07/10/2006, 00.00
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Filipino bishops against new Arroyo impeachment process

The bishops' conference published a pastoral letter saying this means to charge the president should not be used as a "useless exercise which will only deepen the negative perception of political forces".

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is "not inclined at the present moment to favour a new impeachment process against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo". The stand of the Filipino church was contained in a pastoral statement issued at the end of the bishops' 93rd plenary assembly led by the CBCP president, Jaro Archbishop, Angel Lagdameo.

The bishops' announcement comes at a time when the political scenario is once again in turmoil: the one-year period – fixed by law – due to pass before the opposition could once again accuse the highest authority in the country is about to expire.

The first impeachment came at the end of June last year when right-wing MPs accused the husband, son and brother-in-law of Arroyo of accepting money from clandestine gambling organizations. The president herself was accused of election fraud in the 2004 presidential poll. Throughout the "trial", the Senate was presented with an audio-recording in which Arroyo asked one of the electoral commissioners, while the vote counting was under way, to alter the results to give her more votes.

After the presentation at first instance, last year, Arroyo's son and husband went into self-imposed exile "to guarantee the tranquility of the nation".

The bishops said they "respected the position of individuals or groups that wish to continue using the impeachment process to arrive at the truth," but added that unless "unless the process and its rules, all participating parties, pro and con, are guided by no other motive than a genuine concern for the common good, impeachment will once again serve as an unproductive exercise, deepening the citizens' negative perception of politicians left, right and centre."

The bishops said the call for the resignation, or the incrimination of, members of the Electoral Commission who were accused of corruption "should not be lightly brushed aside". They also urged a "complete reform" of this organism, as the only way "to restore trust in our electoral process."

After tackling the political situation, the bishops pronounced themselves on the "defence of human rights", which should be impartial but is sorely tried by the attitude of both sides of the guerrilla war in the south of the country, army and rebels. They wrote: "We join the outcry of groups that have denounced the increasing number of extrajudicial killings and we cannot close our eyes to events that damage our nation and should be condemned."

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