he said. "For the good of the country, she must go. For the sake of our nation's future she must go. For the preservation of hope as a motive force in our national life, she must go."

Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, who also appeared at the news conference, promised to lead mass protests to Congress Tuesday to demand Mrs. Arroyo's impeachment for election fraud.

The capital's police force is on full alert to keep order during any protests. Authorities say several hundred police are deployed outside Congress and a standby military force could be used if demonstrations get out of control.

But so far there have been only scattered demonstrations and the larger public has shown little interest in "people power" protests of the type that ousted Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001.

According to Antonio Gatmaitan of the Political Economy Applied Research institution, while the politicians fight it out, the people are watching.

"The mood of the country is wait and see because the moderate factions pinned their hopes on the opposition for this impeachment. But I don't think it's going anywhere. It may radicalize the opposition," he said.

But Mr. Gatmaitan and other analysts say even if the opposition fails this time, mounting economic problems and dissatisfaction with the government will undermine President Arroyo's rule and she may not finish her term.

The crisis began when tapes were released earlier this year of Mrs. Arroyo talking with an election official during the 2004 presidential vote count. The opposition accuses her of trying to fix the election, a charge she denies. She has admitted a lapse in judgment and apologized to the public, but the opposition and even some of her allies have since called for her to resign.

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