Close vote in Ombudsman impeachment seen

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2011 04:31 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2011 12:32 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Allies of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Lower House predicted a close vote in the plenary on the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez next Monday, dashing claims by the majority of 150 votes to impeach the Ombudsman.

"The vote difference will not be distant," House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said Wednesday.

Lagman stressed that as the vote is delayed, more congressmen may decided to vote down the impeachment.

"If given more time to ventilate more issues during floor debate, many can see the light that the Articles of Impeachment will not be strong. The difference will not be big because those not committed will be able to absorb the pros and cons during debate. More might vote against impeachment," he said.

Lagman said this is why the allies of President Benigno Aquino III are rushing the impeachment. "That's' why pinamamdali ng leadership, kasi the more we have  debate the more members will be enlightened sa pros and cons."

Members of the majority have decided to prioritize voting on Monday, with the explanation of votes to come afterwards to prevent a long a voting process. The vote will be by roll call.

No quick fix

Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, however, said this quick fix doesn't apply to impeachment votes. "The explanation of vote after voting is with respect only on bills and joint resolutions. With respect to impeach proceedings that rule will not apply."

Lagman, for his part, said the 150 commitments earlier reported by pro-impeachment leaders may not be achieved. "I don't think 150 at moment is clear picture."

Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said, "Baka sinasabi niya ay 150 signatures to favor investigation. Pero 'yung boboto to impeach masyadong mataas."

Still, the minority lawmakers refused to say that the impeachment was headed for defeat.

"I don't want to make a conjecture. I have not rallied my allies to cast a partisan vote," Lagman said.

Magsaysay said, "You better check position of other political parties."

Carrot and stick

Magsaysay added that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) releases cannot be used in a carrot-and-tick approach to ensure enough impeachment votes.

"[It] won't have an effect sa congressmen kasi galit na mga congressmen kasi dapat dati pa lumabas," she said.

Magsaysay referred to the delayed PDAF releases which were released only last week, even if these were meant for 2010.

"I don't think congressmen are happy. Pinang-utang na naming [ang] releases. Delayed na po talaga," she said.

Lagman said, "Hindi sila marunong manligaw eh."

He added the PDAF for 2011 should be due anytime now already.

Suarez said the delays have already been detrimental to the projects of lawmakers.

Lagman reminded the majority that "it's the leadership's call to assure a quorum in all of these important measures."

A total of 283 congressmen can vote on the impeachment. Only 94 are needed to elevate the impeachment case to the Senate for trial.