Metro Manila, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo filed today (December 1, 2009) her certificate of candidacy as Congressional representative of Pampanga’s second district, the first Philippine leader to seek a lower office after serving the highest position in government.
Arroyo, the 14th Philippine President, submitted her certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office in San Fernando City, Pampanga, together with her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, among others. She runs under the Lakas-KAMPI-CMD party.
“After much contemplation, I realized I am not ready to step down completely from public service… I have decided to respond affirmatively to their (people of Pampanga) call. To that end, I will file my candidacy for Congress,” Arroyo said in a radio interview yesterday.
More than being viewed as a display of lust for power, Arroyo’s move is and has been criticized by some officials, sectors, and even ordinary people as her attempt to seek immunity from suit when she ends her term in June 2010, noting her alleged involvement in quite a few alleged irregularities such as the “Hello, Garci” and the ZTE Broadband deal scandals.
It is also suspected as a strategic move for Arroyo to eventually become Prime Minister once the 15th Congress allows amendments in the Philippine Constitution, paving the way to change in form of government from Presidential to Parliamentary.
“It’s very intriguing how, after nine years as President, she claims that she has not done everything. I bet she has a motive for running for Congress, but this is not to continue to serve,” Senator Mar Roxas said yesterday.
Senator Francisco Pangilinan, in a statement today, said Arroyo’s decision is “motivated by political survival at all costs,” recounting the President’s involvement in the “Hello, Garci” controversy that allegedly linked her to a massive cheating in the 2004 Presidential elections.
“For GMA, it is better to be in office than out of it, because the office and powers that come with it will be used as a vehicle to protect herself. This has little do do with public service and has more to do with protecting one’s back from the threat of criminal prosecution,” Pangilinan said.
But, on the allegation of lust for power, Arroyo responds: “I’m very much looking forward to stepping down as President at the end of my term.” It is the urge, however, by residents of Pampanga’s second district, which is currently represented in the Lower House by her eldest son, for her to remain in public service that, according to her, she has decided to participate in the 2010 Congressional race in her home province.
On the immunity from suit issue, she said: “The only Congressional immunity is from libel suits. Hindi yun ang hinahabol ko.” (That is not what I’m after.)
In the Probe Profiles television program that was aired in October, Lakas-KAMPI-CMD standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. was asked what would he do if he wins as President and then charges are filed against Arroyo after she steps down on June 30, 2010.
Teodoro said, “You are not supposed to do anything because there are institutions that are supposed to do that.”
And, finally, on rumors she wants to become Prime Minister, Arroyo just said: “The situation is so hypothetical, I won’t even bother to speculate about it.”
So far, according to an ABS-CBN News report on Tuesday night, an electronics engineer who is from Porac town will be the only rival of Arroyo. Feliciano Serrano will be running as an independent candidate, based on records from the provincial Comelec.
University of the Philippines Sociology professor Randy David has decided not to run, contrary to his earlier pronouncement that he is ready to challenge Arroyo in Pampanga.
“Kung ako lang, suicide kung suicide. Pero ayaw kong isubo ang aking mga mahal sa buhay sa isang larong ganito,” David said in an interview on ABS-CBN News. (I can commit suicide if only I have myself. But I do not want to engage my loved ones in a game like this.)
The Comelec said Tuesday that there is no law prohibiting Arroyo from seeking public office other than the Presidency, nor is there one that prohibits her from staying in power after filing her candidacy.
Arroyo, herself, said she is not resigning as President even if she participates in next year’s elections.
“I will be firmly in control of our national government until the last day I am in office… Konting-konting panahon lamang ang gagamitin ko sa kampanya para sa Kongreso,” she said. (I will only use very little time in my campaign for my Congressional bid.)
Under Philippine laws, members of the Cabinet, the military and the police, among others, are deemed resigned once they file their candidacy for elective positions.
The Constitution, drafted after the Marcos dictatorial rule, also states that no Philippine President is allowed to seek any re-election, a provision that is interpreted in various ways even by prominent members of the bar./END