IMPEACH -GMA RAPS SIGNED

Manila, Jan. 21, 2003 (Tribune) - On the anniversary of her second year in office which was marked by calls for her resignation from her former Edsa II allies, an impeachment complaint, prepared by former members of "civil society," Church groups, the academe and former senator-judges in the impeachment trial of now detained President Joseph Estrada, was signed during a press conference held at the Club Filipino in San Juan, Metro Manila.

The complaint stems from allegations of Mrs. Arroyo having engaged in massive graft and corruption, bribery, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, the same charges the elite civil society lodged against Estrada.

Calls for a probe on the several foundations, such as the Lualhati Foundation and the GMA Foundation linked to Mrs. Arroyo have also mounted.

Former Senators Francisco Tatad, Juan Ponce Enrile and People's Consultative Assembly secretary general Linda Montayre, pointed out that this can be termed "poetic justice."

"Many will call it poetic justice. It is simply history repeating itself, except that now the shoe is on the other foot," Tatad said as he and the other complainants affixed their signatures to the complaint.

Having gotten wind of the impeachment raps against her, Mrs. Arroyo yesterday went on a name-calling binge anew and dropped all pretense at national healing and unity.

She yesterday branded her critics as ignoramuses, particularly her former Edsa II allies who are set to lodge an impeachment complaint against her before the House of Representatives.

In her speech at the Edsa Shrine, Mandaluyong City, Mrs. Arroyo slammed her critics, saying they have not realized the reforms she had instituted, particularly that which has rid the government of graft and corruption.

"Some of my critics remain unconvinced...I leave them to their self-imposed and self-serving ignorance.They can go on sounding the retreat-back to the vested interests that pay their way, back to the corruption that is for them the only way," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo claimed she took the mantle of the presidency to raise moral standards."

The Palace refused to comment on the impeachment raps filed yesterday.

Mrs. Arroyo failed to hide her irritation while delivering her speech at the Edsa Shrine amid the cacophony of voices from her former supporters-turned-critics who demanded her resignation.

She was obviously in a bad mood.

In a 22-page document, the group said the Chief Executive violated the Constitution when she released P470 million in government funds, which funds were not covered by the General Appropriations Act of 2000 for the "O Ilaw Ko Project."

It also charged the President with bribery, citing that the crime was committed by her when she solicited millions of pesos from controversial Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez.

The document, which has not been filed before the House of Representatives, further stated that Mrs. Arroyo also committed the crime of direct bribery when she demanded 51 percent of the majority and controlling shares of Philippine Communications Clearinghouse Inc. and APC Wireless from its owner, Pacifico Marcelo, in exchange for her approval of the corporations' franchise.

Among the alleged graft and corruption issues that had been raised against the incumbent Chief Executive are the solicitation of millions of pesos from Jimenez and the approval of the Code-NGO transaction.

Montayre maintained that Mrs. Arroyo, by approving the Code-NGO (Caucus for Development-NGO Network) transaction, caused the release of government funds to a private entity.

The Department of Finance and the Bureau of Treasury floated P10 billion worth of zero coupon 10-year bonds "for the benefit and favor" of Code-NGO as a means for raising funds.

"Our economic agencies are required to deal only with financial institutions or GSEDs with regard to the flotation of bonds. But while Code-NGO never qualified as a GSED, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who maintained her close links with the said organization allowed it to transact with her government like a regular GSED," the impeachment complaint said.

The complaint added by allowing it to deal with government financial institutions, President Arroyo gave "undue advantage and privilege to Code-NGO" over the rest of the Filipino people.

In an interview, before they signed the impeachment document, Enrile, Tatad and former Gov. Homobobo Adaza, counsel for the complainants, said there are numerous other cases which would make the President liable for violating the Constitution.

Among which, according to Tatad and Enrile, is the appointment of Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando as Acting Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Enrile, for his part, said Mrs. Arroyo has not been following the Constitution, which she swore to obey faithfully even as he said instead of reforms and improvement, the country retrogressed and is "almost in a state of anarchy."

Apparently referring to her all-out support for the United States was Iraq, Enrile added another issue that could be raised against Mrs. Arroyo is her act that "committed the country to a condition of war without authority from Congress."

"She must be stopped from committing further crimes against all of us, thus, today we will sign the impeachment documents we will file in Congress," Montayre said during the press conference.

She, however, declined to name the lawmakers who would sign the required endorsement before the House of Representatives could act on the impeachment complaint except to say Rep. Wilfrido Villarama is willing to testify on the alleged P3 million in cash that the First Couple had received from Jimenez.

The impeachment complaint may be served with summons and other processes through Adaza.

The complainants were one in saying there are enough grounds to file impeachment charges against Mrs. Arroyo and announced they have the support of some congressmen" so the voice of the peole will be heard."

The group stated that Mrs. Arroyo is guilty of bribery by soliciting certain amounts in checks and cash in conspiracy with her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, from Jimenez who issued the presidential couple checks by virtue of the couple's criminal solicitation.

Villarama had revealed that the first check he collected from Jimenez was supposed to be for the Ginintuang at Makabayang Alay Foundation or GMA Foundation.

The P5 million check was meant to feed the poor, specially the children, but it was verified that the foundation did not receive the check nor did the intended beneficiaries.

Under the Revised Penal Code, it is bribery for public officials to solicit and receive gifts on any occasion. Presidential Decree 46 says it is punishable by law for a public official to receive gifts and public officials and or their relatives are prohibited from accepting entertainment in their honor.

It was pointed out that there was a crime of solicitation and bribery. Another charge of bribery leveled against Mrs. Arroyo stemmed from her demand for businessman Marcelo the majority share of his telecommunications company.

In relation to the demand of Mrs. Arroyo from Pacifico Marcelo to give her 51 percent majority controlling shares of his corporation, she committed graft and corruption in clear violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

She is also guilty of bribery for allowing and conspiring with her conjugal partner Mike Arroyo to solicit from Marcelo P40 million.

The group added one more charge against Mrs. Arroyo: For conniving with her political associates, subordinates and other persons connected with the Code-NGO transaction which earned P1.8 billion that will be borne by the Filipino people as an onerous obligation and which Code-NGO obtained through the misappropriation, conversion, misuse and malversation of public funds and raids of the National Treasury, she stands charged with plunder.

"There were many promises made by the government but instead we have seen hopelessness, chaos and almost anarchy in our government. Instead of coalition, we became divided," Enrile said.

He added, Mrs. Arroyo violated her oath to "preserve and defend the Constitution."

Enrile claimed that the President should have consulted the Congress before she committed the country to fight international terrorism. "Thus in effect, because of her ambition and lust for power, she trampled on and mangled the Constitution."

Tatad, on the other hand, claimed that what is happening today "is simply history repeating itself except that now the shoe is on the other foot.

"Mrs. Arroyo's group first moved to impeach President Estrada then junked the impeachment trial when they could not bully the senators and took to the streets," he said.

He added the signing of the impeachment complaint is obviously the first step.

"If the same script against former President Joseph Estrada is used, then we know where Mrs. Arroyo will end" Tatad said.

For his part, Adaza, who serves as the legal counsel of the "Impeach Gloria" movement, predicted that Mrs. Arroyo will be at her post until June 30 this year.


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