Fri, Aug 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Second Arroyo impeachment bid fails

MARATHON DEBATE The Philippine Congress debate lasted 17 hours before a vote was taken. The opposition must now wait until next year to try to oust Arroyo again

AFP AND AP , MANILA

The Philippine Congress yesterday threw out a second attempt to impeach President Gloria Arroyo over alleged election irregularities after a marathon all-night sitting.

The opposition, needing 78 votes for an impeachment, only managed 32 from the 236 House of Representatives legislators.

The vote was 173 against with one abstention, with 30 legislators not attending.

"After 17 hours of gruelling debate, no sleep and fatigue, I am happy to report to our nation, to our people that we have finally put an end to the impeachment complaint," House Speaker and Arroyo ally Jose de Venecia said.

Under the Constitution only one impeachment bid can be filed each year against a sitting president.

The opposition has been trying to remove Arroyo from office since she came to power in a hotly contested election in 2004.

They have claimed Arroyo stole the election from her rival the late film actor Fernando Poe.

The claim gained credence last year when the opposition produced a wiretap recording in which a woman, alleged to be Arroyo, called an election official to secure a million votes -- the margin of the president's victory.

Arroyo later apologized on national TV for a "lapse in judgement," saying she was only trying to protect her vote and not to cheat.

De Venecia urged Arroyo's opponents yesterday to end "poisonous, disruptive politics" and concentrate on helping the president solve the country's problems.

He said Arroyo called immediately after the vote and said she was happy that the debates were over.

Legislator Alan Peter Cayetano, one of those who led the impeachment bid, said the opposition had not decided whether to try again next year, conceding Arroyo had too much support in the house.

"We have always accepted defeat, but it's the consequences of that that we are worried about," he said, adding that he feared anti-Arroyo groups may be forced to hold huge street protests.

Arroyo's political adviser, Gabriel Claudio, said she was extending a hand of reconciliation to her opponents so the country of 84 million can move forward.

"The sooner the process of healing gets underway, the greater chances for the nation to achieve harmony, stability and economic growth," Claudio said.

Arroyo expressed "a sense of triumph and relief" after the final votes were counted, Claudio said.

The grueling session frayed some nerves but was starkly more subdued -- and at times comic -- than last year's vote.

At one particularly chaotic point, opposition lawmakers walked out of the impeachment proceedings, hurling documents to the air.

Meanwhile, aiming to intimidate the opposition, pro-Arroyo lawmakers turned to the macabre, saying the impeachment complaint was "dead on arrival," backed by seven black-draped boxes of alleged evidence that resembled "coffins for cadavers."

Opposition legislators shot back by suggesting that Arroyo's camp bribed some of their colleagues, who they said acted like hired guns and left the complaint "dead on the spot."

At the height of the debate, opposition Representative Alan Peter Cayetano offered three steamed duck eggs as a peace offering to his pro-administration adversary, setting off wild applause in Congress.

He handed over the popular delicacy called balut to Representative Luis Villafuerte, who broke into a smile.

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