December 02, 2009 17:27:00
Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang made little effort on Tuesday to douse speculation that the real agenda of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s congressional run was to ultimately install herself as prime minister in the event of a shift to a parliamentary government.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita acknowledged that overhauling the 1987 Constitution remained a priority for Ms Arroyo, citing her pronouncements about the need for it in her previous State of the Nation Addresses.
“Yes, even in the previous SONA of the President, she said she was gunning for it,” he told reporters at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.
Ermita was confident that Ms Arroyo would win easily in the race for the congressional seat of the second district of Pampanga and that she would continue to carry clout in the next Congress.
“Let’s be realistic—the President is the President,” he said. “Because of her stature, when she gets (elected), definitely, she will have a lot of clout on anything in Congress.… You can be sure that should she be elected, definitely, she will have clout among the congressmen.”
But Ermita said it remained to be seen whether Ms Arroyo would actually push for Charter amendments after she secures a seat in Congress.
“I am not privy to the thoughts of the President on her advocacy when she becomes a congressman (sic),” he said. “The problem with (critics) is they create scenarios then throw them against the President as if they were her scenarios.”
In the current 14th Congress, Ms Arroyo repeatedly tried but failed to revise the Constitution. The efforts included proposals to lift the term limits of incumbent officials, a move seen intended to extend Ms Arroyo’s term.
Already the second-longest serving Philippine president after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Ms Arroyo did the unprecedented on Tuesday when she filed a certificate of candidacy for Congress.
Despite her eight years in Malacañang, she is considered the most unpopular Philippine leader ever as can be gleaned from popularity surveys—which have been consistently dismissed by her allies as the product of black propaganda.
She once promised never to run for president after benefiting from the ouster of President Joseph Estrada through a military-backed people’s revolt in 2001.
But the former vice president didn’t keep her promise, ran anyway, and scored a disputed victory over the late Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 presidential election.
Asked if Ms Arroyo could be trusted not to position herself as prime minister later on, Ermita said: “We are in a democracy (and) everyone is free to do things that they wish they should do, for as long as they are within the bounds of law.”
“Everyone has to face up to his or her future, if and when they’re elected,” he added.