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(UPDATED - 5:22 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III was praised by members of the House of Representatives for exercising "extraordinary political will" in blocking former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from leaving the country to seek medical treatment abroad.
The lawmakers expressed their support through House Resolution 1918, which has so far gathered 120 signatures.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said that the resolution was "toned down" so that it could gather as much support as possible from the majority members in the House and not just from the members of Aquino's Liberal Party.
“I was against any resolution that comes from only one party because we are a coalition majority here, and everyone must have a part in it," said Belmonte at a press conference on Tuesday.
"We had a meeting and I proposed this version that really expresses our support for the efforts of the President, our anti-corruption process,” he added.
Belmonte and Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II see nothing wrong in filing the resolution.
”It simply says we support him,” Belmonte said.
Gonzales said it there was nothing unusual in drafting a resolution supporting a president. “It’s just an expression of support to the general programs of the President and the manner that he has wielded political will."
The one-page resolution did not mention the case of Arroyo. It only stated that the the chamber supports the “extraordinary political will exercised by His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III in upholding the tenets of good governance and public accountability.”
“The contemporaneous events have shown that President Aquino has been consistent in his zeal to weed out corruption, inefficiency, and abuse of power an all branches of government," it further states.
The resolution also mentions the President’s “transformational leadership through his Social Contract with the Filipino people” and his commitment to achieve “a truly partial impartial system of institutions that deliver equal justice to both the rich and the poor.”
Aside from Belmonte and Gonzales, the main authors of the resolution are Representatives Raul Daza, Arnulfo Fuentebella, Pablo Garcia, Jesus Crispin Remulla, Lorenzo Tanada III, Joseph Emilio Abaya, Enrique Cojuangco, Rex Gatchalian, Rodolfo Antonino, Pablo John Garcia, Rufus Rodriguez, Rodante Marcoleta and Florencio Noel.
Gatchalian, spokesperson of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, earlier issued a party statement supporting Arroyo’s treatment abroad.
Gonzales urged his colleagues not to be too preoccupied with the cases of Arroyo and focus on their work in the House. “The more we are involved in this issue, the more that time is taken away from other matters (in the House)."
Meanwhile, presidential adviser on political affairs Ronald Llamas on Tuesday said if Arroyo was not prevented from leaving the country last week, she would have already started her application for political asylum in a foreign country that does not have an extradition treaty with the Philippines.
“President Aquino and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima are determined to make Arroyo accountable for crimes that took place during her term. This is not vindictiveness nor persecution, but the pursuit of justice. This government is committed to uphold the rule of law,” Llamas said.
“If the DOJ and immigration agents had not stopped Arroyo from leaving, she would not be in a hospital right now but quite possibly seeking political asylum in another country where we do not have an extradition treaty so she could escape prosecution at home,” the Palace official added.
Llamas said Arroyo “would now be beyond the reach of our laws” if she was allowed to leave. “The truth is that Arroyo desperately wanted to leave the country last November 15 so she would not face the ignominy of finding herself charged in court for high crimes during her term.”
Llamas also chastised Arroyo’s lawyer, Raul Lambino, for claiming that his client was a victim of “mob rule.”
“There is no mob rule under the Aquino administration. This is not mob rule. It’s called ‘People Power,’” he said.
“It was Arroyo who virtually turned her administration into a criminal syndicate involved in plunder of the national treasury, rigging of elections and human rights violations for which they must be held accountable before our judicial system,” Llamas added.