POSTSCRIPT / November 29, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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The die is cast: GMA running in Pampanga

CLARK FIELD – Barring any last-minute change of mind, President Gloria Arroyo is going to run for the congressional seat of the second district of Pampanga now held by her son Juan Miguel (Mikey).

The plan is for her to file tomorrow her certificate of candidacy with the Commission on Elections after the 8 a.m. mass at nearby San Agustin church. A throng that will include Pampanga officials and members of civil society groups will accompany her.

The past several days, mayors and local leaders have been pleading with Ms Arroyo to run for representative of her district so she could continue, they said, serving her cabalen even when she is no longer in Malacañang.

Her son Mikey is reportedly planning to run for his own seat in the House of Representatives as a nominee of a party-list group.

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UNOPPOSED: As of last April, the second district had 246,721 registered voters, distributed among the towns of Floridablanca, 44,517 in 33 barangays; Guagua, 54,141 in 31 barangays; Lubao, 67,482 in 44 barangays; Porac, 43,815 in 29 barangays; Sta. Rita, 18,949 in 10 barangays; Sasmuan, 17,817 in 12 barangays.

The only Capampangan who has gone on record as an intending challenger of Ms Arroyo is Prof. Randy David of the University of the Philippines.

Being a mere shadow compared to the overwhelming presence of President Arroyo in the second district, he does not stand a chance.

Sensing sure defeat, David has put up an impossible condition for his congressional run. He wants Ms Arroyo to quit the presidency so, he said, she would not enjoy any undue advantage. She is not that naïve to walk into the trap.

With David backing out, the likelihood of her running unopposed is real.

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WHY NOT GOV?: If all the Arroyo candidates win, the dynasty would have four voting members in the incoming Congress: the matriarch Gloria, sons Mikey and Diosdado (Dato) of Camarines Sur, and in-law Ignacio (Iggy) Arroyo of Negros Occidental.

The line of her chorus is that President Arroyo should stay in government to be able to continue helping her home province. If that is the idea, why is she running to represent only the second of the four congressional districts?

Why does she not run for governor — a candidacy she can win handily anyway — so she can look after the entire province and not just a quarter of its estimated 2 million population?

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CHOSEN ROUTE: My guess is that although she has her home province at heart, GMA’s mind is focused on the national stage.

Another reason for her aiming for a powerful office is to gain protection from prosecution and harassment when no longer president and stripped of immunity.

The exiting President’s political comeback via the legislature can only mean, to many of us kibitzers, that Charter Change (ChaCha) is still very much alive despite its falling into a coma in the intensive care unit of the Congress.

To my simple mind, her chosen route appears like this: (1) She wins a congressional seat in May 2010, (2) joins the House and becomes Speaker, (3) uses the chamber to press the amendment or revision of the Constitution to transform the legislature into a Parliament, (4) then becomes Prime Minister or President, whichever post will be given head-of-government powers in a parliamentary setup.

Her vying for a congressional seat based in Lubao is a walk in the park. But carrying out the rest of the scheme as speculated on above will be a rough road. She will be taking a big gamble.

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FRAGILE FIDELITY: The first big challenge is capturing the Speakership.

While majority of congressmen are now beholden to the President, she being the mother of perpetual help and fount of Palace patronage, the picture might radically change for many of her suki in Congress after she is reduced to their level as congressman.

This early, the mass defection from her Lakas-Kampi-CMD coalition should be an indication of how fragile is the fidelity of politicians whose constancy is only as good as the last envelope or budgetary release.

Actually, clinching the Speakership is the only hard part. Once she (or anybody) wins the top post, the rest can be easy for an adroit player. Whoever emerges Speaker gains access to billions that can be ladled out to cement brittle loyalties.

These congressional billions in the hands of an expert manipulator can help assure control of the crocodile farm. This control, continually firmed up by patronage, can help push changes in the Constitution.

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RETURN BOUT: With Sen. Lito Lapid having been convinced not to run for governor, we are likely to witness a return bout between incumbent Gov. Ed Panlilio and former board member Lilia Pineda, whom he beat in 2007 as an independent.

Although he has been abandoned by many of his staunch 2007 supporters, this time around Panlilio will have the machinery of the Liberal Party operating for him in the province’s 20 towns and the capital city of San Fernando.

Pineda — wife of Bong Pineda of jueteng fame — has a pending protest against Panlilio’s trouncing her with just 1,147 votes. She is ahead of Panlilio in the recount being conducted by the Comelec.

What is Pineda’s party? Of course she will run under the banner of the administration coalition of her kumareng Gloria.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 29, 2009)

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