BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday confirmed speculations that she will run for Congress to represent the second district of Pampanga in 2010, saying she is "not ready to step down completely from public service."
"After much soul searching, I have decided to file my candidacy for Congress in order to serve the hardworking people of my home province," she told reporters.
Last Friday, more than 200 supporters from the second district of Pampanga were allowed inside the Malacañang complex to present a manifesto to the President asking her to run for congresswoman.
Last Saturday, local officials of Pampanga also trooped to Malacañang, where Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo announced he would gladly give way to his mother. A report said he would be joining a party list to keep his House seat.
Speculations on Ms. Arroyo running for Congress arose when she made more than 40 visits to Pampanga, particularly in the second district, during the last few months.
The President said that in Congress, she intends to continue to champion the plight of the poor, fight for a stronger economy, and ensure that every family in her district would have access to education, health and jobs.
She denied she is running for Congress to gain immunity from suit as "the only congressional immunity is from libel suit for utterances made during congressional session."
She also dismissed concerns and allegations that she wants to join Congress to push for Charter change and eventually become prime minister.
"That situation is hypothetical, I won’t even bother to speculate about it," she said.
The President said she would continue to focus on governance until her term expires June 30, 2010.
Romulo Macalintal, election lawyer and presidential spokesman for political matters, said a representative would file Arroyo’s COC in San Fernando before the deadline ends today. He said this representative, who has yet to be named, would be accompanied by Pampanga town mayors.
At present, four Arroyos are occupying congressional seats namely presidential sons Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo and Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Ignacio "Dato" Arroyo, brother-in-law Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo, and sister-in-law Rep. Maria Lourdes Arroyo (PL, Ang Kasangga).
Former President Joseph Estrada’s spokesperson, Margaux Salcedo, said Arroyo’s congressional candidacy is a brazen attempt to stay in power forever. "This should be considered as a warning that the scheming by this regime will not end with this president’s term in 2010."
Sen. Mar Roxas, running mate of Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, said he believes Arroyo’s decision to seek a seat in Congress is part of a larger political plan.
He said Arroyo might push for changing the Constitution and is hoping to regain power by becoming prime minister.
Rep. Teddy Casiño (PL, Bayan Muna) urged President Arroyo to seek "professional help."
"I have never seen a leader so obsessed with power who, after nine years of occupying the highest office of the land, would still aspire for a lower position. She is drunk with power and can’t get enough. I think she needs professional help," Casiño said.
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said Arroyo’s decision came as no surprise because he did not expect that simple "delicadeza" would stop the President from seeking another elective position.
"The President’s legal eagles and political pundits will simply repeat their script to defend her decision to run – that there is no legal impediment to her candidacy. And it would be foolish for people to expect delicadeza to prevail. So if she wants to run, let her run," Biazon said.
– With Gerard Naval and Peter J.G. Tabingo