MANILA, September 8, 2003  (MALAYA)  REMEMBER the palpable collective sigh of relief last Dec. 30 when Gloria Arroyo announced she would not be running in the May elections? At last, people thought, a president who could focus on the job at hand. The result was a perceptible drop in the political temperature. Now, Arroyo appears bent on turning her back on her announcement, and no wonder the political fever is back to torrid levels.

As we have never tired of repeating, we could hardly care if Arroyo proves false to her word. Her government is incompetent. It is corrupt. We are sure she would lose the elections by an embarrassing margin.

But repeated calls on her to renew her Dec. 30 vow make sense. Palace officials say there's no need for a reiteration as Arroyo does not want to be distracted from the pressing need to address the country's problems. The problem is the guessing game of whether she will run or not is distracting everybody else - her allies, her enemies and the indifferent - from going on with their lives.

For what does an Arroyo run presage for our country? A continuation of the most divisive, the most vicious kind of politics. She remains the prime symbol of overweening ambition, of a lust for power that would trample everything - the Constitution, the sovereign voice of the electorate - that stands on its way.

This is the reason the people are deathly scared of an Arroyo candidacy. The Jose Pidal accounts are not about the greed for money of Jose Miguel Arroyo. The Arroyos have more than enough to ensure a comfortable life for the children of their children. The funds stashed in those dummy accounts are meant to buy the elections.

That incompetent but loyal people have been installed in the bureaucracy, government-owned corporations, the police and the military is not only meant to reward the plotters of Edsa 2. More important, they are there to form the backbone for a machinery to steal the elections through cheating and terrorism.

If Arroyo runs, she will employ all means fair and foul - mostly foul - to win the elections.

When that happens we can kiss the country goodbye. The economy will implode. The secessionists will succeed in dismembering the Republic. Either the communist rebels will seize power or the military adventurists will steal a march on them.

Six more years of Gloria? It will more likely be six more months before the country goes up in flames.

STAR EDITORIAL: Another circus in the offing Philippine Star 09/08/2003

This circus was bound to happen. Last week the Senate announced it would reopen its inquiry into allegations that former justice secretary Hernando Perez had accepted a $2-million bribe less than a month after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was installed in power.

Rumors about the purported payoff have been swirling since the early months of the Arroyo administration. Accusations were hurled in public by the administration’s nemesis, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Perez laughed off the rumors but the talk persisted. Last year the rumors finally gained some substance when Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez, fighting extradition to the United States, claimed he gave Perez the money. Bank accounts were mentioned and the names of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo as well as businessman Ernest Escaler and relatives of Perez were dragged into the mess.

Amid denials all around, President Arroyo finally let go of Perez, one of her closest political and legal advisers. Malacañang apparently hoped that with the resignation of Perez, the furor would finally die down and the controversy would go away. A purported investigation of Perez by the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission never got off the ground. The Department of Justice did not move a muscle to investigate anything, but this is understandable, since this DOJ will always be hamstrung by perceptions that it cannot be neutral in investigating its former chief.

Well, the controversy refused to go away. In fact the furor is gaining momentum amid reports that Swiss authorities are investigating Perez, his wife, another relative and Escaler for possible laundering of $1.7 million in Swiss banks. Swiss authorities reportedly notified the Department of Fo-reign Affairs about the probe as early as April this year, but we all learned about it only when press reports came in from Switzerland last week.

With the executive branch clearly reluctant to pursue the case, the Se-nate has helpfully stepped in. Never mind if almost all the major investigations in the chamber have been in aid of re-election rather than legislation. Senators will gladly grab any opportunity for live TV coverage of yet another corruption scandal in this embattled administration. TV viewers wait with bated breath. Malacañang asked for this one.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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