GONZALES:  HOUSE  TO  THROW  OUT  UNO CHANGES  IN  GMA  IMPEACH  CASE

MANILA
, NOVEMBER 5, 2007 (STAR) By Jess Diaz - A senior House leader predicted yesterday that the chamber would have no choice but to throw out whatever amendments the United Opposition (UNO) plans to make in the impeachment complaint against President Arroyo.

Deputy Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said he believes the planned UNO amendments are “barred pleadings, since the impeachment process against the President has already been initiated.”

He said such process was initiated last Oct. 11 when the House referred to its committee on justice the complaint filed by lawyer Ruel Pulido.

It was on that day that Mrs. Arroyo’s one-year protection from any other impeachment petition started, he said.

This was the ruling laid down by the Supreme Court in an impeachment case involving then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., he added.

“That is not our doing. It’s the fault of the Supreme Court,” Gonzales stressed.

He suggested that UNO leaders ask the high tribunal to revisit its decision in the Davide impeachment case more than five years ago.

It is not clear what exactly UNO would file with the House today. As of yesterday, there were reportedly two sets of planned amendments drafted by two separate groups of lawyers.

Members of the House minority bloc, which San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora heads as minority leader, have no hand in the proposed changes in the impeachment complaint.

Pulido has expressed readiness to withdraw his three-page complaint to give way to a stronger UNO impeachment case, or allow UNO to introduce amendments.

The opposition has described the Pulido petition as a “fake” and a “sham,” designed only to insulate Mrs. Arroyo from a serious and stronger complaint.

Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. has labeled it as a “joke of a complaint, two pages of which are an attack against me and one page is an attack against the President.”

He refused to refer it to the committee on justice after Rep. Crispin Beltran of the party-list group Anakpawis claimed that lawyer Francis Ver offered him P2 million in cash in exchange for endorsing the Pulido complaint.

Ver, deputy secretary general of Mrs. Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) party, denied Beltran’s accusation.

Kampi congressmen and officers immediately distanced themselves from Ver.

On Oct. 10, in radio interviews, De Venecia said he would not refer the complaint to the justice committee.

“It’s as if we are fooling the people if we did that,” he said.

In the morning of the next day, Oct. 11, he reiterated such refusal in front of Mrs. Arroyo, who called more than 150 House members to Malacañang.

It was reportedly agreed in that meeting that Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar would handle the task of sending the Pulido petition to the justice committee so that the President would immediately be protected from any other impeachment case.

Del Mar did that task before 10 p.m. that same day, just hours before Congress went on its three-week Halloween break.

Each of the more than 150 House members who attended the Oct. 11 breakfast meeting in Malacañang received P500,000 in cash.

Governors who attended a separate meeting in the afternoon also went home P500,000 richer.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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