An opposition-backed move to oust Philippine President Gloria Arroyo for alleged election fraud was heading for defeat yesterday after her foes walked out of the impeachment process, claiming she had rigged those proceedings as well.
A key vote on the impeachment complaints was delayed indefinitely when the entire opposition camp walked out of the House of Representatives justice committee hearings, hurling documents in the air and denouncing the proceedings.
House security officers earlier scuffled with protesters in the gallery as opposition supporters unfurled an "Impeach" banner and chanted slogans calling for the president's resignation.
Arroyo has been under fire for months since an audiotape was leaked in which a woman sounding like her apparently tells an election official to fix the outcome of last year's presidential ballot.
Legislator Robert Barbers said the political opposition would meet soon to consider options after turning its back on the impeachment process.
"How can we participate in an exercise where we believe everything is staged?" Barbers said.
Justice committee vice chairman Marcelino Libanan said the Arroyo camp still expects the opposition to return to the hearing later yesterday so the vote could proceed as scheduled.
Pandemonium broke out when the committee chairman, Arroyo ally Simeon Datumanong, banged his gavel and ruled out further debate on the issue of whether the opposition-backed impeachment complaint, one of three being considered by the House, is "separate and distinct" from two others.
"Mr. Chairman this is too much. You cannot railroad the proceedings," opposition legislator Alan Peter Cayetano shouted.
Arroyo's supporters want to kill off the opposition-backed complaint -- seen as the strongest of the three -- at committee level.
It includes allegations Arroyo betrayed the public through vote fraud, as well as charges that her family was involved in illegal gambling and that human rights were violated under her rule.
If the committee eventually decides that none of the impeachment complaints are strong enough to go to the full House of Representatives, the opposition would need 79 votes in the full house -- one third of the membership -- to overrule the committee and send the complaint to the Senate for trial.
Opposition legislator Ronaldo Zamora conceded earlier yesterday: "We don't have the numbers."