07/25/2005, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Pres Arroyo seeking constitutional change to avoid impeachment

Opposition in Congress today filed an impeachment motion against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In her State of the Nation speech, she calls for constitutional reform. Sources tell AsiaNews that such pledges are futile because reforms introduced 15 years ago have not yet been implemented. The confusing situation will come to nothing.

Manila (AsiaNews) – After weeks of street protests and an impeachment motion tabled in Congress, Filipino President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo plans economic and constitutional reforms to save her presidency. But for AsiaNews sources, the confusing situation will come to nothing."

In her annual State of the Nation speech, Ms Arroyo today said that she would propose changing the Philippines' constitution to give way to a federal and parliamentary system to replace the current presidential system. This, in her view, would give the country greater stability. Even though the country's economy has a promising future, it is being held back by the political system.

With an impeachment motion before Congress, she told lawmakers "[t]he system clearly needs fundamental change, and the sooner the better. It's time to start the great debate on charter change."

Representatives of the Liberal Party and a leftwing party filed a motion this morning calling for President Arroyo's impeachment on grounds of corruption and electoral fraud in last year's election. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the State of the State of the Nation.

AsiaNews sources said that political reform will not lead the country out of its current mess. "Politicians as a whole, not the President alone, are compromised to the hilt with the powerful military and economic interests. Arroyo may make promises but alone she cannot do much," they said.

In order to face the allegations against her, President has already announced a commission of inquiry—a "Truth Commission"—to investigate. The Filipino Church turned down a request to have clergymen be part of it.

In a recent speech to Filipino Bishops, the Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr Franco, urged them to do more at the pastoral level than in politics.

To prevent incidents in the capital, the government deployed 15,000 police officers and has given government workers a day off today.

But according to leftwing parties, pent-up tensions might boil over into a "popular revolt" like the one in 2001 that forced President Estrada to quit.

Some analysts however told AsiaNews that popular resentment remains circumscribed and too weak to carry out a real revolution.

"There are no demonstrations in other cities and the government has shut down only in Manila".

The rest of the country is in fact facing other problems "such as hunger and unemployment".

Here, even though land reform was approved 15 years ago, people are still waiting to have land assigned to them," the source said.

Others told AsiaNews that despite unrest, things are bound to stay the same.

"There is no charismatic figure who could lead the opposition and be a real alternative to Arroyo".

The absence of a strong leadership is a problem for the army as well and this means that a coup d'état is not very likely.

Under Filipino law, an impeachment motion must be approved by a third of the House of Representatives before it goes to the Senate, where it requires a two third majority to pass.

For several analysts, the anti-Arroyo camp still does not have the numbers to achieve that objective.  (MA)

 

 

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