Benjie Oliveros | What’s Wrong with Arroyo’s Congressional Bid?


MANILA — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s filing of her certificate of candidacy to seek the position of representative for the second district of Pampanga generated so much controversy. It overshadowed a similarly controversial attempt by former president Joseph Estrada’s to take a second crack at the presidency. For sure, Arroyo’s congressional bid would be the talk of the town up to the May 2010 elections or even beyond, if she wins.

Arroyo’s camp was quick to downplay her move to seek a seat in Congress after relinquishing the presidency. It is her right and it is legal, they say. Former justice secretary Raul Gonzalez said it is not immoral since it is legal. Arroyo’s lawyer and spokesman Romulo Macalintal said she is running for Congress because of “her sincere desire to continue her commitment to public service.”

Well, public service is not a trademark of the Arroyo administration. On the contrary, the Arroyo government has been preoccupied with keeping itself in power through political machination, bribery, and repressive attacks against the people.

When Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was quoted as saying that Arroyo’s first agenda if and when she gets elected in Congress is to pursue moves to amend the 1987 Constitution, it confirmed people’s suspicions that it was all about keeping herself in power.

To prevent a groundswell of protests to snowball, Arroyo’s allies — especially those who pretend to be fiscalizers or part of the opposition — tried to assuage the people’s fears by saying that it is impossible for her to snatch the position of House Speaker because the position is usually occupied by a representative who is endorsed by the president. Others say that she would just be one representative from among the many and therefore could not have her way.

Likewise, other political analysts are saying that since the Arroyo government is highly unpopular and the opposition would surely get the majority of seats in Congress, she is “weak” politically and would, therefore, not get the position of House Speaker and she could not gather enough votes for her agenda of amending the 1987 Constitution to make her prime minister.

However, all of these seems true under normal circumstances, and if we are not talking about Philippine politics. It should be remembered that right up to the 2007 elections there were only a handful of representatives in Congress who belong to the Liberal and Nacionalista parties (LP and NP). The LP was even divided between the Drilon and Atienza wings. The administration party, Lakas-CMD and Kampi, constituted an overwhelming majority in Congress.

The ranks of the LP and NP began to swell only recently when it became apparent that the Arroyo government’s presidential bet, former Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, is facing a steep uphill battle and, in the absence of a miracle (of the Garci kind), would most likely lose in the May 2010 elections. Thus, their loyalty to their party ended where their loyalty to their self-interest began.

These are also the type of politicians who respond to the call of the highest bidder. The Arroyo family is involved in so many corruption scandals not only because they are trying to fill the family’s coffers, it is also because they have been bribing congressmen, senators, and local officials to keep itself in power. (Remember the Malacañang paper bag incident?)

The problem with the next administration is that it is inheriting a bankrupt government. It would have no resources to buy the loyalty of the honorable representatives, local officials, and some senators. From January to June 2009, the national budget deficit has already reached a staggering P153.4 billion, 8.5 times than the deficit last year. The country is already on the verge of another fiscal crisis, thus the persistent attempts at raising “sin” taxes and imposing a tax on text messages.

The Arroyo family, on the other hand, has enough stash to push for its agenda of amending the 1987 Constitution and placing Arroyo at the helm as prime minister. Otherwise, why else would Arroyo seek a seat in Congress? The immunity from suit of representatives in Congress is too insignificant to shield Arroyo from the serious cases she would be facing such as plunder and human rights violations. Only an immunity befitting a head of state could shield Arroyo from the cases that would be filed against her and her family.

Arroyo knows she has a chance of pushing for charter change and grabbing the position of speaker of the House and, eventually, prime minister once she gets elected to Congress. This is why she has been preparing for her congressional bid ever since her attempt at changing the Constitution was blocked by the Filipino people. Now only the people could thwart her machinations by holding her accountable for her crimes against the people before, during, or after the May 2010 elections. (

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