MANILA, JUNE 13, 2009
(MALAYA) BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR - FILIPINOS are becoming more skeptical when it comes to President Arroyo’s stepping down after her term in June 2010.

According to the first quarter survey of the Social Weather Stations, 43 percent disagreed, while only 31 percent agreed to the statement that "President Arroyo sincerely intends to step down in 2010."

Twenty-six percent were undecided in the survey conducted February 20-23.

In the previous SWS survey (September 29-October 4), there were 39 percent who disagreed and 33 percent who agreed, with 27 percent undecided.

Disagreement about the President’s sincerity rose by 11 points in Mindanao, from 30 percent in October 2008 to 41 percent in February 2009, and by 5 points in the Visayas, from 32 percent to 37 percent.

It barely changed in other areas: From 52 percent to 51 percent in Metro Manila, and from 43 percent to 44 percent in Balance Luzon.

It eased by 13 points in class ABC, from 53 percent to 40 percent, while it rose by 5 points in class D or the masa, from 38 percent to 43 percent, and by 3 points in class E, from 38 percent to 41 percent.

Of the 43 percent who disagreed, majority live in Metro Manila (51 percent) followed by those in the rest of Luzon (44 percent) and Mindanao (41 percent), and the Visayas (37 percent).

Of those who agreed, 35 percent are from the Visayas – which gave her substantial number of votes in the 2004 elections, followed by those in Mindanao (32 percent), Luzon (31 percent) and Metro Manila (26 percent).

Those who disagreed were mostly from the class D (43 percent) followed by those in the class E (41 percent) and ABC (40 percent), while those who agreed were from the class E (33 percent), class D (31 percent) and class ABC (28 percent).

Suspicions about Arroyo not intending to step down after her term are being boosted by her allies’ insistence on amending the Constitution, a move seen to be leading to the lifting of term limits of incumbent officials.

Last week, her allies at the House rammed passage of House Resolution 1109 which seeks to convene Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution. The congressmen left out the senators who are mostly against Charter change (Cha-cha) at this time.

An anti-Cha-Cha rally held in Makati City Wednesday gathered up to 15,000 participants from a cross section of society, whose streamers said "No to Cha-Cha, No to Gloria Forever."

Rep. Matias Defensor (Lakas-Kampi CMD, Quezon City) said it would be best for Arroyo to just retire from politics when her term ends in 2010 because there is clearly no clamor for her to continue holding public office.

"Nakapagsilbi na naman siya sa bayan, nine years na siya, walang public clamor for her to stay in office, siguro mabuting magpahinga na siya," he told a news forum in Quezon City.

Defensor, father of former presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor, chairs the House committee on justice which dismissed the impeachment complaint against Arroyo.


Senators said the statement of former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who is now chief presidential legal counsel, that Arroyo could run in the parliament if Cha-cha pushes through, was an admission that Malacañang was behind the House move to convene Senate-less constituent assembly (con-ass).

"The old goat is now singing ala JDV (Joe de Venecia). Siguro nasaktan na binaba ang kanyang kapangyarihan mula DOJ chief to a sinecure advisorial post," said Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Gonzalez said in a TV interview that Arroyo might run for a parliamentary seat in Pampanga, her home province.

He said he was the one who pushed Arroyo to run again in 2004 despite her earlier announcement that she would no longer seek the presidency.


On Wednesday, Gonzalez said the Constitution does not bar from seeking another elective post. What the Constitution prohibits, he said, is Arroyo’s seeking reelection.

He also said Arroyo’s becoming prime minister would not be a long shot. "If we shift to the parliamentary system, anything is possible," he said.

"Umamin na din!" said opposition Sen. Francis Escudero.

"This proves that the opposition was right in saying that Cha-cha is only meant to save GMA and not the country. To protect her and not the people," Escudero said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Gonzalez just confirmed it was President Arroyo who is behind Con-Ass.

"Purong personal at hindi paglilingkod sa bayan ang motibo ni GMA para manatili sa puesto," Lacson said.


Former Senate President Franklin Drilon warned of a public outrage if Malacañang insists on convening a constituent assembly.

"You will have people in the streets massing in expressing their opposition to this immoral and illegal move to amend our Constitution," he said.

Drilon and senators warned the government against belittling the protest actions being planned by several groups.

Drilon was the guest speaker during an impromptu anti-Con-Ass rally organized by the Senate Employees Union (Senado) to denounce HR 1109.


Drilon said the Arroyo administration has been declaring there will be elections in 2010 but never said whether that this will be presidential or parliamentary elections.

"And this is part of their deception. Because a parliamentary election is an election. But a parliamentary election would allow President Arroyo to run as a member of the parliament and become a prime minister," Drilon said.

The camp of former President Joseph Estrada said the statement of Speaker Prospero Nograles that the House would still consider convening con-ass despite Wednesday’s protest "is the height of insensitivity to the cries of the Filipino people."

"If the administration and administration congressmen still do not heed the call of the people to stop their moves for charter change despite the clamor to stop con-ass, then democracy in this country has no hope," he said.


Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Arroyo need not to look far back in history to see what would happen to those who are "salivating" to hold on to power.

"Someone is salivating for endless possession of power and command as if such were possible. There was once a pair who conjugally ruled and reigned over the Philippines for some 20 long years. Yet, this too, ended – remember?" Cruz said.

He said the Charter change efforts prove that she is hell bent on staying beyond her term.

He told the administration that almost, if not all, sectors in the country are already expressing their objection to HR 1109 as shown in the Makati rally.


Gabriel Claudio, presidential adviser on political affairs, said Gonzalez was merely answering a hypothetical question when he said it is possible for Arroyo to run for Congress.

He said Gonzalez never said the President would definitely run.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde branded as "political intrigues" and "speculations" reports on Arroyo seeking a lower elective post, or even declare martial law so she would not step down.

Claudio and Anthony Golez, deputy presidential spokesman, said Arroyo never considered declaring martial law even during attempts to oust her.

Claudio said former defense secretary Avelino Cruz Jr,., who was among those who said Arroyo may declare martial law, has no authority to make any judgments about what is on the mind of the President or the administration.


Claudio said with the Makati rally serving its purpose of providing a venue for Cha-Cha critics’ grievances, it is now time to hear the side of the Cha-Cha supporters.

Nograles said he would meet with congressmen and with several senators to determine their next move, noting that convening Con-Ass remains an option.

"It will depend on the collective decision after the consultation," he said.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga (Lakas-Kampi CMD, Cavite) said "members of the House who signed the resolution have not done anything illegal or unconstitutional."

"As matter of fact Fr. Bernas has categorically stated that the members of the House who supported Resolution 1109 have not committed yet any unconstitutional act," he said.

Barzaga said critics are "exploiting" the Con-Ass resolution on the false premise that it is intended to prolong Arroyo’s term of office.

Rep. Rodolfo Antonino (Lakas-Kampi CMD) said Con-Ass may be stopped if various sectors sign a resolution asking the Supreme Court to immediately settle questions on how Congress can undertake changes to the 1987 Constitution.

Antonino, a sponsor of HR 1109, said a simple multi-sectoral manifestation may be turned into a formal petition like the one filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano. – With Wendell Vigilia, JP Lopez and Gerard Naval

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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