Manila, June 15, 2003 By Paolo Romero (Star) Even presidents can change their minds.

A leader of the House of Representatives said yesterday there is nothing wrong if President Arroyo changes her mind and decides to seek a full six-year term in May next year.

"It’s (decision not to run for president) not really sacred and carved in stone when the national interest and the welfare of the people is already at stake," said Deputy Speaker Raul Gonzalez of Iloilo.

Gonzalez said it is not the first time a Philippine president changed his or her mind about not running, adding that Mrs. Arroyo would actually be committing "an unpatriotic and selfish act" if she continues to ignore calls for her to run.

Gonzalez cited the case of the late President Carlos P. Garcia who changed his mind in not seeking a full term.

Garcia, who succeeded to the presidency when President Ramon Magsaysay died in a plane crash in 1957, initially did not want to run for president but he decided to give it a try in the 1958 presidential elections and eventually won.

"I’m entitled to loaf around the world" was his famous quote after winning the presidency that year.

When Garcia decided to seek re-election in 1961, he lost to Mrs. Arroyo’s father, the late Diosdado Macapagal, who was then vice president.

Gonzalez said the most recent and famous turnaround in Philippine politics was in 1986 when former President Corazon Aquino, widow of slain former senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., declared she would not run against the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

But she eventually changed her mind upon the prodding of local groups and the international community, Gonzalez said.

Former Vice President Salvador "Doy" Laurel, who had earlier been nominated by the opposition United Democratic Opposition as its standard bearer, had to give way to Mrs. Aquino in a bid to unify the opposition.

Mrs Aquino was also not easy to convince and elderly opposition figure Joaquin "Chino" Roces even had to go around the country pushing a shopping cart trying to gather one million signatures to persuade Mrs. Aquino to run.

Mrs. Aquino’s winning the snap elections led to the downfall of Marcos and his ouster by a popular revolt in 1986.

As Mrs. Aquino’s term drew to a close in 1992, there was a bitter contest between then Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos and then Speaker Ramon Mitra on who should be the standard bearer of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP).

When Mitra was endorsed by the LDP as its presidential candidate, Ramos declared he was no longer interested in the presidency.

Ramos, however, changed his mind and formed his own political party, called Lakas Tao, and was "anointed" by Mrs. Aquino as her favored candidate.

Lakas-Tao is now known as Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), the ruling and biggest political party in the country which is now headed by Mrs. Arroyo.

Gonzalez noted that if Mrs. Arroyo reconsiders her Dec. 30, 2002 decision not to run, the issue would be used by her detractors.

He said nobody is questioning her sincerity and the issue of changing her mind is "too petty" compared to the country’s national interest.

"They (opposition) will make that an issue, but that’s no problem," Gonzalez said. "The circumstances under which she made her decision (is) so much different now."

Gonzalez said the peace and order and economic situation at that time Mrs. Arroyo made the statement not to run for the next year’s polls was aggravated by too much politicking by her enemies, who tainted her every move with political agenda.

The House leader admitted Mrs. Arroyo could only make unpopular but necessary decisions.

Gonzalez disclosed this is the first time that even the international community expressed concern over the country’s political succession by urging Mrs. Arroyo to seek a full term.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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