Monsod: 'Don't give up on Arroyo impeachment'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2008 01:09 PM | Updated as of Mar 04 2008 09:09 PM

Former Commission on Elections Chairman Christian Monsod on Tuesday rejected calls for another People Power revolt since constitutional means to remove President Arroyo, including impeachment, are still possible.

Monsod, chairman of the Electoral Reform Advocates’ Search  Committee, said the failure of the first three impeachment attempts against the President does not mean that this option is no longer viable.

"For me, it's not necessarily true that impeachment is impossible because during the time of President Estrada, all the numbers were in his favor but he was still impeached because many congressmen had a conversion experience and they voted for impeachment," Monsod said in a radio dzMM interview.

He said that another option would be if a majority of Cabinet members would declare that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of her office, which would then allow the vice-president to take over the presidency.

Under Article VII, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution, the vice-president could take over the presidency if the two houses of Congress, voting separately, would affirm the Cabinet's declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of her position.

Monsod, however, said this option would be much harder than impeachment, which requires only a third of the votes in the lower house.

The former COMELEC chairman rejected calls to oust the President through another bloodless revolt, which he said could weaken the democratic institutions in the country.

"For me, we must work within the framework of the Constitution. Otherwise, it will lose its effectivity. As I said, democracy is about institution-building of the right kind of institution, but if we keep removing our presidents, and this would be the third if we do it, I believe it weakens our democracy. It does not strengthen it," he said.

He added that opposition groups should focus on all legal and constitutional options to resolve the current political crisis affecting the administration. "Otherwise, we should just strive to ensure that the 2010 elections are clean so that there's a peaceful transfer of power."

The Arroyo administration is facing its worst political crisis since 2005 after the President's husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, was implicated in a multimillion-dollar telecoms deal.

Various groups have called for Mrs. Arroyo's resignation, which culminated in two protest rallies in the country's financial district for the past two weeks.

SC, media to play role in truth-seeking

Monsod backed various initiatives to uncover the truth behind the broadband deal scandal that has implicated former elections chief Benjamin Abalos Sr. and Mr. Arroyo. He said the Senate, the Supreme Court and the media will all play a part in uncovering the truth about the broadband deal.

The Senate launched a joint panel investigation on the $329 million national broadband deal after various news reports cited alleged irregularities in the project.

Businessman Joey de Venecia III, Commission on Higher Education Chairman Romulo Neri, and ex-government official Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. all testified about the alleged $130 million overprice of the project.

The Office of the Ombudsman has launched a separate investigation on the NBN deal, which started on Tuesday.

Monsod said he supports an independent probe of the NBN deal, provided that it is recognized and given sufficient backing by the Ombudsman.

"That’s a good idea but it has to be under the Office of the Ombudsman because the Ombudsman has the power to issue subpoenas, grant immunity and even cite for contempt," he said.

Monsod said the Supreme Court could also play a role in the investigation if parties involved would bring the case to the high tribunal. He added that the media could also help by investigating the alleged anomalies.

"Sometimes you cannot find the whole truth in one venue. You have to look for it, little by little, until you piece it all together," he said.

Allow investigation of First Gentleman

Monsod said one way that President Arroyo could show that she is serious about her fight against corruption is to allow the investigation of her top officials, including her husband.

He cited the cases of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, and the late Anwar el-Sadat, former president of Egypt, who allowed investigations of their closest relatives when they were accused of various crimes.

"We need the President to rise above personal interest so that when she goes on June 30, 2010  she will not be hounded by prosecution," he said.

He said that aside from the NBN deal, the public should focus on other decisions that have yet to be made by the President including the appointments of top officials in the Comelec and the Civil Service Commission.

He added that he is also looking forward to the extension of the agrarian reform program when it expires in June 2008.

"All of us don't want corruption, but what is more important is to alleviate poverty. They say that corruption is the cause of poverty, but that is not exactly correct because there are many countries that have corruption but they also have social justice that is why they still prosper," he said.