Monday, March 06, 2006

Temporary victory!

Militant solon leaves House protective custody
First posted 07:56pm (Mla time) Mar 06, 2006
By Maila Ager

(2nd UPDATE) UNFAZED by threat of arrest, a militant legislator who sought sanctuary in Congress after being implicated in an alleged plot to oust President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo left the House of Representatives premises Monday evening.

Gabriela Women's Partylist Representative Liza Maza left the House at 7:30 p.m. and reached Senate at 8:30 p.m.

“It's a victory,” Maza told reporters at the Senate. “We're able to assert together with other congressmen here that Congress cannot be dictated.”

Maza, accompanied by Las Piñas Representative Cythia Villar, slipped past congressional guards to attend a bicameral meeting on the juvenile justice bill at the Senate. But the meeting adjourned before she arrived.

Maza and party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo, Tedoro Casiño, Rafael Mariano, and Joel Virador have been under the House' protective custody since February 27.

They were among 16 people charged with rebellion and attempting a coup d'etat for an alleged conspiracy between leftists and "military adventurists" to topple Arroyo.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel welcomed Maza and promised to provide her security on her way back to the House.

Maza said she would try again to attend next week’s bicameral meeting.

The lawmakers were ordered arrested following Arroyo’s emergency proclamation on February 24. She lifted it last Friday after her advisers said the threat had subsided.

But authorities said this did not change the legal status of the militant legislators.

The five sought protection from the House leadership, and agreed to stay within the House premises while under its custody.

"If they go out of the premises of the House of Representatives they will be arrested," police spokesman Samuel Pagdilao earlier told reporters.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said that while the state of emergency has been lifted, security forces will remain vigilant for any "residual threats."

He said the government expects "remnants of the failed conspiracy" to "test a new threshold of destabilization".

Arroyo has become increasingly unpopular since her political foes last year floated audiotapes purporting to show she rigged the May 2004 vote. She has denied any wrongdoing, and survived an impeachment vote in Congress last year.

But she has alienated her key allies, including former president Corazon Aquino and several members of her cabinet who quit last year.

Street protests calling for Arroyo's ouster have also continued and last week led to violent clashes between activists and police. With Agence France-Presse

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