POSTSCRIPT / June 14, 2009 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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She can do us a favor by retiring after 2010

CLARK FIELD: Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman sounded authoritative when he said last Friday that President Arroyo would run in 2010 for a congressional seat in Pampanga.

Nobody in the inner Arroyo circle has been as definite as the secretary was when he discussed the President’s post-2010 plan in a talk with reporters in Cotabato City.

“Definitely, she is running for Congress and would represent the people of Pampanga” he said. To add authority to his revelation, he said the President has been telling those close to her about her plans to run for the Congress after her term.

Still, many people are skeptical of reports of the President eyeing a congressional seat to become (1) Speaker in case the presidential system is retained, or (2) Prime Minister in case there is a shift to a parliamentary system of government.

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SECOND SERVING: Speculation about the President’s running for Congress is fueled by her frequent visits to Pampanga lately, her overseeing projects there and going out of her way to touch base with her cabalen in the second district.

All the while I thought she just wanted to make up for her late father (then President Diosdado Macapagal) who sort of “neglected” his province when he was in Malacañang.

Explaining this oversight to his cabalen, Cong Dadong had said that he did not want those from other regions to say he was giving priority to his provincemates. To him, Pampangueños must wait in line.

He promised to look after Pampanga next time around, in the caduang apag (“second serving,” meaning his second term). But that chance never came, because he was defeated by Ferdinand Marcos in his reelection bid in 1965.

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WHO’LL BE GOV?: If Gloria runs for the seat now held by her son Juan Miguel, where would he go? It is too late to carve out another district for him, so one speculation is that Mikey would run for governor.

What about Sen. Lito Lapid, who has reportedly changed his legal residence from Makati (where he ran for mayor in 2007 and lost) to his native Porac in preparation for running for governor?

Meanwhile, Vice Gov. Yeng Guiao might run for governor with Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda as his vice gubernatorial mate. He is the son of allegedjueteng lord Bong Pineda and former board member Lilia Pineda who lost to Gov. Eddie Panlilio in 2007.

“Among Ed” is still around. But he has been hypnotized by master plotters into believing he could be president of the Republic. Psst, he might find himself neither governor nor president when the dust settles after May 2010.

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PROTECTION: The President becoming a congressman looks like a “demotion.” But sometimes we take one step backward in preparation for two steps forward. Something like Sen. Ping Lacson’s dropping, he said, his plan to run for president.

A proud Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can swallow being a “mere” congressman after being president for 10 years ONLY IF she anticipates becoming either Speaker or Prime Minister.

Considering the appetite of the crocodiles in the House, she would need billions to clinch the Speakership. No problem, he and her husband must have amassed enough for that. Also, they need not spend their own money.

Besides, those billions are a necessary expense when one wants the protection that a position of power provides. Ask previous Speakers.

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CENTER OF GRAVITY: The Speakership is actually just a way station to the very top. It is nothing compared to the presidency to which Ms Arroyo and her husband have gotten accustomed.

The ulterior goal is the premiership. This means that even after the 2010 elections, the Arroyos could keep pushing for a shift to a parliamentary setup.

With this, how and when will the political turmoil around the Arroyos end?

The moment President Arroyo confirms her decision to run (on or before her filing of a certificate of candidacy in November) and gives up Malacañang, she would expose herself as a lameduck.

There would be a series of tremors and a shifting of the political center of gravity.

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SHIFTING GROUND: Loyalties will shift when a new president takes over.

Assuming Ms Arroyo is elected to Congress, she would just be one of the more than 220 members of the House. What would make her stand out and get elected Speaker?

Most of the answer is money, lots of it. The Arroyos have plenty of that.

As for patronage that she had doled out as president, these could be suddenly forgotten. Commitments made to her when she was still the Fountain of Grace at the Palace could just as well not hold.

Most of all, there would be a new man in Malacañang whose ideas may not be congruent to hers.

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BEST SCENARIO: As Speaker, Ms Arroyo would again have to contend with a bullheaded Senate.

If even now the Senate has been a big obstruction to her administration, more so when she is no longer the President and is just an operator in the “lower” chamber.

Knowing or suspecting that she plans to switch to a parliamentary system to become Prime Minister, would the oppositionist senators allow her to have her way?

In sum, it appears that the best scenario for the country praying for a respite from divisive politics is for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to retire gracefully, and be content with occasionally putting in a word of advice only when sought.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 14, 2009)

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