Oct 242014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3319 2005-07-19 09:45 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003319



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/19/2015


¶B. MANILA 3202
¶C. MANILA 2993

Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Opposition lawmakers are putting the
finishing touches on an impeachment complaint against
President Arroyo and believe that they are close to the
needed number of House co-sponsors. Pro-Arroyo contacts
still expect lengthy House hearings and a plenary vote before
a trial in the Senate. The tug-of-war over possible
impeachment will dominate the headlines as the House and
Senate resume sessions on July 25. Constitutional rules on
the process are surprisingly ambiguous and the case may end
up in litigation. The Supreme Court may ultimately have to
weigh in, which would inevitably revive suspicions of
political partiality. End Summary.

Opposition Formalizing Complaint

¶2. (C) Opposition lawmakers are putting the finishing
touches on an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo
that will likely include offenses under all possible
Constitutional grounds for impeachment. In a July 18
farewell dinner in Charge’s honor, Representative Ronaldo
“Ronnie” Zamora, a lawyer and opposition stalwart, said that
he will act as the lead impeachment prosecutor for the
opposition in the eventual Senate trial and that Minority
Leader Francis Escudero would act as overall impeachment
manager. Zamora also asserted that he and others were
working to amend the prior complaint filed by Oliver Lozano,
a private citizen, on June 28 (ref C). He predicted the
filing of a comprehensive complaint by the end of this week
or at the latest on the morning of July 25.

¶3. (C) Zamora claimed that the opposition is close to
having the requisite number of House co-sponsors (at least 79
of the 236-member body) needed to refer the impeachment
complaint to the Senate. Zamora confirmed that about 70
House members had already agreed to co-sign (although not all
had yet done so) as of July 18, including four members of the
Lakas party. He said he was confident that the effort would
pick up even more signatories in the next several days,
although he and other opposition lawmakers admitted that
Malacanang was working very hard to convince members of
Congress not sign or support. Zamora asserted that the
opposition approach was focused on bypassing House hearings
entirely by transmitting the articles of impeachment to the
Senate for trial as soon as possible. (A two-thirds vote of
the Senate’s 23 members will be required for conviction, with
the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding but not

¶4. (C) Details regarding the substance of the complaint are
still emerging. Rep. Escudero publicly confirmed on July 18
that the complaint would include several major allegations
against Arroyo, including charges of bribery, graft and
corruption, “culpable violation” of the Constitution,
treason, betrayal of public trust, and “other high crimes.”
Escudero said the opposition plans to include some 100
allegedly illicit acts committed by Arroyo since 2001 when
she took office as evidence to support its case. In remarks
to the press on July 18, Zamora confirmed reports that the
opposition was talking with several members of Arroyo’s
cabinet who recently resigned, and added that he hoped to
include “damaging testimony” from these former Arroyo allies
in the impeachment complaint. Zamora described Arroyo as
“dead meat” given the severity of the allegations his team
was collating.

¶5. (C) Separately, former Senator Loren Legarda told Charge
in a July 19 meeting that she was pursuing options that would
link her current electoral protest case against Vice
President Noli de Castro with the impeachment move. Legarda
said she was trying to leverage the opposition’s efforts to
oust Arroyo to boost her own attempts to overturn Vice
President De Castro’s victory, which she called “a case of
massive electoral fraud.” (Note: Legarda ran for vice
president against De Castro in May 2004 and lost. She is
pursuing her electoral protest case in the courts. End

Pro-Arroyo Side Fights Back

¶6. (C) Malacanang sources admitted on July 19 that there was
a coordinated effort by the Arroyo camp to block the
impeachment efforts in the House. Legislative Liaison
Undersecretary Bernie Sayo confirmed that Arroyo herself and
a coordinated Cabinet team were networking to “conduct
loyalty checks” of House members in Arroyo’s coalition. Sayo
maintained that his marching orders were “to be aggressive”
and that the Palace was “optimistic” that its effort would
pay off and stymie any impeachment move in the House. He
admitted that the situation was delicate since there were
pressures to “allow Arroyo allies to publicly air their
dissatisfaction with the scandals for publicity reasons.” He
added that the Palace was warning members of its coalition
not to sign the impeachment complaint. If they do, they will
be in “big trouble” with Malacanang, he said.

Questions of Legal Interpretation

¶7. (C) There is some dispute as to how quickly an
impeachment complaint might reach the Senate if indeed it
qualifies to do so. The opposition believes that, with at
least 79 signatories, the motion can go immediately to the
Senate for trial, a claim that pro-Arroyo contacts strongly
dispute. Palace official Sayo insisted to poloff that the
“desire to short-circuit the House process” was not an option
and that any complaint would have to go to hearings and an
eventual plenary vote on the House floor. The dispute
centers on differences in interpretation by both sides as to
when a referral to the Senate — which assesses the evidence
and acts as a jury — must be made according to the
Constitution. Pro-Arroyo and opposition elements in the
House are discussing ways to bridge their differences,
without yet reaching a resolution.

¶8. (C) Supreme Court Spokesman Ismael Khan told Acting
Pol/C on July 18 that the Supreme Court recognized that there
were “areas of ambiguity” in the Constitutional rules on
impeachment. He said the Supreme Court was already gearing
up for a possible series of high-profile cases involving the
impeachment process. Other legal experts have separately
claimed that — technically — impeachment charges can over
cover the current term of a President, which would mean that
May 2004 election irregularities would not count. The
Constitution did not envision a President who served more
than one six year term, lawyers have claimed.


¶9. (C) The tug-of-war over possible impeachment will
dominate the headlines as the House and Senate resume
sessions on July 25. Until recently, the opposition did not
believe that impeachment was a truly viable option because
Arroyo had such overwhelming support in the House. Although
she still appears to have the upper hand, Arroyo has suffered
some defections in the House of late and seems newly
vulnerable there. If the complaint reaches the Senate,
Arroyo may nonetheless also face some problems, too, due to
recent defections from her side. Given the legal thicket
surrounding impeachment, it seems quite likely that the
Supreme Court could be called on to make some crucial
decisions down the road, as in the Estrada impeachment in
2001, which might again call into question the Court’s
political impartiality. Chief Justice Davide is due to
retire in December 2005 and competition is already stiff
among possible replacements from within the sitting Justices.

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