MANILA, July 2, 2005
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - Malacañang is willing to risk an impeachment process for President Arroyo just to prevent extra-constitutional moves to topple her administration, officials said yesterday.

They also appealed to members of the opposition and Mrs. Arroyo’s critics to be open to dialogue and to give the President a chance to prove herself.

"Certainly an impeachment scenario is not something we wish for or look forward to," presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio said in an interview. "Allies of the President only advert to it in relation to efforts to seek her ouster through extra-constitutional means, like a military junta, a people’s uprising or even a snap election."

Claudio added that compared to these scenarios, "the impeachment process is at least a constitutional vehicle for seeking redress of grievances or change in leadership."

Mrs. Arroyo apologized last Monday for her "lapse in judgment" in calling an election official in what she said was a bid to protect her vote amid a slow count.

She, however, denied opposition allegations that she attempted to rig the results and rejected calls for her to step down. The opposition has also called for a "snap" election.

The allegations were made after the opposition released an audio recording in which the President, as was later confirmed, is heard talking to a senior election official. The opposition said Mrs. Arroyo was attempting to fix a million-vote victory.

The House of Representatives aired the tapes on late-night television Thursday after members of the administration bloc voted to support the motion of Minority Leader Francis Escudero calling for the public airing of the contents of the 32-minute compact disc version of the recordings that lawyer Alan Paguia had submitted to the chamber.

The unidentified voices suggest election officials had offered large blocs of votes to the highest bidder and that low-level officials were being threatened with abduction if they refused to cooperate in apparent vote-rigging operations.

Claudio said Mrs. Arroyo is "still the best option as leader" of the country after she humbled herself and sought forgiveness. He added that the President is now more focused and determined to pursue urgent reforms, and that the opposition should give her a chance for the sake of the country.

Another one of Mrs. Arroyo’s close advisers said while there is no basis for impeachment, this process would do the least harm to the business community.

"We cannot afford political instability when our economy is fragile," the official said.

Government media group head Secretary Cerge Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo did not commit a crime so a dialogue would be the preferred mode of resolving whatever issues the opposition has against her.

Meanwhile, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the pro-administration lawmakers’ vote to allow the wiretapped recordings to be played proved they were confident the President did nothing illegal.

"Their initial reluctance was more about the possible legal implications in the treatment of wiretapped materials," Bunye said in a statement. "We are confident that she stands on good ground."

Speaker Jose de Venecia said the majority bloc in the House voted to have the tapes played "because there is nothing to hide and we want the Filipino people to know the truth."

However, Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo’s public apology would not stop her enemies from continuously seeking ways to unseat her.

Aside from launching an inquiry into the alleged vote fraud, Congress has also looked into payoffs allegedly made by illegal gambling operators to Mrs. Arroyo’s husband, son and brother-in-law.

The tapes have also led to an attempt to impeach the President and the House is expected to assign a committee in the coming week to investigate if there are grounds for such action. — With AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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