POSTSCRIPT / June 21, 2009 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Name of GMA game is post-2010 survival

COMING CLEAN: Former President Fidel V. Ramos is right, assuming he was quoted correctly, that President Gloria Arroyo must come clean and immediately tell the nation her political agenda, at least for the rest of her term.

Contrary to her apologists’ line, the decision on whether or not to run for a congressional seat or to try being Prime Minister in a parliamentary setup is not a private matter but one of urgent public concern.

The President’s continued refusal to level with the people and tell them how she intends to govern in these unsettled times is disturbing the peace, dividing the nation and damaging the economy.

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HEIR APPARENT: That President Arroyo refuses to lay down her cards on the table means that she has not decided, or cannot decide yet, who her successor would be.

Theoretically, the people decide who would be their president. But the reality is that the sitting president, especially one as aggressive as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, still has a big say.

She has to find somebody who (1) has a good chance of getting elected president in 2010 and at the same time (2) can be trusted to protect her family when they leave Malacañang.

The successor issue is crucial to her family’s post-2010 survival. She is handling it with excessive care and cunning.

While the question of her heir apparent hangs, she has to simulate forward-looking activity to delay the impression setting in that a lame duck is quacking in the Palace pond.

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IMPORT ITEMS: The debate on Charter change, the likelihood of her running for a congressional seat or plotting to become Prime Minister is useful. By speaking up, the key players/talkers are thus identified and their partisan color graded.

If President Arroyo cannot pick either Vice President Noli de Castro (whose loyalty is in doubt) or Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (who is more reliable but is not rating high), she may have to shop for outside materials.

The door is still open for importing a so-called oppositionists or alleged independent “presidentiable.”

In Philippine politics where partisan labels are temporary tags and loyalties shift as fast as the wind, anything is possible.

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NOT RESIGNING: Why this declaration of Commissioner Rene Sarmiento of the Commission on Elections that President Arroyo should resign if she runs for a congressional seat or face disqualification if she proceeds?

As election lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal has pointed out, under the law an elected official is not deemed resigned or required to resign if he runs for another or a different office.

This applies not only to the president, but to all elective officials.

Some senators had run for president (one for Makati mayor) for the fund of it, and simply ambled back to the Senate — after making a deposit in the bank — when they lost their election bid as expected.

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CODE AMENDED: It used to be that under Section 67 of the Omnibus Election Code, an elected official is automatically deemed resigned once he files a Certificate of Candidacy for a position different from the one he is holding.

Macalintal points out, however, that this section has been repealed by Section 14 of RA 9006.

“Therefore, if President Arroyo runs for Congress in 2010, she is not deemed resigned,” he adds. “She continues to serve her term until noon of June 30, 2010, as provided under the Constitution.”

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PREMATURE TALK: Comelec commissioners should not make premature or speculative comments on matters that may just be brought before them for a ruling — unless they are laying the basis for inhibiting themselves later.

In another sphere, can you imagine justices of the Supreme Court commenting on cases pending in the lower courts or on high-profile incidents likely to give rise to the filing of charges that may reach the High Court?

This was the same problem with then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez who was endlessly commenting on cases being investigated by state prosecutors whose recommendations could be raised to his office on appeal.

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PARTY BIAS?: MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando, who is seeking the presidency, has reason to ask why only De Castro and Teodoro are prominently being mentioned for nomination for president by the administration coalition.

While Fernando is a true-blue member of the party, the vice president and the defense secretary are not. Yet they seem to get special attention from those running party affairs.

One problem of Fernando is that he ranks low in the surveys.

Although he has done a great job cleaning and beautifying Metro Manila despite the uncooperative attitude of some mayors in the metropolis, he still has to project himself nationally.

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DILEMMA: Another problem of Fernando is that he earns the ire of sectors, such as sidewalk vendors and squatters protected by syndicates, in his clearing and cleaning operations.

But as one who would rather be right than popular, Fernando just continues to do his job.

Come to think of it, who use the sidewalks? The rich? Hardly. They walk to exercise but not necessarily on sidewalks. Many of them would rather do that on treadmills at home or in fitness salons.

Most of the people walking on sidewalks are the poor and the carless members of the middle class. In a way, Fernando has claimed the sidewalks for them.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 21, 2009)

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