08/24/2005, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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A parliamentary commission looks into charges against Arroyo

 Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Filipino parliamentary commission is analyzing the accusations made by opposition MPs against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Within a week, the Congress should vote to decide whether the head of the government will be impeached, on which charges and if the government can remain in power in the meantime.

All manner of accusations have been heaped on the government leader's head in the past two months, ranging from electoral fraud – accusations which were confirmed by incontrovertible telephone recordings – to her involvement and that of her family in a gambling racket. Her husband had to leave the country "to avoid malevolent comments" while her son was pinpointed by around six witnessed as being one of the "jueteng men", an illegal numbers game popular in the Philippines.

The majority of MPs called to decide her fate remain loyal to the president and the Commission of Inquiry looks set to recommend formal accusations only as regards fraud. The telephone call which ensnared the president anyhow has a "venial" ring to it: the conversation with one of the heads of an electoral seat was about little more than 5,000 votes. Even if guilt was proved, it would not be sufficient to bring down the government. Meanwhile, the parliamentary opposition wants to arraign Arroyo for many other reasons, including violations of human rights of some immigrants and the signing of state contracts designed to pocket corrupt pay-offs.

Sometime this week the Congress should vote on the issue to pave the way to institute proceedings. "We realise the majority can railroad this and use brute force," said opposition congressman Roilo Golez. "They might win this battle, but lose the war." Opposition leaders have said they are "still far off" from having the 79 votes necessary to push impeachment through.

Miguel Velarde, founder of the Catholic group El Shaddai, said the president was "willing" to run the government with an opposition which is "more present in the ministerial cabinet" and to call new elections in 2007. A presidential spokesman said: "The president has always been amenable to appoint qualified members of the opposition to the cabinet ... but it has nothing to do with the formation of a so-called coalition government."

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