MANILA, November 12, 2003  (STAR) President Arroyo emerged the winner yesterday as Congress abandoned a bid to impeach Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. which had threatened the President’s power-base six months from the next election.

The House of Representatives held a marathon voice vote overnight Monday to administer the last rites to an attempt to impeach Davide and thus avoid a constitutional crisis.

The chamber voted 115-77 to kill off the complaint, which the Supreme Court had already ruled illegal.

"Never have I doubted at any moment the capacity of our government for self-repair and self-redemption. I’m glad at the positive response of the various sectors of our society," Mrs. Arroyo told reporters after the vote.

"I call for conciliatory statesmanship among all our leaders. Let us put this issue to rest and restore the prime agenda of nation-building," she said.

Had Congress insisted on pursuing the case against Davide, the Supreme Court would have been forced to "ask the president of the Philippines to enforce its decision," Speaker Jose de Venecia said.

Mrs. Arroyo, who faces a presidential election next May, survived a military rebellion less than four months ago and the standoff sparked fears that elements in the military might see a new chance to intervene, if it were not resolved. Nervous investors punished the peso and the local stocks.

Key members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the largest minority bloc in the House and the Arroyo administration’s tactical partner in pursuing its legislative agenda, demanded three weeks ago that Davide be impeached for alleged misuse of public funds.

The Supreme Court blocked the move on grounds that a public official cannot be the subject of two impeachment complaints within a single year.

The House threw out an impeachment complaint filed against Davide last June by former President Joseph Estrada, who accused the Chief Justice of conspiring with Mrs. Arroyo and the military to overthrow him during a bloodless revolt that ended his rule in January 2001.

The ruling Lakas party’s coalition with the NPC was cobbled together by De Venecia, a skillful political operator that has shepherded Mrs. Arroyo’s economic reform measures through the legislative mill.

At the height of the crisis on Monday, De Venecia told ABS-CBN television certain members of the NPC tabled a motion "to declare all the positions in the House vacant," including the post of speaker.

This would have effectively ended the Arroyo camp’s alliance with the NPC. However, the ruling party later convinced the coalition partner to withdraw the motion.

"I think this was one of the most decisive victories last night. I think that all those who voted for his (De Venecia’s) position would support him," Mrs. Arroyo said Tuesday.

De Venecia said he hoped the House vote to abandon the impeachment complaint would restore political stability and encourage foreign investors to return following the outbreak of the crisis last month.

He said the end of the standoff with the Supreme Court would allow the legislature to tackle the proposed 2004 national budget bill later this week. — AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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