by Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 12/02/2009 10:34 PM
(First of a series on ANC's Harapan presidential debate held December 2, 2009 at UST)
MANILA - If elected president, Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said he will use his power to block President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from becoming speaker of the House of Representatives.
"If we're both elected, I don't think there's great danger. I have studied her in the past 9 years. I've seen how she has used the power to advance her cause. We will have the same power. We will utilize the same power to ensure that we will have a solid majority within the House of Representative to advance the agenda that seeks to install reforms and put us in the rightful place under the sun," Aquino said on ANC's Harapan, a presidential debate held on Thursday.
President Arroyo on Tuesday filed her certificate of candidacy (CoC) for the 2nd congressional district of Pampanga. She is the first Philippine president to seek a lower post while still in power.
Critics fear she plans to become speaker of the House of Representatives and lead Congress into changing the constitution. They claim that her end goal is to convert the system of government to a parliamentary system, which would give her another shot at returning to power as prime minister.
Aquino believes President Arroyo wants to become speaker so she can have leverage to negotiate with the next President on the criminal cases that may be filed against her.
Aquino also raised the specter of partial failure of elections where only the House of Representatives is constituted. This scenario has been raised by the critics of full automation of the May 2010 elections. Despite repeated reassurances from the Comelec, they have warned of electoral sabotage through widespread failure of the counting machines.
"The danger happens if somehow, only congressmen are elected and there's no Senate that is constituted and there is no vice president and president. If that is the scenario, I will pledge in front of everyone today that I will again stand up and I will oppose any measure that they will deem fit to try to extend their powers beyond what is embodied in our Constitution. That I pledge my whole being to," he added.
Changing Arroyo's policies
If elected president, Aquino said he will not repeat many of the policies and acts of President Arroyo.
He said he will not abuse presidential powers the way President Arroyo has. Like his parents, former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino, he said he will uphold democracy at all times.
"Dumating po ang martial law, naramdaman po natin kung ano ang ibig sabihin talaga ng maging api sa kawalan ng katarungan, kawalan ng kalayaan, at kawalan ng pag-asa. Masakit po na ang ipinangako nating hindi na manunumbalik ay tila nandito na naman po sa ating bansa," he said.
In 2006, President Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1017 giving her power to issue warrantless arrests and to take over private institutions engaged in running public utilities. The moves were in response to the coup attempt led by former Brigadier General Danilo Lim, who is now running for senator. Earlier in September 2005, she also had the calibrated preemptive response policy.
Aquino also hit the slow government response to the Maguindanao massacre, the worst election-related violence in the country's history which killed 57 people.
If he was president at the time of the massacre, he said he would have immediately disarmed, or, at the minimum, confine to barracks the soldiers and cops linked to the massacre, and deploy new forces in the area to allow an objective investigation.
Aquino also took a stand against private armies.
Aquino criticized President Arroyo's infrastructure program, particularly the Roll-on Roll-off (Ro-Ro) transport system, which, he said, are "nowhere to nowhere connecting roads."
Pro-RH bill, Pro-Dynasties?
Unlike President Arroyo, Aquino is in favor of the reproductive health (RH) bill, which, among others, seeks to fund the distribution of contraceptives. This position has ruffled the feathers of several Catholic Church officials who have assailed the bill for promoting abortion.
During the presidential debate, Aquino did not categorically say that he is supporting the bill, but, he said, the government has the responsibility to guide parents plan the size of their families.
"We cannot deny the problem. The population doubled in the last 20 years," he said.
Aquino also wants the Catholic church to assist the government in the proposed educational sessions.
On Tuesday, the wife of Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro, Tarlac Rep. Monica Louise "Nikki" Teodoro, withdrew her signature from the reproductive health bill.
Aquino was soft on political dynasties, however. He said politicians should be judged according to their performance, not their surnames. Several members of the Liberal Party senatorial ticket, such as former Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta and Rep. Teofisto Guingona, are part of a political dynasty.
The Constitution prohibits political dynasties, although Congress has not yet enacted a law to implement the ban.
as of 12/03/2009 3:34 AM