GMA:  A  GLORIOUS  DAY  IN  RP  HISTORY

MANILA, September 6, 2005
(STAR) By Aurea Calica and Paolo Romero - A relieved President Arroyo called on the public yesterday to "mark the glorious day in history" and rally behind her as the House of Representatives junked opposition attempts to impeach her for election fraud, ending a three-month crisis which virtually paralyzed the government.

Mrs. Arroyo called on the people and the opposition to unite and move on for the sake of national interest.

"The Filipino people mark a glorious day in history, when instead of forcing a President out of office through people power, they chose to keep a President through voting in the halls of constitutional democracy," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President said the lawmakers exhibited a "grand display of political maturity" in affirming the House justice committee report dismissing the impeachment complaint against her on allegations of electoral fraud.

Mrs. Arroyo said the 158-51-6 decision of the lawmakers "seals our stability and resilience as a nation battling the vagaries of a challenging age, and poised for takeoff."

Likewise, Vice President Noli de Castro said the people will be the final judges of the lawmakers who voted to kill off the impeachment complaint by the opposition.

While the opposition vowed to bring the issue against the President to the streets, De Castro called for sobriety and prayerful discernment of democratic rights.

"As the ultimate repository of the nationís sovereign will, the people will themselves be the final judges if the cause of truth has been justly served," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the voting against the impeachment reflected the true sentiments of the people "who have stayed the course of responsible democracy.

"Let us move on to a brighter tomorrow with the grace of God, ever grateful for His guidance and His blessings. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas," she said.

After a marathon overnight session, 158 lawmakers in the 236-seat House of Representatives voted to ratify the House justice committeeís decision last week to reject all three separate impeachment complaints.

However, the opposition, which mustered just 51 votes, immediately warned they would challenge the legality of the vote before the Supreme Court.

Several thousand demonstrators also gathered outside the Batasan complex in Quezon City slamming the congressmen who voted against the impeachment.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo would now leave the issue behind her and focus on working alongside her political foes to address the pressing problems of the country.

"You cannot continuously dwell on who voted against you and who was working for your ouster. In the end, the President is the President, not only of the administration congressmen, but all congressmen and, for that matter, all of the people," Bunye said.

No retribution

Bunye said the President is not severing ties with her erstwhile allies who sided with the opposition to impeach her.

"I donít think there will be any recrimination and the President has been open to reconciliation on a principled basis," Bunye said.

He said the President would like to buckle down to work while reaching out to the opposition who wanted her ousted.

"We have to unite, we cannot be forever divided on issues. There are bigger issues that we have to face together," Bunye said.

Meanwhile, local officials led by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza said the dismissal of the complaints signals the time for feuding political leaders to start working together.

"We are congratulating all the congressmen who participated in the exercise even as we appeal to them to adhere to the rule of law and will of the majority," Atienza said.

A majority of the congressmen who voted in the plenary debates in favor of the House justice committee report dismissing the complaint cited the overwhelming sentiment of their respective constituents in calling for the immediate conclusion of the impeachment proceedings.

Allegations that Mrs. Arroyo rigged last yearís presidential election have dogged her since June and led nearly a dozen close allies to resign from her Cabinet and demand that she step down.

A crowd of around 5,000 demonstrators led by former President Corazon Aquino along with two defeated presidential candidates marched to Batasan, calling for Mrs. Arroyo to step down.

Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. urged his colleagues to move on following the vote and called on the people to rally behind the President.

"While our own President Arroyo has many faults," De Venecia said, "the fact remains that she is still our best option in the country."

He said sending the impeachment case to the Senate for a full trial would have been a "terrible mistake" that would have brought the legislature to a standstill and further divided the country.

Without prejudice

Senators, on the other hand, called on their colleague opposition lawmakers to respect the majority decision to dismiss the impeachment complaint.

But other senators called on the people to take the issue to the streets.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile appealed for respect of the House decision to dismiss the complaint.

"If you donít have the votes then you have to be bound by the decision of the majority, without prejudice to your right to seek judicial remedy," Enrile said.

He emphasized the constitutional right of the people to address their grievances in the streets.

"The right of assembly is the right to go to the street provided going to the street complies with all the requirements of the law and itís done peacefully," Enrile said.

Senators Edgardo Angara and Miriam Defensor-Santiago likewise called on opposition lawmakers and anti-Arroyo groups to respect the outcome of the process.

"If they believe in the process, they should accept whatever the outcome of that process. Otherwise, thatís not democracy," Angara said.

Since the impeachment process is a numbers game, Angara said, "it is (but) natural for both camps to exert pressure to influence the outcome of the votes."

Santiago, for her part, also urged the public to accept the decision of the House since they were given the option on what rules of impeachment to be adopted.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, for his part, expressed doubts about whether the public shares the views of the majority of lawmakers who junked the impeachment complaint.

"The public was given a glimpse of what is probably the truth, but Congress failed to provide a conclusive resolution to the issues raised by hints of what the President was accused of," Biazon said.

Senators Loi Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada called on the public to join the street protests.

They said people should mobilize to start peaceful protest actions and denounce the "murder" of the impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo by the House.

Ejercito said the decision of the congressmen junking the impeachment complaint "pushed the people against the wall."

Administration Sen. Pia Cayetano joined the Estradas in slamming the decision to junk the impeachment complaint.

Cayetano, whose younger brother Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano is among the prime movers of the impeachment complaint at the House, said she decided to break her silence over the issue.

"I deliberately kept silent through the impeachment hearings because if it was elevated to the Senate, I would be a judge and I wanted to remain impartial," Cayetano said.

"But (yesterday), the House dismissed the impeachment complaint and my silence ends here," she said.

Cayetano expressed her belief that the impeachment proceedings should be allowed to continue to ferret out the truth. Ė With reports from Pia Lee-Brago, Christina Mendez, AFP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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