MAY 15, 2009 (STAR) President Arroyo is not afraid of any lawsuit that may be lodged against her after she steps down from office next year, a Palace official said yesterday.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was reacting to declarations by possible presidential contenders during a public forum last Tuesday organized by ABS-CBN’s ANC channel that they would probe allegations against the Arroyos if elected and if evidence warrants.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, and Senators Mar Roxas, Francis Escudero, and Richard Gordon attended the forum.

Ermita said the statements of the possible presidential bets should not be taken negatively, adding that they were just emphasizing the rule of law.

He said Mrs. Arroyo is a “political figure and she knows that those go with the presidency, and not only the presidency but other elective officials such as those in the Senate, the Lower House and the local executives.”

“So I can imagine that the President is aware that those things (lawsuits) could very well happen and therefore the President is very confident that even if those things happen she knows where she stands,” Ermita said. – Paolo Romero

Lawmakers eye chief justice as acting president in Charter's succession rule Updated May 14, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – A bill filed in the House of Representatives is seeking to name the Chief Justice acting president if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) fails to proclaim the winning candidates for president, vice president, senators, and House members before their terms expire on June 30 next year.

Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, House committee on revision of laws chairman, said these officials can not stay in office in a holdover capacity upon the expiration of their tenure.

“There is no such thing as a holdover president or vice president under the Constitution,” he said.

The committee on revision of laws would recommend House approval of the bill authored by Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson before Congress adjourns on June 5.

Joson said he prefers Puno to be the nation’s acting or transition president in case of a failure of elections in May next year.

“He’s very qualified to lead our country,” he told reporters yesterday.

Aggabao said Joson’s bill has become “very important and very crucial and has acquired urgency” in view of the “real possibility of a failure of elections” next year.

“The difficulties that the Comelec is encountering in implementing the automation program and the peace and order problem in Mindanao might bring about a failure of elections,” he said. – Jess Diaz

Nograles sees constitutional convention by August By Delon Porcalla Updated May 14, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Prospero Nograles is hopeful that a constitutional convention – the only mode for amending the 1987 Constitution accepted by most – will start right after President Arroyo delivers her annual state-of-the-nation address in late July.

By August, Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives – will elect a group of congressmen who will be tasked to make the necessary revisions to the Charter.

“When all else fails, we’ll do Plan B, probably by the end of August,” the Speaker told newsmen at the weekly Ayes and Nays forum in Quezon City. “All those that I have talked to want the law changed. The problem is they don’t want term extension. But they like con-con.”

Nograles disclosed that he has been “trying to review the statements of senators” who have kept an open mind on the Con-con mode, even if this requires an estimated P8 billion.

“In con-con, you have to elect (delegates). There has to be offices, big session room. It’s like creating a new Congress. Even that con-con we have to clear that with the Senate also. We have to approve that also,” the Speaker said.

The reason the House leadership was initially pushing for con-ass is because it is faster and carries no logistical problems, unlike the con-con mode. Most lawmakers, on the other hand, especially those from the opposition, prefer con-con over con-ass.

“Many of our members feel that there is no more time for con-ass given the fact that the May 2010 elections are fast approaching, so they are proposing that we now shift to the con-con mode,” Nograles told reporters.

He said aside from time constraint, the Senate has not budged from its strong opposition to con-ass. However, Nograles said he would still push for House approval of his Resolution 737 even if he and his colleagues decide to junk con-ass and explore the con-con option.

“My resolution is now in plenary and I hope the House will approve it soon. After that, we will send it to the Senate for its consideration,” he said.

Resolution 737 seeks to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution to allow full foreign participation in the exploitation of natural resources as well as ownership of land.

Palawan Rep. Abraham Mitra is the principal author of a resolution calling for the convening of a con-con.

Under Mitra’s proposal, the election of con-con delegates – one for each legislative district – would be held simultaneously with the May 2010 polls to save on cost.

Political parties would be prohibited from participating in the election of con-con delegates since Constitution-making is a non-partisan job.

Chances dim

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said it’s a race against time for proponents of Cha-cha, whose prospect of being approved has become dimmer with an admission from House committee on constitutional amendments chair Rep. Victor Ortega that Mrs. Arroyo may run for prime minister under a new Constitution.

“There’s no question if we adopt a parliamentary system, if we can adopt a parliamentary system, she’s eminently qualified to be prime minister. At this time, my personal view is it depends how they will do it, I consider it very dim but I do not know about their strategy,” Enrile said.

“This is something you cannot rush. It has to be thoroughly debated by the nation, by the people, by all sectors of society because it will affect their lives. It will affect the future course of history of this country. Time is very limited. I find it rather dim. Personally, that is my perception,” Enrile said.

“Now the cat is out of the bag. Allies of (the President) have practically admitted that the reason they are pushing for a constitutional amendment is to allow the incumbent President – whose constitutional term is about to end – to run for prime minister,” Sen. Loren Legarda said.


But Malacañang squelched talk that Mrs. Arroyo is running for prime minister. “The President has not discussed her plans with us especially as far as Charter change is concerned,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

“These are all talk as of the moment, and of course, I can imagine that the one talking about the possibility (of the President running for prime minister) is only thinking along that line that while our President may not be up for re-election because it is prohibited by the Constitution, that is something that is open,” he said.

No Cha-cha, period

Former President Joseph Estrada said Congress should stop its effort to change the Charter either through con-con or con-ass before the elections because there is no more time for it.

“The people are against it. All the sectors of society are against Cha-cha,” Estrada told The STAR.

“Whether it is con-ass or con-con, they (Congress) have no more time for Charter change. The people will never ratify that and we can see that all the institutions are against it,” Estrada said.

Opposition leader and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay said Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy in 2010 either as a member of Congress or Parliament is an “open secret.”

“During my recent visit to Pampanga, everyone I talked to – from government officials to the tricycle driver – is preparing for Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy in 2010. They are not really sure if it’s for Congress or for parliament, but they are sure that she will run,” Binay said. – With Marvin Sy, Mike Frialde and Jose Rodel Clapano

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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