| Gloria Arroyo
Manila, Nov. 10 (Reuters): Philippine leaders moved to avert a constitutional crisis today after the Supreme Court ruled the impeachment of the country’s top judge was unlawful, setting the stage for a showdown between lawmakers and the judiciary.
The ruling comes as investors fret about rising volatility ahead of elections next May.
The impeachment has prompted street protests and divided the country along familiar lines — supporters of ousted President Joseph Estrada have backed it, while the Catholic Church and former President Corazon Aquino have led rallies against it.
In an emotional speech to the House of Representatives, speaker Jose de Venecia said lawmakers faced a choice between accepting the court’s decision or defying it by transmitting the impeachment charges to the higher Senate.
“The chair is constrained to respect the decision of the Supreme Court,” he said, to jeers from supporters of the move.
He later said the complaint against Chief Justice Hilario Davide on accusations of corruption would not be submitted. But some lawmakers have said they would ignore the court and proceed with the impeachment.
They say their attempt to impeach the judge is a political issue and the court should not block it. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had said earlier the Supreme Court’s ruling should be honoured, as her party held last-minute talks to persuade lawmakers to withdraw backing the complaint.
“We shall follow the solemn duty to uphold the decision of the high court and we shall enforce any directive issued by it,” Arroyo said in a statement issued before the ruling.
A court spokesman said 13 out of 14 justices had decided the impeachment was unconstitutional because it was the second such complaint against Davide in a year. The constitution allows no more than one impeachment complaint against the same official in a year.