By Aurea Calica and Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star)
Updated December 01, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - Senators and prominent Roman Catholic
bishops said President Arroyo’s decision to run for congresswoman in Pampanga has shown her desperation for political survival.
The senators and the clergy said the move showed Mrs. Arroyo’s lack of sense of propriety and her insatiable lust for power.
“She’s setting a bad precedent – hanging on to presidential post and use of presidential power and funds to crush any congressional opponent,” Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said.
“She’s making political playing field uneven versus all democratic demands for fairness,” Pimentel said.
Sen. Francis Escudero said that while it was Mrs. Arroyo’s right to seek a lower public officee, “it surely leaves a bad taste in the mouth.”
“What else does she need to prove and accomplish? Perhaps that's her exit plan to ensure protection,” Escudero said.
Mrs. Arroyo’s critics believe a congressional seat would pave the way for her bagging the speakership and eventually give her the clout to initiate a shift to a parliamentary form of government with herself as prime minister.
Sen. Manuel Villar, standard bearer of the Nacionalista Party, said it would be up to the people to judge Mrs. Arroyo based on how she has performed in her nine years in office.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he was not surprised that Mrs. Arroyo would be ready to sacrifice propriety for political survival.
“I recall Senator Joker Arroyo saying that her running for Congress would be demeaning but (for President Arroyo) nothing is demeaning when it comes to political survival,” Pangilinan said.
“Running for public office as a means to protect one’s personal interests has been done countless of times in the past by many other politicians,” he said.
“Since the Hello Garci controversy, President Arroyo’s sole focus has been political survival that has pushed her to seek a congressional seat,” he said.
“For President Arroyo, it is better to be in office than out of it because the office and the powers that come with it will be used as vehicle to protect herself,” he added.
“This has little to do with public service and has more to do with protecting one’s back from the threat of political persecution. She is desperately looking for a soft landing after 2010,” he said.
“She will win, yes and she will try her best to use the office to protect herself. I doubt very much though if she will succeed in finding a way out, in achieving the soft landing she desires,” he said.
“In the final analysis, it is said that history can be a cruel judge and she cannot escape the judgment of history, none of us can,” Pangilinan said.
Sen. Manuel Roxas II, for his part, rebuffed Mrs. Arroyo’s claim that her desire to serve the public was her motivation for seeking a lower post after the end of her term.
“It’s intriguing that after nine years in office she claims to have not done enough. Maybe she has motives for running again but serving the people definitely is not one of them,” Roxas said in Filipino. Roxas, Liberal Party candidate for vice president, was in Pampanga yesterday with Sen. Benigno Aquino III, the party’s standard bearer.
Nevertheless, Roxas said he is confident voters in Pampanga are also seeking genuine reforms as shown by the swearing in today of 63 local officials and prospective candidates, into the LP.
“Now we see that Gloria’s supposed bailiwick is also a bailiwick of hope. Here and in other parts of the country, we can hear the resounding call of all Filipinos for real change),” Roxas said.
“Contrary to the claim of certain camps, Pampanga is owned by nobody but by Pampangueños who hunger and thirst for change. The Philippines is owned by nobody but Filipinos who want the status quo of traditional and transactional politics be overturned by transformational leadership,” he said.
“It was unthinkable for us to see a sitting President to run as a congressman,” NP spokesman Gilbert Remulla said.
“There will be questions to its legality for her to do without vacating her post. It is, however, unquestionable in its impropriety because it smacks of desperation to cling to power at all costs,” Remulla said.
“Actually, on a personal note and as former member of Congress, all I can say iis, this is going to be very dangerous for (the next) sitting president to become a member of Congress. With the so many resources that she got, she can ally with a big bloc of sitting congressmen and be a hindrance to a House Speaker in working for the impeachment of a sitting president,” said Remulla.
Meanwhile, Sen. Pia Cayetano said Mrs. Arroyo’s running for congresswoman would only fuel the public’s distrust of her.
“If she will insist on it, her distrust level among our people will further rise because she will continue to be perceived as insensitive, with an insatiable greed for power,” she said.
“Her stepping down will demonstrate a statesmanship never seen from her and a good precedent for our future leaders,” said Cayetano, who is running for senator under the NP slate.
‘Temptation of power’
Several prelates including Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Jaro Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo voiced their concern over Mrs. Arroyo’s decision.
“I wholeheartedly suggest she gives others a chance to serve and not give in to temptation of power,” Lagdameo said in CBCPNews, the official news service provider of the CBCP.
“She would have shown some statesmanship if she does not run or political delicadeza,” Catarman Bishop Emmanuel Trance said.
Laoag Bishop Sergio Utleg said he believes “she should retire.”
“It’s not proper for a former president to seek a lower position,” Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said. “She is already in the category as an elder adviser or statesman of our nation,” he added.
A staunch Arroyo critic Lingayen-Dagupan Pangasinan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said the president “manifests addiction to power, exhibits lack of propriety and remains fixated to have a Cha-Cha (Charter change)– once elected – as soon as possible, to target
the Office of Prime Minister.”
Legazpi Bishop Emeritus Lucilo Quiambao also said it would be better for President Arroyo not to run.
“The reason is political dynasty and might be interpreted as cover up for something,” he said. He said the move was “self-demotion.” With Evelyn Macairan