Impeachment move declared void

SINGAPORE Nov. 10. The escalating crisis in the Philippines over the latest move by some Congressmen to impeach the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court took a new turn today.

While the Supreme Court itself held that the impeachment drive was `unconstitutional', the President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, extended her "full and whole-hearted support'' to the intervention by the country's apex judicial authority.

The Chief Justice, Hilario Davide Jr., is sought to be arraigned by the Congress on the basis of allegations that he had misused state funds to buy cars, houses and office furnishings for himself and other senior judges.

He has denied wrong-doing. In characterising the impeachment attempt as a step against the Constitution, in letter and spirit, the judges of the Supreme Court took the unanimous line that there was no room for multiple complaints against the same officer of state in the same year.

On this score, the current move against the Chief Justice became untenable for the reason that it was the second of its kind concerning him within a year, it was held.

However, even as the crisis remained unresolved today, despite some late-night indications that the House of Representatives might after all consider dropping the impeachment move, the President maintained that she was not taking sides with the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court against the Congress.

She would have to abide by the Supreme Court's rulings under the Constitution, and she had earlier sent a draft `covenant' to the House of Representatives, suggesting that the issue be sorted out on the basis of national interest.

For the Filipinos, the impeachment move has only complicated an already complex situation.

The recent attempt at a mutiny within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, however short-lived it might have been, served as a new `wake-up call' that all was not well with the country.

It was in that context that Ms. Arroyo reversed her own earlier decision to retire from politics.

While she portrayed her new decision as a step needed to address the challenges, the latest short-lived siege at the Manila international airport's control tower jolted the country.

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