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Govt shrugs off new impeachment attempt against president


October 13, 2008

Philippines: Govt shrugs off new impeachment attempt against president
Opponents of the Philippine president filed a new impeachment complaint against her Monday over alleged corruption, vote-rigging and other crimes, but the government predicted the bid would fail like three previous attempts, reported the Associated Press.

The new complaint consolidates previous and new allegations of corruption and constitutional and human rights violations against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said key complainant Jose de Venecia III. The new allegations include charges of misconduct in a proposed telecommunications deal involving Chinese company ZTE Corp.

Arroyo, who was swept to power in 2001 after then-President Joseph Estrada was ousted by a nonviolent "people power" revolt, has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in office. She won a six-year term in a regular presidential election in 2004.

Arroyo is the longest-serving and the least popular Philippine head of state after dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was overthrown in 1986 after ruling the country for more than two decades.

De Venecia and other complainants tried but failed to file the 97-page impeachment complaint late Saturday at the House of Representatives because its secretary-general, Marilyn Yap, who receives such complaints, had gone on a foreign trip.

The law allows only one impeachment bid each year against the president and the previous one-year period lapsed last weekend, De Venecia said.

Dozens of complainants led by De Venecia and left-wing groups filed their joint complaint Monday, when Yap's replacement assumed office. They trooped early to the House to make sure that pro-Arroyo groups could not pre-emptively file a "sham" complaint, De Venecia said.

Presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said the complaint contained recycled allegations that had no chance of success, and accused the complainants of being self-serving when the country needed to brace against impacts of the global financial crisis.

"It's like replaying a movie that never took off," Golez said.

Arroyo has survived three opposition impeachment bids, which were dismissed on technicalities by her dominant House allies. At least one-third of the 240-member House would have to back a complaint to impeach Arroyo and send it to the opposition-dominated Senate for trial.

But the opposition controls only 28 House seats.

"If you look at the numbers, it's really an uphill battle," said left-wing Rep. Teodoro Casino, who backed past impeachment attempts. "But it's not just a complaint, it's a political statement, an exercise of our right to stand up against official wrongdoing."

The complaint includes previous allegations that Arroyo rigged the 2004 elections as well as new ones, such as alleged corruption in a proposed telecommunications project involving the Chinese company ZTE Corp., said de Venecia, the son of a former House speaker and a losing bidder in the project.

There were allegations that Arroyo's husband was promised a huge commission to back the deal. Arroyo scrapped the deal last year. Her husband denied the allegations and ZTE has denied bribing any official.

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