By CARLOS H. CONDE
The New York Times
Published: August 24, 2006
MANILA, Aug. 24 â€” The Philippine Congress overwhelmingly rejected today an impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but her opponents immediately vowed to press ahead with a campaign to present evidence against her to the public.
The House of Representatives voted 173 to 32 to accept a Justice Committee report recommending defeat of the impeachment motion that accused the president of fraud in the 2004 elections, corruption, human rights abuses and violation of the Constitution.
Administration officials and supporters of Mrs. Arroyo said the move would put a decisive end to a political distraction that had weakened her administration for two years.
â€œThe junking of the impeachment complaint is a victory for the sovereign people over senseless, mindless politics which the self-serving few wish to perpetuate,â€ Ignacio Bunye, a spokesman for Mrs. Arroyo, said today. â€œLet us now bury this issue and just move on toward a road of political stability and economic growth. It is time to leave behind the image of a divided Philippines.â€
When a similar impeachment move was defeated by Mrs. Arroyoâ€™s allies in Congress last year, street protests and rumblings within the military ensued.
While reminiscent of the People Power uprisings that successfully toppled two previous presidents, the protests against Mrs. Arroyo were not as strong or widespread.
The administration was confident that the vote today would not lead to further protests, although opponents of Mrs. Arroyo promised to take the matter back to the streets.
JosÃ© de Venecia, speaker of the House and a staunch ally of Mrs. Arroyo, called on her opponents to stop engaging in what he called â€œpoisonous, disruptive politics.â€
The impeachment debate lasted 17 hours before being put to a vote this morning. Some representatives who voted against the motion had endorsed the previous impeachment effort.
Members of the opposition said during the debate that their most important goal was to present evidence against Mrs. Arroyo. Representative Satur Ocampo, a leftist congressman, vowed that Mrs. Arroyo and her allies would not be able to avoid indefinitely a public airing of the allegations against her.
â€œWe will continue fighting through other means,â€ Mr. Ocampo said, â€œuntil the Filipino people decide for themselves what to do with her.â€