MANILA, January 6, 2003 (STAR) By Sandy Araneta and Charlie Lagasca  - The one-term limit on the presidency is very clear to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Former President Fidel Ramos cannot run for president again, the Comelec said yesterday.

"The Philippine Constitution is very clear. A person can run for one term only if he was elected (earlier as President)," Comelec Commissioner Resurreccion Borra said in a phone interview with reporters yesterday.

"Whether there is a gap of one or two (or more) terms, it would not be possible," Borra added.

According to Borra, if a former president who was elected previously would choose to run for the presidency again, "it would be a violation of the Philippine Constitution."

The 1987 Constitution provides that "the president shall not be eligible for any re-election."

Borra also said that if Ramos files a certificate of candidacy at the Comelec, the poll body will assess the qualifications of Ramos, but will definitely disqualify him on the grounds that "he was elected president before."

Industrialist Jose Concepcion, meanwhile said neither Ramos nor ousted and jailed former President Joseph Estrada are eligible for re-election.

A delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention, Concepcion said in an interview that the 1987 Constitution drafted during the administration of former President Corazon Aquino and duly ratified by the people in a plebiscite states in Section 4, Article 7 that: "The president shall not be eligible for any re-election. No person who has succeeded as president and served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time."

Concepcion said the focus until the 2004 elections should be addressing the basic economic and social concerns of the country – particularly poverty, unemployment and governance.

"In order to achieve this, the entire Filipino people, whether administration or opposition; whether executive, legislative or judiciary; whether businessman or the man in the street, should all move in one direction and, instead of politicking, take positive action toward contributing to our country," Concepcion said.

In another telephone interview, Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. cautioned the public against immediately judging and commenting on the issue of presidential term limits.

"We cannot judge. It’s too early and there is no election yet," Abalos said. According to the Comelec chairman, it would be premature to make comments regarding supposed plans of Ramos’ supporters to persuade the former president to run for another presidential term in 2004.

President Arroyo declared she would not run for president in 2004, though, technically she has the option to do so, since she was elevated from her post as vice president to the presidency by the Edsa II ouster of Estrada in January, 2001 and not elected president.

Meanwhile, it was learned in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya that there is a "big possibility" that the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) will field its titular head, former Ambassador Eduardo "Danding" Cojuanco, as its standard-bearer in 2004.

This statement was made by Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Rodolfo Agbayani, one of the few provincial governors affiliated with the NPC. "(Cojuangco) might pull surprises." Among Agbayani’s partymates are Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy and Cagayan Gov. Edgar Lara.

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