PALACE WELCOMES COOLING-OFF PERIOD

MALACANANG, October 29, 2003  (MALAYA) By REGINA BENGCO - Malacaņang yesterday welcomed the House adjournment as a chance to negotiate settlement of the Davide impeachment issue under a less emotional ambiance.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said President Arroyo is still hopeful a "principled compromise" could be reached.

"For the sake of national unity, I am keeping a positive attitude that would help bring about a meeting of minds rather than a hard impasse. Let us not further divide the nation amid the heavy rhetoric of a continuing institutional battle," Arroyo said at the inauguration of the half-way house for child cancer patients maintained by the PCSO.

She said the impeachment issue should "end at once" to prevent the peso from further sliding down, but in the "most proper, principled righteous way."

Bunye said the impeachment issue has had a negative effect on the business community.

The peso on Monday dropped to 55.55 to the dollar, only 20 centavos away from the historic low of P55.75 pegged at the height of the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada. The peso improved yesterday to P55.35 amid reports of Bangko Sentral intervention.

Several business groups said the impeachment complaint, which they described as "attack on the independence of the judiciary," should be withdrawn because it will cause further instability in the country.

A joint statement was issued by the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Computer Society/PCS Foundation, Philippine Internet Commerce Society, Philippine Life Insurance Association, Cebu Business Club, Iligan Bay Chamber of Industries, Mindanao Business Council, and Muslim Business Forum.

They said under the Constitution, impeachment proceedings cannot be filed against the same official within a period of one year.

Norberto Gonzales, presidential adviser on special concerns, said the Davide experience showed that a shift to the parliamentary form of government should be pushed even harder to ensure closer coordination between Malacaņang and Congress.

Gonzales said constitutional amendments could still be approved by February and the plebiscite for their ratification piggy-backed with the May national elections.

Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said Davide supporters would deny the chief justice the opportunity to clear his name by blocking the transmittal of the complaint to the Senate.

Enrile also asked Davide supporters, particularly judges and other court officials, to stop joining "political" rallies which he said would only aggravate the situation.

"Ako, bilang kaibigan ni Chief Justice Larry, ay naniniwala na wala siyang kasalanan at handa siyang idepensa ang sarili niya para patunayan na siya'y walang naging sala. But his supporters want to declare him scot-free of the charges, can you imagine the doubt it will leave on the people?" Enrile said.

Enrile added the high court has not completely recovered from allegations it dipped its hands in politics during the Edsa II gathering that ousted Estrada.

Majority of judiciary employees are adopting a wait-and-see attitude but majority them want the impeachment proceedings to push through so Davide could air his side, said Mar Aguilar, second vice president of the Alliance of Court Employees Association of the Philippines.

The group accounts for at least 80 percent of the 25,000 rank-and-file employees of the judiciary.

"There is an allegation of corruption and we need to finish the proceedings to know the truth behind the accusation. If it is not pursued until the very end, people will always speculate on the allegations and it is not good for the whole judiciary," he said. (With Wendell Vigilia and Cheloy Garafil)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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