Former President Cory Aquino, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, and Ms Susan Roces lead the September 6, 2005 march of Bukluran ng Katotohanan.
The impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are now dead at the House of Representatives. But the President’s problems are not over.
Last September 7, various pro-impeachment groups and individuals, now coalesced under the Bukluran para sa Katotohanan (Solidarity for Truth), have promised bigger nationally-coordinated mass protests to force Macapagal-Arroyo out of Malacañang. The movement to remove the president, who faces charges of constitutional violations, has shifted back to the streets, organizers of Bukluran said.
Ten of thousands of anti-Arroyo protesters from Bukluran gathered at the People Power Monument along EDSA, site of two people power uprisings that toppled two presidents – Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph E. Estrada in 2001. An emotional Susan Roces, widow of presidential aspirant Fernando Poe, Jr., denounced the killing of the impeachment complaint by pro-Arroyo legislators even as she vowed to join daily mass protests from hereon until the president is removed from office.
Protesters also mobilized just outside the University of Sto. Tomas campus along España Street following an inter-faith rally. They were blocked by a large contingent of anti-riot policemen backed by fire trucks in an effort to prevent them from marching toward Mendiola Bridge just outside the presidential palace.
The day before, Sept. 6, as the House pro-Arroyo majority dealt the final blow against the impeachment complaint, close to 20,000 protesters led by former President Corazon C. Aquino, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr., Ms. Roces and mass leaders from Bukluran held a spontaneous rally on the road leading to the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, another broad alliance, the Solidarity Movement, was also launched Sept. 7 with groups identified with deposed President Estrada as the convenors, along with leaders of the progressive party-list bloc and other organizations.
San Juan Rep. Ronnie Zamora, head of the opposition impeachment team, also planned to raise the issue before the Supreme Court.
Earlier on Aug. 30, the House Committee on Justice had shot down by a vote of 48-4 with one abstention the amended version of the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano, which was being pushed by people’s organizations and opposition solons. Later that day, the original Lozano complaint was killed as well.
The original Lozano complaint charged Arroyo with betrayal of public trust, citing as basis her admission that she had talked to election officials during the counting of votes in the 2004 presidential election.
The amended complaint, meanwhile, accused her of bribery, graft and corruption, and culpable violation of the Constitution aside from betrayal of public trust. Among the charges leveled against her by the amended impeachment complaint is complicity in human rights abuses committed by state forces, falling under culpable violation of the Constitution.
Arroyo has been facing calls for her resignation, impeachment or ouster over renewed allegations that she cheated her way to victory in the 2004 election, as well as what cause-oriented groups describe as her government’s imposition of “anti-national and anti-people” policies.
On Sept. 6, the House of Representatives in plenary session voted 159-52 with six abstentions to recognize the report of the Justice Committee on the amended complaint. Twenty House members did not vote or failed to show up at the last hour.
From Congress to streets
Party-list representatives join the Bukluran ng Katotohanan rally.
“The people’s hope for truth and change has inexorably passed on from Congress to the Parliament of the Streets,” said Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo in a statement released later that day.
As the final count of votes was delivered, members of the Bukluran who had watched the proceedings at the gallery walked out and placed the Philippine flag on the House grounds at half mast.
The final death blow to the amended complaint came as thousands of people belonging to various anti-Arroyo groups held a rally on the IBP road leading to the Batasan complex housing the House.
The protesters braved the scorching early afternoon heat as they marched two kms. from the St. Peter’s Church along Commonwealth Avenue following a prayer assembly. Police tried to block the street but were no match for the ralliers, whose frontliners engaged them in a pushing match. Among those seen fighting it out with the police were actress Ms. Roces, widow of the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr. who is widely believed to have been the real winner in the 2004 presidential election; and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief.
Former Internal Revenue Commissioner Liwayway Vinzons-Chato would deliver the rally’s opening salvo by singing “Kunin Mo o Diyos, at tanggalin Mo/Ang aming Presidente…” (o God, take and remove our President…), her protest parody of a Church offertory hymn.
In front of the House, the protesters – who by mid-afternoon had reached about 20,000 – put up with heat and rain in turns as they listened to indignant speeches.
Among the speakers was lawyer Nasser Marohomsalic, who dwelt on the Islamic doctrine of punishing liars by cutting off their tongues. A former commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Marohomsalic is with the White Ribbon Movement (WRM), an anti-Arroyo middle-force alliance, and the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (Codal).
No stopping Bukluran
Meanwhile, Bro. Armin Luistro, spokesperson of the Bukluran, did a symbolic offering of the amended impeachment complaint together with all its supplemental affidavits to the Filipino people, and announced that the group will be doing a signature campaign to continue the search for truth. “The death of the impeachment complaint in Congress will not stop the Bukluran from seeking the truth,” he said at the rally.
He also told reporters that the Bukluran hopes to submit the impeachment complaint directly to the people, possibly through a people’s tribunal. A speaker from Be Not Afraid also called for a people’s tribunal to try Arroyo in lieu of an impeachment court.
“We will not be letting her sleep soundly,” said Renato Reyes, Jr., secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), said at the rally. He uttered these words following reports that Arroyo had issued a statement saying that with the “closure” of the impeachment issue, she could sleep soundly.
“Whichever corner of the world she chooses to hide herself in,” Reyes added, “she will not be able to escape the wrath of the people.”
Meanwhile, Ronald Lumbao of the People’s Movement Against Poverty (PMAP) said: “The fact that these forces have linked up with each other is a sign that Arroyo’s days are numbered even if her behind is glued to Malacañang.”
Pateros-Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, spokesperson of the impeachment team, showed up at the rally dressed in denims and a casual shirt.
“In the coming days, we the pro-impeachment congressmen will be shedding our barong Tagalog, our neckties and coats,” he said at the rally, “and we will bring our case before those whom we are sure would listen to us – those who wear slippers and sandals.”
He also sarcastically called on the protesters not to insult Congress too much. “Don’t you know that this is the best Congress money can buy?” he quipped.
Reports have been rife that the administration camp has been bribing congressmen in exchange for not signing the impeachment complaint. But Palace spokespersons have been shrugging off the reports.(Bulatlat.com)