POSTSCRIPT / November 10, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Empty Palace threats won’t stop beheadings

CLARK FIELD: The government should stop that crap of threatening to hunt down Abu Sayyaf kidnappers who beheaded a schoolteacher in Sulu after his family failed to raise the P1-million ransom demanded for his release.

“We shall make them pay for the enormity of this savagery!” said Lorelei Fajardo, one of several presidential spokesmen who take turns talking on any subject thrown their way. She did not say how the government would make the kidnappers pay.

Empty threats made from the safety and comfort of Malacanang will not solve the problem of terrorism, including bombings and beheadings, in Sulu and Basilan.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus expressed shock at the beheading of Gabriel Canizares, 36. He noted that six other teachers kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf earlier this year had been released despite threats to decapitate them.

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HOMERUN: I have been saying all along that President Gloria Arroyo will not run for the congressional seat of Pampanga’s second district that includes her hometown of Lubao.

But now, if the buzz here has any basis in fact, I may have to eat my words soon. Ask the cabalen here and nine out of 10 will say Pampanga’s favorite daughter is likely to run for a congressional seat – and handily trounce whoever runs against her.

Who would not love getting presidential attention? Many Capampangans still find pleasantly unusual Ms Arroyo’s visiting her home district 44 times since February, or an average of once a week.

For many of them, that is indication enough that the President is planning to run for a congressional seat in May 2010. And most of them like the idea.

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RATIONALE: Many politicians, including Sen. Joker Arroyo (no relation), say that the President’s sliding to being a mere member of the bigger chamber of the Congress to represent a hometown district is a “demotion” of sorts.

If it is, and I agree it is, why would she do it after decades in public service capped by more than nine years as President?

I can see at least two reasons:

1. Being a leading congresswoman positions her for becoming Speaker of the House and, if and when there is a shift to a parliamentary setup, for being transformed into Prime Minister (or whatever they call the head of government).

2. Holding a powerful office, as Speaker and possibly later as Prime Minister, will afford her a degree of protection from her political foes bent on hounding her and her family when she no longer enjoys presidential immunity from suits.

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POWER KEY: For reason No. 1 above, GMA must win convincingly in her district (which is no problem) — and be able to retain her grip on a majority of congressmen who have cashed in on her patronage as President.

But keeping the faith is quite chancy. Politicians, especially of the transactional type, are known to shift loyalties faster than sea breezes change direction.

When GMA leaves Malacanang in June 2010, she is to leave behind the cashbox. Without that magnet, the leeches would drop off. An obvious solution would be for her to, maybe, grab the cash and leave behind the box. Ha, ha!

Actually the power key is in clinching the Speakership in the first scuffle as the new Congress organizes itself.

Once a leading representative (GMA, for instance) takes the top post — and the largesse that goes with the office — it should be easy to stay on with the help of the congressional billions at the fingertips of the Speaker.

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EXCITING CHACHA: If we assume that GMA is aiming for the Speakership and later the Prime Ministership, we have to assume further that Charter Change is still alive in the hearts of her Chacha dancers.

This ulterior motive, if indeed it is a motive, will be considered when voters weigh her running for congresswoman and when the new members of the House elect their Speaker.

A bigger and more attractive picture emerges as lobbyists for economic amendments to the 1987 Constitution rush to influence the sitting Speaker and enough members of the two chambers of the Congress.

The excitement of amending or revising the Constitution will be enough to keep even former presidents running.

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MUSICAL CHAIRS: Will President Arroyo’s running for the congressional seat held by her eldest son Juan Miguel (“Mikey”) trigger a round of musical chairs?

When Mom runs, what would her congressman-son do? Clark official Max Sangil, himself a veteran politician, said he had asked Mikey and the latter told him daw he would just be around for their Monday Club meetings.

(Monday Club, of which Mikey is one of the founders, is an informal caucus in Angeles of prominent Capampangans. They gather every Monday to discuss everything under the sun.)

The congressman has not shown interest running for governor, a post held by priest Eddie Panlilio and which will be contested by Sen. Lito Lapid (who was governor for three straight terms until 2004).

Panlilio’s election in 2007 is being contested by former provincial board member Lilia Pineda, who is now winning in the rush recount of the votes.

But the protest cannot be resolved before the Dec. 1 deadline for the filing of candidacy. This leaves Pineda in a dilemma. If she files her candidacy, she could be deemed to have abandoned her protest.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 10, 2009)

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