GMA  SEEKS  OPPOSITION  SUPPORT  TO  AMEND  CONSTITUTION

MANILA,
May 17, 2006 (STAR) (AFP) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo met with key political opponents Tuesday to seek their support for her bid to rewrite the constitution to change to a parliamentary political system and pass key laws.

Arroyo discussed proposals to amend the 1987 constitution as well as pending bills covering the 2006 budget and proposed legislation to outlaw terrorism, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

The legislators who attended the meeting with Arroyo and senior cabinet members included Senate President Franklin Drilon, who had asked for Arroyo's voluntary resignation in July 2005 over allegations of election fraud in the 2004 presidential balloting.

Arroyo later survived an impeachment vote in the House of Representatives and promptly launched a campaign to amend the constitution to change from a presidential political system to a parliamentary one.

The move is supported by the House majority but not by the opposition-led Senate.

Arroyo has said the parliamentary system was more efficient and would help the country make swifter progress to catch up with its more progressive neighbours.

Critics however say it is just a way for her to maintain her hold on power.

"The time is now and I must press this even if it invites controversy because I am aware that we are a gathering of statepersons despite our disagreements. We can only mold consensus from challenge and in the marketplace of ideas," Arroyo said in her speech to open the meeting.

Drilon pledged Senate action on the pending bills, but was more reserved on the issue of changing the political system.

He told reporters 22 of the 23 sitting senators have adopted a resolution "that any amendment of the constitution must involve (the House and Senate membership) voting separately."

Arroyo supporters in the 235-member House have called for the two-chamber legislature to vote as one.

Ermita said the government was aware that some segments of the opposition planned to file a new impeachment complaint against Arroyo as early as next month. He said the president was not unduly worried that this second attempt would succeed.

He appealed to the opposition not to use up the congressional session days on politics and instead concentrate on passing laws.

Palace not bothered by opposition move for 2nd impeachment 05/16 1:07:02 PM

Go away.

This was the message delivered by Malacañang in reaction to reports that opposition congressmen have started preparations to launch a new impeachment bid against President Gloria Arroyo next month or in July, when Congress opens its third and last regular session.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said in a statement, "We have heard all there is to hear from the opposition on the matter of impeachment, and the public is not only weary but utterly bored by these overtures."

"Impeachment was junked in the first instance and will be junked again as a desperate move by a conspiracy of self-serving interests," Bunye said.

Two weeks ago, following the Supreme Court rulings on Mrs. Arroyo’s three controversial issuances and orders, Minority Leader Francis Escudero said the President should prepare for a new impeachment process.

Escudero told a news conference yesterday they are reviving their impeachment team, which is chaired by San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, to draft their impeachment complaint, gather additional evidence and interview possible witnesses.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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