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Bid to Impeach Philippine President Fails

The Philippine Congress has rebuffed a bid to impeach President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But the opposition says it will continue to work for her removal through popular pressure.

The vote in the House of Representatives came after an all-night session, and stretched well into Tuesday afternoon. In the end, the opposition fell short of the 79 votes it needed to send an impeachment case to the Senate.

The opposition has vowed to keep the pressure on President Arroyo, however. As the vote was taking place, thousands of opposition supporters conducted an anti-Arroyo march on Congress.

The marchers included former President Corazon Aquino, a national hero and former backer of Mrs. Arroyo, and Susan Roces, the widow of the man Mrs. Arroyo defeated in last year's presidential election.

Congressman Eduardo Gullas, who voted against impeachment, said Congress must now get on with the business of the country. "I urge, therefore, the leadership of the House and each and every member of the House that we move on," he said. "Let us go and tackle now the budget - the number one measure that Congress must address itself - and many other concerns."

But Congressman Robert Jaworski said the people had lost out in the vote. He said impeachment would have been preferable to "other means" - presumably a reference to mass street demonstrations - as a way of removing a president.

"It is a process provided so that the people would not be constrained to resort to other means to remove a president whom they believe has done them so grave a wrong," added Mr. Jaworski.

The opposition has vowed to bring people into the streets if the impeachment bid fails. Despite Tuesday's rally and others like it, however, there has been no sign of a massive "people power" movement like the ones that drove Presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada from power in 1986 and 2001.

Still, many analysts contend that President Arroyo's credibility has been undermined, and they say she will be unlikely to finish her term, as economic problems and political dissatisfaction slowly fester.

She has been accused of corruption and fraud in connection with last year's election, after a tape was released of her talking with an election official during the counting of the votes. She has admitted to a lapse in judgment and apologized publicly, but denies she committed any illegal or impeachable act.