THUMBS DOWN: Bayan Muna Rep.
Satur Ocampo (left) gives Macapagal-Arroyo the thumbs-down sign at the
July 13 rally; as Reps. Ronaldo Zamora, Rafael Mariano, Francis Escudero,
and Joel Virador huddle at the House of Representatives (right).
Photos by Aubrey Makilan
It is only 10 days
before the second session of the 13th Congress opens on July
25. Ordinarily, many of the congressmen and senators would have been
preoccupied with dressing up and looking good for the highly-publicized
state-of-the-nation address (SONA).
This SONA however is
Solons are busy
gearing up for the Congress’ possibly second impeachment trial, the
wheelings and dealings for which are expected to intensify when session
resumes with the president’s address. The first one was in late 2000 when
it held the Estrada impeachment trials. The collapse of the impeachment
triggered the second people’s revolt that led to the president’s ouster.
Preparing for battle
complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been filed by
Oliver Lozano, a lawyer of the Marcoses, and another lawyer, Jose Lopez.
Ironically, the complaint has been endorsed by two administration
congressmen, Antonio Alvarez and Rodante Marcoleta of Alagad party-list.
This led opposition
congressmen to warn that the complaint could only be a ploy by Arroyo
supporters as the impeachment would not gain ground because the House
minority bloc did not have the numbers.
But the opposition
could well have the upper hand this time, Rep. Satur Ocampo of the
party-list Bayan Muna (people first) observed.
“We took the
challenge of the majority bloc (to file the impeachment),” Ocampo said in
a Bulatlat interview. He said the various factions of the opposition are
now consulting with one another to form an “impeachment team.”
Realizing that the
impeachment process will in the main be a “battle of lawyers,” the
opposition congressmen have also sought the services of lawyers who have
agreed to provide legal experties, pro bono.
Being contemplated as
the four main bases for impeachment are betrayal of public thrust,
culpable violation of the Constitution, graft and corruption and bribery.
wiretapped conversations between the president and Commission on Election
(Comelec) official Virgilio Garcillano that reportedly prove that the
former rigged the May 2004 elections would be one of the evidences for the
charges of betrayal of public thrust and culpable violation of the
In an interview with
Bulatlat, Marcoleta said the president’s admission that hers was
the woman’s voice on the tape is already the highest form of evidence.
malversation of public funds from PhilHealth and the Department of
Agriculture’s Masaganang Ani (bountiful harvest) project would be some of
the bases for graft and corruption.
Sen. Franklin Drilon,
who has called for the resignation of Macapagal-Arroyo, also said
overpricing of the China-funded rehabilitation of the North Railway system
could also be grounds for her impeachment.
As commander-in chief
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Macapagal-Arroyo will also be
tried for command responsibility in the killings of political activists,
religious personalities and lawyers. The most probable cases to be
highlighted are the double-murder of human rights worker Eden Marcellana
and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy in April 2003.
Ocampo said the
impeachment proceedings will be “a developmental process” as they are
still in the stage of identifying witnesses and evidences against the
president. They are confident that more persons will come forward as the
proceedings prosper, he said.
Ocampo likened this
situation with that of the impeachment case against Estrada where the
evidences were at first thin but thickened with the expose’ by then Ilocos
Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson of alleged illegal gambling payoffs for
In the presentation
of evidences, Ocampo said Vice President Noli de Castro may also find
himself facing a separate impeachment as evidences of manipulation of
election results are also being verified.
The 10 Cabinet
members who have resigned their posts and called on the president to
resign may also be strong witnesses against the president. They have
already expressed their willingness to spill the beans if they are called
to do so, a national daily has reported.
congressmen are now busy campaigning among their colleagues to endorse the
impeachment complaint. As of press time, Ocampo said they are 12 names
short of completing the required 78 votes (1/3 of the 236-member House)
before the Articles of Impeachment can be endorsed to the Senate.
Presently, the House
count voting on the impeachment is as follows: formal minority, 28;
Liberal Party (LP) 22 out of 34; progressive party-list, 6; other
party-lists, 7; and at least three from the majority (Reps. Clavel
Martinez, Rolio Golez and Edmundo Reyes).
Rep. Benigno Aquino
III, scion of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan in Tarlac, confirmed in an
interview that a significant number of LP congressmen are for
impeachment. He however denied reports that his mother, former President
Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, is campaigning among House members to sign the
Aquino also said he
was not entertaining thoughts of taking the House speakership from Rep.
Jose de Venecia. Reports were that the Tarlac congressman would vote for
the impeachment after opposition lawmakers offered him the speaker’s post.
If the votes for
initiating the impeachment are less than one-third, the case would be
deliberated upon by the House Committee on Justice.
Ocampo said this
deliberation could take long since the committee is dominated by
Seen as the next
major arena of battle is the House Committee on Rules which would
deliberate on the rules of the impeachment proceedings.
In a press conference
July 11 at the Senate, Drilon and his two other party-mates from the
Liberal Party, Sens. Rodolfo Biazon and Majority Floor Leader Francis
Pangilinan, said they will “support any impeachment that will come out of
the House” as it is constitutional.
The three senators
bolted out of the majority bloc in the Senate last week and called on the
president to resign. But Drilon clarified they have not joined the
minority bloc and would rather call themselves as “fiscalizers.”
development, there are now 10 administration solons in the Senate, 10
minority and three “fiscalizers.” However, these numbers may change as
news floated that in the next few days Sens. Juan Flavier and Ramon
Magsaysay Jr., both members of the majority, may be swayed by Drilon to
tried to contact the two senators to confirm the reports but has been
unable to reach them. Their offices however confirmed the two have talked
with Drilon over lunch July 12.
While in the earlier stages of the
impeachment move administration congressmen thought the minority would not
dare endorse an impeachment complaint, now Malacañang (the presidential
palace) is staging a counter-campaign to dissuade the congressmen from
voting for the impeachment.
Rep. Rolex Suplico of the opposition has
publicly announced that money from the palace has flowed like rain in the
House to make sure that the opposition does not get the required 78 votes.
“What they are doing now is to prevent the
impeachment from prospering,” Ocampo said.
But, he said, it is
expected that majority legislators would offer incentives to the members
of the minority, bribe them or offer key positions in the different House
committees which shall be reorganized for the second session.
The Bayan Muna
representative revealed that during the deliberations of the Expanded
Value Added Tax (E-Vat) the release of funds allotted to congressmen
depended of how they would vote.
When the palace learned some
administration congressmen would vote “by conscience,” they got phone
calls from palace officials, Ocampo said. As a result, some lawmakers
opted to be absent to avoid skirmishes with the rest of the majority.
congressman stressed that the impeachment procedures should not dampen the
campaigns for Macapagal-Arroyo’s ouster, however. “The mass protests are
still the most reliable means of ousting the president,” he said.
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