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House justice panel thrashes impeach complaint vs Arroyo

November 14, 2007 11:34am
With their counterparts in the minority boycotting the hearing, administration allies at the House justice committee voted overwhelmingly against the impeachment complaint lodged by lawyer Roberto Rafael "Roel" Pulido against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with a vote of 43-1.

Only Laguna Rep. Edgar San Luis, who endorsed the Pulido bid, voted in favor of the complaint.

Bacolod City Rep. Monico Puentevella moved to vote for the dismissal of the three-page complaint for lack of substance. The committee had denied the minority's bid to attach a 34-page supplemental complaint to fortify the Pulido complaint.

After offering a minute of silence for deceased Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar, administration lawmakers lost no time assailing Pulido's bid.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, vice chair of the justice panel, branded the allegations hurled by Pulido regarding Mrs Arroyo's hand in the $329.48-million ZTE controversy as baseless.

"Verily, in all respects, the Pulido complaint is destitute of substance. To reiterate, it is so bare that it is akin to a centerfold which may excite but does not excel," Lagman said.

He added that, "Nowhere in the Pulido complaint is it unequivocally and clearly alleged that the respondent President committed overt acts constituting a violation or violations of her aforesaid undertakings in her Oath of Office."

Lagman said it was not true that President Arroyo betrayed the public trust, which was Pulido's bone of contention. He said the testimony of businessman Jose de Venecia III on the ZTE mess, which was cited in the Pulido complaint, was "patently hearsay."

Pulido was dismayed over what happened. "Naging witness din kayo sa moro-moro na naganap. Hindi man lang nagkaroon ng talakayan. (You bore witness to the stage act that transpired. Discussions were not even held)," he said.

"Maybe right now we will hope the opposition, the society and the mass movement will take over," he added.

San Luis told dzBB radio that the Pulido complaint suffered a major setback with the boycott of the minority congressmen, who have shunned the proceedings after last Monday's hearing wherein they were soundly defeated in two other votes.

"If the opposition didn't walk out maybe they (majority) would have seen Pulido's point. I don't have ill feelings towards anybody. I don't consider anybody an enemy," San Luis said in Filipino.

The minority committee members walked out after the committee voted 28-8 to reject the appeal of Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III seeking the inhibition of members implicated in the "cash gifts" controversy.

Shortly before that, the committee voted 29-7 to declare the Pulido complaint "sufficient in form."

Under the Constitution, only one impeachment complaint will be entertained against the President during a one-year period.

In defending his support for the Pulido complaint, San Luis appealed to the committee members that, "I beseech you not to solve this crisis by the parliamentary game of numbers."

"Rather I invite you, each one of you, to examine deep to your conscience ... to take heed of desperate yearnings of our people for a government free from greed for power and stolen wealth and dedicated only to the pursuit of the common good of our nation and our people," he said.

He insisted that there was an "iota of doubt" on the President's integrity and would thus be an unfit leader of the country. He insisted that he endorsed the Pulido complaint, which had been described as a "weak" complaint, had enough basis to remove Mrs Arroyo from office.

"What we need is a true leader, not a dealer," San Luis said in Filipino.

Pulido said in his complaint that Mrs Arroyo ordered former socioeconomic planning secretary Romulo Neri to approve the national broadband network (NBN) project even if she knew about a P200-million bribe offer dangled for its passage.

China's ZTE Corp. eventually bagged the NBN deal.

Eye of the needle

Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor, chair of the committee, said the panel's report dismissing the complaint will be transmitted next week to the House plenary to give all congressmen a chance to vote either to uphold or reverse the panel's decision.

Defensor said the House will need a one-third vote or not less 80 congressmen to reverse the justice committee decision.

"If the plenary decided to reverse the committee report, the report will be returned to the committee, then we will prepare the articles of impeachment and we will transmit the complaint to the Senate," Defensor said.

Asked what were the chances that the committee report will be reversed, Defensor replied, "anything is possible, anything can happen."

However, the President's son Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo expressed confidence that the majority of the House members will uphold the committee report.

He said the committee's vote to dismiss the complaint was expected because the allegations are allegedly false.

Pulido was not allowed to speak during the investigation.

Defensor said under the House rules, only resource persons and members of Congress are allowed to talk during committee hearing. He said Pulido was not a resource person in the deliberation of the impeachment complainant but a "complainant." - GMANews.TV