Arroyo urges constitution change

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has called for governmental reform as she fights for her political survival. 

In her state-of-the-nation address, Mrs Arroyo said the country should switch from a US-style presidential system to parliamentary government. 

Mrs Arroyo's speech came as opponents filed an impeachment motion over claims she interfered in 2004 elections. 

The president said the country's economy showed promise, but its style of governance was holding it back. 

"Our political system has now become a hindrance to our national progress," she said in a 20-minute speech.

Mrs Arroyo did not refer to the impeachment motion, which accuses her of betraying her country over a telephone call she made to an independent election official during the counting of the votes last year. 

Mrs Arroyo has admitted making the call, but strongly denies trying to rig the vote. 

Key speech 

President Arroyo's message to Filipinos and foreign investors in her state-of-the-nation address was she was getting on with business, says the BBC's correspondent in Manila, Sarah Toms. 

She promised she would deliver on her economic and social reforms to raise revenues, cut debt and help develop an economy that lags behind much of South East Asia. 

But although she said the economy was poised for take-off, she added that the political system was a hindrance to progress. 

"The system clearly needs fundamental change - and the sooner, the better," Mrs Arroyo said.

She was speaking shortly after the House of Representatives started considering an impeachment motion against her. 

"By so flouting justice and the rule of law, she has committed an unforgivable outrage against the Filipino people," the Associated Press reported the complaint as saying. 

The complaint filed by her opponents said she "stole, cheated and lied" to stay in office. 

Slow process 

Speaker Jose de Venecia, an ally of Mrs Arroyo, sent the impeachment motion to the justice committee, which has 60 working days to analyse the complaint before the lower house votes on it. 

The motion must be endorsed by at least a third of the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the upper house of Congress for a trial by senators. 

A conviction by two-thirds of the Senate would effect the president's dismissal. 

Ronaldo Zamora, an opposition member of the lower house, said Mrs Arroyo's opponents still lacked the required support of one-third of the 235 lawmakers. 

Our correspondent says the opposition was initially reluctant to pursue the impeachment route because of the president's majorities in both houses, but since the defection of some of Mrs Arroyo's allies, her opponents have warmed to the idea. 

There have been regular street protests against the president in recent weeks, but the largest such crowd has numbered 30,000 people - far short of the hundreds of thousands which joined the "people power" uprisings that overthrew President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001.


Bron : BBC News

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