STAR NEWS FEATURE:  'SPIKE  BOY'  FILES  IMPEACH  RAPS  VS  'KABAYAN'

MANILA, JULY 22, 2005
 
(STAR) By Delon Porcalla - Spikier than ever, a lawyer who was declared a nuisance candidate in last year’s presidential race has filed an impeachment complaint against Vice President Noli de Castro, claiming he is incapabable of holding office.

In a 13-page complaint, Elly Pamatong — the lawyer who was arrested last year for scattering metal spikes along main thoroughfares in Metro Manila, inconveniencing thousands of motorists and commuters — called the second highest official of the land "unschooled in the art or field of leadership."

Pamatong lodged the complaint before the House of Representatives yesterday, saying De Castro was "politically blind" and suffered from "constructive mental incapacity" and "gross ignorance of the law" for filing his certificate of candidacy without attaching his residence certificate, or "cedula," as required.

Pamatong claimed De Castro was equally guilty of supporting President Arroyo despite her admission of having talked to a senior election official during the May 10, 2004 vote count, which he said amounted to a "betrayal of public trust."

"Instead, he (De Castro) continued to serve under a person — or an impostor — who has usurped the presidency of the Philippines," Pamatong said in his complaint.

Pamatong claimed De Castro would be unfit to assume the presidency if Mrs. Arroyo were removed from office.

"To summarize, and given his one-heartbeat distance from the presidency, De Castro’s gross ignorance in the field of leadership and well-known political blindness is, thus far, one of the gravest threats to the survival of the Philippines," he said.

Pamatong said the scenario of De Castro assuming the presidency is "very frightening."

"If this nation were to be compared to a car, he can only be a passenger — and can never be the driver!" Pamatong’s impeachment complaint read.

De Castro, on the other hand, welcomed the filing of the impeachment complaint against him.

The Vice President issued a statement declaring Pamatong’s complaint "a move in the spirit of democracy and in adherence to the constitutional process."

Jesse Andres, the Vice President’s chief of staff and spokesman, said De Castro welcomed the filing of the complaint against him but noted the character and background of his accuser.

"Considering his (Pamatong’s) previous practices, one cannot help but dismiss the impeachment charge as another political stunt to attract public attention," Andres said.

Andres then enumerated Pamatong’s numerous past offenses.

Pamatong had claimed to be the "brains" behind the "spike attacks" that disabled motor vehicles plying EDSA and other major roads in Metro Manila and other provinces across the country in what the complainant said was a "protest" for being disqualified as a nuisance candidate by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) prior to the May 2004 elections.

Pamatong also reportedly threatened to burn down schoolhouses and other government buildings as part of his protest.

He was later captured in Laguna with an arms cache in violation of the prevailing gun ban during the election period last year.

Pamatong had promised to work for granting American citizenship to all Filipinos if elected as the next Philippine president.

He reportedly tore up a copy of the Philippines Constitution after the Comelec thumbed down his motion for reconsideration in declaring him a nuisance candidate.

"Ironically, it is the same Constitution that he uses as his basis for the filing of this current impeachment complaint," Andres said.

Just like the complainant, Andres declared the impeachment filed against De Castro "a nuisance" complaint.

Quietly Preparing

De Castro would be the constitutional successor to Mrs. Arroyo if she resigned from office or were removed by impeachment.

Reports said De Castro was quietly preparing for such a possibility amid growing calls for an orderly constitutional transition and the pursuit of impeachment charges against the President by opposition lawmakers.

But former senator and broadcaster Loren Legarda claims De Castro could not be considered a legitimate successor to Mrs. Arroyo because of her pending electoral protest against him.

Legarda claimed that because her protest is still pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) — which decides the legitimate winner of last year’s vice presidential race — De Castro cannot assume the top post of the land under the Constitution even if Mrs. Arroyo resigns or is forced out of office.

The former senator ran under the opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) but lost to De Castro in last year’s vice presidential race.

Together with the late opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr., Legarda filed an election protest before the PET last year.

Poe died last December while his electoral protest against Mrs. Arroyo was still being decided. It was dismissed by the PET three months later.

Legarda’s petition against De Castro, however, was granted by the PET with the preliminary conference on July 12.

Legarda emphasized the PET granted permission for her petition to proceed, citing valid grounds for her to contest the results of last year’s elections.

The former senator insisted she won overwhelmingly in some key areas of the country, which could have overturned the lead enjoyed by De Castro.

But De Castro’s lawyers claimed Legarda is "poisoning" public perception.

Lawyer Armando Marcelo scored Legarda for her recent barrage of press statements in which she revealed allegedly fabricated election returns supposedly showing cheating in the May 2004 elections.

"Loren Legarda knows she will lose in her election protest, which is why she is poisoning public perception with her wild and fabricated stories of election fraud," Marcelo said.

Marcelo and lawyer Romulo Macalintal said Legarda’s electoral protest is a "fruitless" quest as they advised her to drop her claim.

The lawyers also accused Legarda of engaging in "forum shopping" in claiming she was cheated in the vice presidential race.

De Castro, another journalist-turned-politician, has worked in Mrs. Arroyo’s shadow thus far, rarely taking the spotlight. The vice presidency being mainly a ceremonial post, he also is chairman of the housing and urban council and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino Workers.

While some Arroyo allies have expressed support for him amid snowballing calls for the President’s resignation, De Castro has declared his support for the Constitution.

Some in the opposition claim that if Mrs. Arroyo cheated, then running mate De Castro’s mandate was also tainted.

De Castro has sought to portray himself as a regular guy, an outsider who grew up without the privileges of the wealthy, ruling political dynasties.

He once said he was "gathering pig’s fodder from our neighbors for my pet pig, which I would raise in order to be sold later for a hefty sum."

He began his career as a broadcaster during Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, and after the strongman’s 1986 ouster, joined ABS-CBN radio and television, where he got his break as host of a popular evening TV show.

De Castro earned the nickname "Kabayan" (countryman) for his broadcasts in Filipino, along with Legarda who became popular for her English-language news broadcasts.

In 2001, De Castro won a Senate seat as an independent. - With Pia Lee-Brago


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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