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 4th Impeachment Case against GMA

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PostSubject: 4th Impeachment Case against GMA   October 14th 2008, 4:10 pm

Administration critics yesterday lodged a new impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives against President Arroyo, signaling the start of the so-called "impeachment season."

The 97-page complaint, filed by 19 individuals led by businessman Jose "Joey" de Venecia III and endorsed by three partylist lawmakers, is the fourth impeachment try against Mrs. Arroyo in four years.

The Chief Executive has survived three attempts to impeach her in the past three years, including one that accused her of rigging the 2004 presidential election with the help of then Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and some loyal generals.

According to the House secretariat, the De Venecia complaint is the first to be "accepted" by the House since the one-year ban on the filing of a new complaint against the President expired last Saturday.

"Yes, this is the first complaint after the one - year ban," said House Deputy Secretary-General Ricardo Roque, who received the "duly verified and endorsed" complaint at exactly 7:40 a.m.

The Constitution limits the filing of an impeachment complaint against impeachable officials to one in a year.

At least 79 congressmen or one-third of the 238 - member House would have to back a complaint to impeach Mrs. Arroyo and send it to the opposition - dominated Senate for trial.

But the leader of the opposition bloc admitted that it does not have the numbers to back the new impeachment complaint.

"Right now up to this point, tatapatin ko kayo, wala pa akong nakikitang reaction from the other congressmen aside from those in the minority. Baka di kami ganyan karami," House Minority Leader Rep. Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan City told a radio interview.

Other opposition leaders like Reps. Roilo Golez of Parañaque City and Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City said the 25 - member opposition bloc will decide within the week whether they will support the new impeachment complaint or not.

"The minority as a group has no position yet on the impeachment complaint. We will discuss it first chance we have during recess. We have not seen the complaint and the minority had no hand in preparation of said complaint," Golez said in a text message.

"If the complaint contains proof and probable cause to make the President liable, I won’t hesitate to endorse the complaint," Rodriguez said in a phone interview.

The new impeachment complaint accuses Mrs. Arroyo of betrayal of public trust after she approved the government’s $ 329 - million national broadband deal with China’s ZTE Corp. The President scrapped the deal after De Venecia III told a Senate inquiry that bribes were offered to ensure approval of the contract and that the project was overpriced by at least $ 130 million.

According to the complainants, she also betrayed public trust for "selling the country’s gold reserves" in the gold-rich Mt. Diwalwal in Compostella Valley to the already controversial ZTE Corp. and for tampering with the results of the 2004 presidential polls.

The complaint also accuses the President of culpable violation of the Constitution for approving the allegedly overpriced $ 503 - million North Rail Project to rehabilitate the Luzon rail network and for supposedly abetting numerous human rights violations.

She is also charged with bribery for her role in the ZTE deal and for allegedly authorizing the distribution of bribe money to House members in exchange for the referral of last year’s impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Roel Pulido; graft and corruption for her administration’s involvement in various irregularities, including the R728-million fertilizer scandal, the R5-billion swine scam and the "Hello, Garci" controversy.

Besides the son of former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., other complainants in the new impeachment case include Iloilo Vice-Governor Rolex Suplico, Editha Burgos, Erlinda Cadapan, Josefina Lichauco, Harry Roque, Renato Constantino Jr., Henri Kahn, Francisco Alcuaz, Rez Cortez, Virgilio Eustaquio, Jose Luis Alcuaz, Leah Navarro, Danilo Ramos, Concepcion Empeño, Elmer Labog, Armando Albarillo, Roneo Clamor and Bebu Bulchand.

The complaint is endorsed by partylist Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna and Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party.

Prior to the filing of their complaint, the complainants held a press conference in which they said they had high hopes that this time, the President will be tried in the Senate.

"Itong three inches complaint, ang nilalaman nito ay dalawang salita lamang, patayan at nakawan sa bansang Pilipinas. Ang itinuturo naming may kasalanan dito ay walang iba kundi si Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," Suplico said.

"We want to send a strong message to the President. Madam President, you cannot kill, you cannot steal and get away with it. That is a message this morning," he said.

De Venecia III, for his part, said: "Napaka-importante nito (impeachment) kasi hindi po nai-file ito last year kasi naunahan po kami ni Atty. Pulido at siya ay nag-file ng sham impeachment complaint."

Lozano, Pamatong file own impeach case vs Arroyo

Marcos loyalist Oliver Lozano and two other lawyers yesterday tried but failed to spoil the filing of a stronger impeachment complaint against President Arroyo.

Lozano, together with his daughter Evangeline and fellow perennial impeachment complainant Elly Pamatong, again lodged a complaint against the Chief Executive more than two hours after the group of businessman Jose "Joey" de Venecia III filed a separate complaint.

The House secretariat received the Lozano complaint at 10:02 a.m. yesterday and the duly verified and endorsed De Venecia complaint at 7:40 a.m.

But unlike the one filed by De Venecia’s group, the Lozano complaint was not endorsed by any congressman, although there was an attached letter dated Aug. 8, 2008 of the Lozanos and Pamatong to North Cotabato Rep. Bernardo Piñol Jr., urging the latter to endorse the complaint.

Under the rules, an impeachment complaint must be endorsed by a member of the House.

The Lozano complaint charges Mrs. Arroyo of betrayal of public trust in connection with the aborted Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In 2005, Lozano filed an impeachment case ahead of administration critics.

Last year, another lawyer, Roel Pulido, filed a "watered down" impeachment complaint that spoiled opposition attempts to pursue a stronger complaint against the President.

Both the Lozano and Pulido complaints, generally viewed as "lamehorse" complaints, were defeated basically due to technical deficiency rather than on merit. (Edmer F. Panesa)

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