By Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 12/01/2009 1:36 AM
MANILA - If President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wins as representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga in the May 2010 elections and 4 of her relatives also get elected to the House of Representatives, the Philippines may yet set a new world record on political dynasties.
"There will be 5 Arroyos in the House. I am not sure that's happened elsewhere. It's all in the family," said Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson, who, on Monday, came out with a full-page newspaper advertisement calling for new blood in politics.
“I am not aware of any such similar situation abroad," noted lawyer Carlos Medina, referring to the number of family members occupying one law-making body.
"If it happens here, it will be an abomination,” noted Medina who is with poll watchdog group Legal Network for Truthful Elections.
Rep. Joson and Medina both assailed the President's congressional plans amid recent not-so-flattering news about the Philippines.
"Perhaps she wants to make it to the Ripley's Believe it or Not or the Guinness World Records as the first President to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the longest serving public servant rated as No. 1 in corruption, and No. 1 in rice importation," Rep. Joson added.
Last November 23, the Philippines landed in the record books for having the most number of journalists killed in an election-related incident when 30 died in the Maguindanao massacre. The carnage was allegedly committed by a close ally of President Arroyo--the Ampatuans of Maguindanao.
"Kailangan ng bagong dugo na mamuno at magsilbi para magsimulang maka-ahon sa pagkasadlak sa dusa ang ating bayan. Sobra na! Tama na!--ang karahasan, kahirapan, at korapsyon na patuloy na dinaranas ng ating bayan na gawa ng mga naghaharing pamilya at angkan ng ating bansa mula sa pangulo hanggang sa ating mga barangay," Rep. Joson's ad said.
Speculations that President Arroyo would run for Congress were confirmed on Monday. Her election lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, said the president wants to continue serving the people and the nation as a member of the House of Representatives.
All in the family
Relatives occupying positions in various government posts are common even in democratic governments.
Sets of father and son, mother and son, and brothers serving at the same time are common in legislatures such as in India and Botswana. (Read story on Indian parliament here and Botswana here)
Likewise, in the United States, relatives have served simultaneously in the House of Representatives.
But to have 4 family members—and possibly 5—in one law-making body all at the same time is rare.
There are 4 Arroyos in the current 14th Congress. They are
- presidential son Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo
- presidential son Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Macapagal Arroyo
- President Arroyo’s brother-in-law Negros Occidental 5th District Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo,
- President Arroyo's sister-in-law Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Ma. Lourdes Arroyo.
President Arroyo plans to take over the post of son Mikey. But if rumors are true, Mikey will be joining a party-list group so he can possibly stay in the House of Representatives. Abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak sent the congressman a text message to verify the rumors, but he has yet to answer our query, as of this posting.
Rep. Iggy Arroyo is on his second term and is still eligible for another 3-year term.
Reps. Dato and Lourdes are on their first terms in the lower House.
Dato has filed his certificate of candidacy in the newly created district in Camarines Sur province. President Arroyo signed the law creating the new Camarines Sur district.
However, President Arroyo is not the first to run for a lower post after serving as Philippine president. Jose P. Laurel, president from 1943 to 1945 during the Japanese Occupation, served as a senator after the war.
Service to Kabalens
In a press statement on Monday, Mrs. Arroyo said she would still be the country’s President and would only allot a short period of time for her campaign.
“I will be firmly in control of our national government until the last day I am in office,” the president said.
"As president, my first commitment is to the nation we all love. My bid for Congress will be spirited but secondary to my duties as President,” she added.
“After much contemplation, I realize that I am not ready to step down completely from public service,” she said.
The president said the clamor of her province mates to run convinced her not to retire from politics.
“So after much soul searching, I have decided to respond affirmatively to their call...To that end, I will fill my candidacy for Congress in order to serve the hard working people of my home province,” she said.
The president is expected to make a formal announcement when she visits Lubao, Pampanga on Tuesday.
Prolonging her reign?
The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) was quick to condemn President Arroyo's political plans.
"This is a dark day for the Philippines. Her running for Congress is a slap on the face of the many victims of her administration. Her running for Congress is proof that she wants to somehow prolong her reign of terror," warned Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. on Monday.
"Her attempt to get a congressional seat is not borne out of a desire to serve but by a desire to get political leverage and avoid accountability for the many crimes committed by her regime," Reyes added.
If President Arroyo becomes the next House Speaker, as feared by her critics, she will have vast powers against the elected President. If elections were held last October, the next president will likely come from the ranks of the opposition.
However, Mrs. Arroyo will need to keep the current Lakas-Kampi-CMD congressmen—most of them reelectionists—in the party so that they will continue to be the majority in the next Congress.
Charter change is next?
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a critic of Mrs. Arroyo, suspects that Charter change is on top of President Arroyo's plans.
"There are 3 observations on GMA (President Arroyo) wanting to be in Congress: She manifests addiction to power. She exhibits lack of propriety. She remains fixated to have Charter change as soon as possible to target the Office of Prime Minister," he told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.
Since the 13th Congress, the House of Representatives has gone against public opinion by pursuing Charter change.
Three measures on Charter change are pending in the lower House--to convene a Constituent Assembly, to convene a Constitutional Convention, and a "fourth mode" which is to pass a legislation to scrap the nationalist restrictions in the 1987 Constitution.
The House of Representatives also has the exclusive authority to initiate an impeachment complaint against the President and other impeachable officials such as the Ombudsman.
It has the power of the purse. It can launch congressional inquiries. Members are immune from arrest while Congress is in session. It also has the power to declare state of war or state of emergency.
Through the Commission on Appointments (CA), senators and congressmen can approve or reject appointments made by the President. - by Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak
as of 12/01/2009 1:38 AM