GMA SEES 'WIN-WIN' SOLUTION TO IMPEACH IMPASSE

MALACANANG, November 4, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo said yesterday a "win-win" solution to the impasse over the impeachment of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. is in sight.

She said she has taken steps to help resolve the latest crisis that has spooked financial markets that are still recovering from the July 27 failed mutiny and the political uncertainty brought about by next year’s elections.

"I am sure that right now a win-win solution is in sight," Mrs. Arroyo said in a speech to postal employees during a ceremony marking the 105th anniversary of the Philippine Postal Corp. at its main Manila office. She did not elaborate.

Although the impeachment involves two co-equal branches of government — the legislative and the judiciary — Mrs. Arroyo said she intervened before the situation spun out of control and hurt the country’s economic recovery efforts.

Any effort to divide the nation through moves to impeach Davide is bound to fail because people are tired of infighting, she said.

"There is a growing consensus that we have crossed a political threshold to the point wherein it is now proper for the President to step in and forge a principled solution to the impasse," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo’s comments came as congressmen stepped up efforts to attract support for and against Davide’s impeachment.

"There is no doubt that there are continuous efforts to sow divisiveness in our nation," Mrs. Arroyo said in a speech to postal employees. "They will fail because the people are tired of infighting."

"Everyone concerned will have to bend backwards a bit without sacrificing principles" to achieve a settlement, she said.

Mrs. Arroyo reiterated her call for a "covenant" between Congress and the judiciary that will be based on several principles to settle the crisis.

First, all parties concerned "must respect the supreme welfare" of the nation as defined by the 1987 Constitution, she explained.

There must be an "affirmation of coequality, independence but indispensable cooperation and harmony" among the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, the President said.

All parties must reinforce the principle of checks and balances "as an instrument of national unity and stability and not of partisanship," she said.

All sides "must come together as trustees of the public interest and find a resolution to the controversy within the rule of law," and that "democratic government must be based on mutual trust, respect, civility, responsibility and transparency" among its leaders, Mrs. Arroyo said.

"I believe these principles are even now leading us along the road to a principled solution and, therefore, along the road to stability and political progress," she said.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye declined to give specifics on the proposed settlement.

"I believe the President has reasons for not going into details and let’s just wait for further developments which could happen very soon," he said.

Speaker Jose De Venecia Jr. earlier said that an "honorable settlement" was in sight but negotiations Monday last week collapsed when both sides refused to give in.

Heherson Alvarez, spokesman for the ruling party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, told ABS-CBN television that 11 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint have withdrawn their signatures after a government audit that he said exonerated Davide.

He said four or five more signatures need to be withdrawn to block the complaint from being sent to the Senate for trial.

Nearly 90 House members, mostly from the opposition, had signed the complaint, more than the third of the 226-member chamber required to impeach an official.

Last Tuesday, a plan to formalize the impeachment and submit it to the Senate was aborted by House leaders, who adjourned until Nov. 10 for lack of a quorum.

Rep. Francis Escudero, spokesman for the NPC party whose members led the initiative to impeach Davide, said House rules on withdrawing signatures aren’t clear and may have to be debated and put to a vote.

Davide was accused of withholding money from the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) — intended for allowances to judges and court personnel — to buy luxury cars and build and repair vacation homes for justices. He has denied the charges.

Lawmakers want to have legislative oversight powers over the JDF but Davide said that would constitute an intrusion by the legislature on a coequal branch of government.

Davide also said the impeachment complaint was unconstitutional because only one is allowed against the same official in a year.

A complaint accusing Davide and seven other judges of illegally participating in the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada was dismissed for lack of substance in October. — With AP, Rene Alviar


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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