POSTSCRIPT / January 13, 2004 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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GMA must clarify if she wants 6 or 3 years

FROM NEAR-ZERO: Continuity is one reason why many people want President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to stay on for another six-year term. Installing a new president, especially one without any background in public administration, could be disastrous.

The changing of administrations after every election with a new team pursuing a new program without much regard for continuity has proved to be disruptive and counter-productive. We have been continually starting from near-zero, and getting nowhere.

In her more than three years as replacement president, Ms Arroyo has pursued an economic development plan that has borne fruit despite the bureaucratic lethargy, corruption and obstructionism hounding her administration.

Replacing her in May could mean putting aside most of what she has accomplished while a novice president tries to learn the intricacies of government and put together a new program.

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IS IT 3 OR 6 YEARS?: We are mentioning this because of disturbing reports that Ms Arroyo does not mind giving way to a parliamentary form of government in 2007 (assuming she wins) and cutting to three years her six-year tenure as duly elected president.

Ms Arroyo better make up her mind. Is she running for a six-year term or only for a three-year transition presidency?

On her own, Ms Arroyo cannot define her term because the Constitution had already decided that for her. By accepting a fresh mandate in May, she would be forging a covenant for a six-year term.

If she wants only three years in contravention of the charter, she better forget about running. No one among the present crop of candidates, including Ms Arroyo, can pull this country together and out of the economic hole in three years.

The truth of course is that Ms Arroyo, as the rest of the pretenders to the presidency, wants to stay as long as she can — definitely not three short years.

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NAMAMANGKA: So why is she suddenly saying, if reports are true, that she was willing to step down in 2007 to give way to a parliamentary setup that the diehards of Speaker Jose de Venecia persist in peddling?

We think she is just trying to straddle two worlds, a political equivalent of “namamangka sa dalawang ilog.” While cozying up to the adherents of the presidential setup, she also wants to hold the hand of the champions of the parliamentary sysrtem.

It is a cheap stunt, but the grand old man Amang Rodriguez said politics is addition.

Also, her seeming ambivalence may just lull voters who have misgivings about six more years of Ms Arroyo into believing that she would step down anyway after three years.

Whatever, Ms Arroyo must define clearly her position. For our guidance, the other candidates must also tell us voters their thoughts on the proposed constitutional amendment to shift to a parliamentary setup in 2007.

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IRRELEVANT OPINION: That was cute of President Arroyo to have declared that her worthy opponent Fernando Poe Jr. is a Filipino. She was commenting on a suit filed by a taxpayer saying that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino as required of presidential candidates.

It was safe for her to give her opinion about Poe’s citizenship. After all, it will be the courts, and not the president, who will rule on that legal question. Her opinion, magnanimous as it may be, will be entirely irrelevant.

Her statement also undercuts propaganda that Malacanang was actually behind the move to disqualify Poe by showing he is not a natural-born Filipino. By natural-born is meant being a Filipino since birth without having to do anything to perfect that citizenship.

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NOT NATURAL-BORN: Lawyer Mel “Batas” Mauricio, who broadcasts a popular legal aid program on dzBB and Channel 7, underscored the urgency of resolving early the question over Poe’s citizenship.

Under the 1935 and the later Constitutions, including the current one, a child born in the Philippines is a Filipino if either one of his parents is a Filipino.

Mauricio says there are documents purportedly showing that Poe’s parents were both aliens, his mother Elizabeth Kelly an American and his father Allan arguably a Spaniard. If such were the case, Poe was born an alien.

Even assuming the father was a Filipino when Poe was born, the young Poe (real name: Ronald Allan Poe) should have followed the citizenship of his American mother since, according to documents cited, he was possibly born out of wedlock as his father was already legally married to another woman when he lived with Elizabeth.

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PASSPORT NO PROOF: That Poe carries a Philippine passport is no iron-clad proof that he is a Filipino.

At best, a Philippine passport is just a prima facie proof of the citizenship of the holder. But it is not conclusive.

A passport could be issued to a person on the basis of falsified documents or false statements on the application form.

Mauricio said if Poe’s passport was issued on the basis of fraudulent documents, he has another big case coming.

A Cabinet member smarting from his exclusion from the administration Senate slate said Poe’s being a Filipino was not only a matter of legalities, but must be appreciated from a viewing of his films showing his “true Filipino soul.”

What kind of argument is that from somebody wanting to become a senator?

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DEADLY WEAPON: A reader, Elipin38, emailing from the US suggested that Miriam Defensor Santiago, the last addition to the administration Senate slate, be sicced on Poe. He says in part:

Philippine politics has never seen anything like her! She is not only witty, bombastic and fearless, she also has answers for every question thrown at her. When asked by an ABS/CBN reporter about her fickle-mindedness, Santiago did not mince words: “Of course I change my mind. I always do.Kapag hindi nagpalit ng isip ang isang tao hindi niya ginagamit ang kanyang isip.

This indirectly answers the question why GMA changed her mind about running again. It also sends a message to FPJ who has a one-track mind. Yes, FPJ never changes his mind. Look at his movies, you see one and you’ve seen them all. Same formula, same character, same plot, same rapid punches, same hair style (hindi nagugusot ang buhok kahit isang oras na makipagsuntukan), and same body language!

Politics in the Philippines is always a part of National Entertainment. That is why people love no-holds-barred debate and people always shout “Bomba” during political rallies.

Santiago is not only very entertaining, she is also unstoppable. I mean her loud mouth is unstoppable. FPJ’s famous rapid punch in his movies is no match to the famous rapid mouth of Miriam.

The biggest blunder committed by FPJ and his handlers was when they let Santiago leave their camp. They have lost the biggest entertainer in Philippine politics!

Now she will have her revenge. All Miriam has to do is irritate Ronnie Poe with her loud mouth and Ronnie will self-destruct. If there is one thing that Ronnie Poe hates, it is someone who will compare him to Erap.

Despite his humble acting, he is actually a demagogue who thinks he is better than Erap in everything. Therefore, when Santiago says she listened to Erap and not to Ronnie, the latter gets mad. And when FPJ gets mad, you see his ugly side that he is trying hard to hide.

When Santiago says FPJ did not finish his high school not because he had to support his mother and siblings but because “napabarkada siya at nahilig sa bisyo ng paninigarilyo at pag-inom,” everybody will believe her because she was a good friend of Poe’s mother Bessie.

Santiago can ask FPJ to explain why he transferred from San Beda to San Sebastian and Mapua, if it was really his intention to finish high school. She can say that FPJ had to transfer because he was already getting failing grades in San Beda, and she can prove it.

His mother Bessie used to tell Miriam her problem about Ronnie’s lack of interest in pursuing higher education. All he wanted was to be in the movie so that he could hang out with his barkada.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 13, 2004)

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