MANILA, November 11, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva and Nikko Dizon - President Arroyo called on Congress yesterday to uphold the decision of the Supreme Court declaring as unconstitutional the second impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

"We shall follow the solemn duty to uphold the decision of the Supreme Court, and any directive issued by it," she said.

"We shall do this because the Constitution says so. Let no one misunderstand our resolve to protect and preserve the Constitution.

"We did not come this far in our long history as a nation to establish a constitutional democracy, just to tinker with its basic principles," the President said.

Meanwhile, the Makati Business Club (MBC) warned yesterday of "economic disaster" if the House defied the high tribunal.

MBC executive director Guillermo Luz said the country would be plunged into "more crises and disaster" if the House transmits the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

"The SCís decision is as clear as it can get," Luz said. "The best and prudent thing (for the congressmen) to do is to follow the SCís decision.

"We would hope that certain members of the House do not court disaster by ignoring the decision," he said.

Luz said congressmen who might ignore the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the Constitution will also do "damage to themselves" as they would bring the country to "some type of brinkmanship."

In issuing the landmark ruling, the tribunal had averted an "impending disaster," he added.

On the other hand, the pro-administration Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) urged lawmakers yesterday to respect the Supreme Court ruling.

Heherson Alvarez, Lakas-CMD national spokesman, said the party was calling on its members and on other political parties to uphold the Constitution.

Alvarez said the decision has averted a "perceived constitutional crisis," describing it as "a triumph" of the rule of law.

"Lakas-CMD stands squarely behind the Supreme Court decision," he said.

"I am calling on all parties to respect this decision which has wisely put a calm and reassuring end to this debate. The decision showed how decisively and strongly the Supreme Court has put to rest a national crisis brought about by the impeachment complaint, and demonstrates that our democratic systems and institutions of government work.

"The Supreme Court has used its mandate wisely. By ruling that the second impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court gives an assuring signal of our capacity as a democratic nation to address strategic issues and conflicts through the rule of law," Alvarez said.

He said the 13-1 decision is on solid constitutional grounds, and reflects the "widespread public perception" that Davide has not committed an impeachable offense that merits a Senate trial.

"This clearly shows that the constitutional principle of check-and-balance is functioning, and that the rule of law has prevailed without rupturing the independence and integrity of the three great branches of government, nor disturbing the countryís political structure," he said.

Alvarez said the decision strengthens the dynamism and stability of the constitutional system, where the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on all questions of law.

"This is a defining and a unifying moment for the nation," he said. "This strengthens our capacity as a democratic government to address very serious challenges to our democratic institutions and principles."

Alvarez urged Lakas-CMD members and others involved in the impeachment complaint to support "as a matter of patriotic duty" the ruling of the Supreme Court.

He said the charges that the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) was misused by the Supreme Court can now be tackled in the House committee on justice.

"The House committee can now look into this issue, in aid of legislation, and see how the flaws in the management and disbursement of JDF can best be improved," he said.

Thirteen justices of the Supreme Court voted against the constitutionality of the second impeachment complaint, while Associate Justice Renato Puno said that the Senate should decide the issue.

Meanwhile, former education secretary Raul Roco asked "patriotic" Filipinos yesterday to support the Supreme Court decision as the judiciary is the "weakest" of the three branches of government.

"There is nothing to fear from this assertion of judicial supremacy...," he said in a statement.

"Every patriotic Filipino should support the decision of the Supreme Court. It reaffirms democracy in the Philippines and renews its strength. Truly, the Supreme Court is the last bulwark of constitutionalism and the rule of law.

"It does not have the power of the purse that belongs to Congress. It does not have the power of the sword that belongs to the executive."

On the other hand, the Catholic Bishopsí Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) described the standoff between the House and the Court as a "bizarre political circus."

In an editorial in the CBCP newsletter Monitor, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, CBCP president, said: "Absolutely shocking and nationally embarrassing are the terms I would use to describe what is unraveling in the Philippine political scene." ó With reports from Sammy Santos, Jose Aravilla, Sheila Crisostomo, Christina Mendez

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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