‘Monsod view on Gloriagate scandal a death knell to impeachment’

Two pro-administration lawmakers believe that the view of a former election commissioner that a mere conversation with a poll official is not unlawful could well be the "death knell" to the impeachment complaint reportedly being readied against President Arroyo.

Representatives Salacnib Baterina of Ilocos Sur and Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City yesterday said they support the opinion earlier made by former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Christian Monsod on the wiretapping scandal.

In a statement, the lawmakers noted Monsod reportedly saying that a simple talk with a Comelec official is not a crime in itself hence, not a betrayal of public trust, which is one of the grounds for impeachment.

Domogan said Monsod’s statement will be the "death knell" to the impeachment complaint, explaining it will "render useless the 100 offense particulars" supposedly being prepared by the opposition for the case.

"Former Chairman Monsod’s statement negated the opposition’s charge that the President betrayed the public’s trust when she talked to an elections official. In any case, they have yet to come up with concrete evidence that she committed an illegal act," said Domogan.

The two lawmakers said this statement merits the junking of the impeachment complaint "since the case was prompted mainly on the strength of the so-called Gloriagate tapes featuring the President’s alleged conversations" with former Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano allegedly in connivance to cheat in the May 2004 polls.

Baterina said Monsod can be "an expert witness because his statement provided enlightenment on whether it was legal or illegal to talk to an elections official during the poll period.

"We fully respect and support the statement of a legal luminary like Monsod who once chaired two important elections organizations, the Comelec and the poll watchdog National Movement for Free Elections," Baterina said.

He said Monsod’s statement was based on the fact that the Comelec has two functions, namely, the executive or administrative and judicial.

The Comelec carries out its administrative function by overseeing the conduct of the elections, he said. "Thus, anyone interested in the poll results can communicate with the Comelec."

On its judicial function, Baterina said the Comelec renders judgment on poll cases.

"This is where talking to the Comelec should be avoided to prevent charges of trying to influence the results of the cases."

Baterina believes Monsod’s statement bolsters the fact that the President did not cheat in the elections.

"The tapes prove that while there were conversations with an elections official, these were made when all the Certificates of Canvass were already turned over to the Senate and the House for canvassing," he said.

Monsod also earlier questioned the assumption made by the resigned Cabinet members of Mrs. Arroyo that their quitting and Vice President Noli de Castro’s succession to the presidency would put an end to the turmoil facing the country today.

"I am not an apologist for (Mrs. Arroyo). In fact, I am morally convinced there was cheating (in the last elections) but everyone, including the President, has the right to due process," Monsod was quoted as saying.

On the other hand, Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez believes it will be a no-win situation for the President once the impeachment process is started.

In a television interview, Golez said public outrage and protests will intensify if Mrs. Arroyo hurdles the proceedings and keeps the highest office.

In the House, where such a process will start, Golez said the President faces "very rough sailing."

Golez noted that in the Senate, which will try the charges against the President if these are referred to it by the House, many are believed in favor of impeaching Mrs. Arroyo. — Jess Diaz











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