POLITICS: MANILA – Arroyo rules out term extension

Fresh from her overwhelming victory as the top leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga has quashed comments from her critics that she will be seeking term extensions in pursuing Charter change.

“Most definitely, I am not supporting term extension,” Arroyo told reporters in a chance interview in Pampanga where she gave aid to families affected by a recent spate of typhoons.

She was catapulted to the speakership on Monday just around four hours after then-speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte delivered his last speech as the top House leader and called for abolition of term limits for elected officials.

Under the 1987 Constitution, members of the House of Representatives and the rest of local officials are only allowed to occupy their posts for three consecutive three-year terms.

Senators and the vice president are allowed to be elected to two consecutive six-year terms, while the president is not eligible for reelection.

The Duterte administration, however, is pushing for a a federal government by establishing independent regions each with the authority to manage its resources and craft its laws, including taxation, but the proponents have yet to agree on how to divide the country’s existing 17 regions.

Under the federal set-up, each region or federal state will retain 80 to 85 percent of their locally generated income while the remaining 15 to 20 percent will be subsidized by the national government thru Internal Revenue Allotment.

Arroyo also ruled out a prime minister stint for her even if Charter change pushes through.

“Look, to begin with, the proposed new Constitution [by the Constitutional Committee]is presidential-federal. This (serving as prime minister) is just black propaganda,” she said.

Arroyo was referring to the panel appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to aid Congress in drafting a new Constitution that will install a federal form of government.

Full circle

Arroyo, daughter of former President Diosdado Macapagal, has been in politics since 1992.

An economist, she served as a senator for six years from 1992 to 1998 before being elected vice president.
Arroyo was installed as president in January 2001 after strong public clamor forced then-President Joseph Estrada to vacate his post.

She again ran for president in 2004 and won by a million votes against actor Fernando Poe Jr., but her mandate has been repeatedly questioned since she has admitted to calling a Commission on Elections official in Virgilio Garcillano during the canvassing of votes.

When her presidency expired June 2010, Arroyo was elected as representative of Pampanga.

She has been in detention for five of the six years of the Aquino presidency for plunder, graft and electoral sabotage charges, but she was cleared of these charges by the Supreme Court after Duterte came to power on June 30, 2016.

Rep. Jose Atienza of Buhay party-list earlier said Alvarez’s repeated calls for postponing the 2019 elections that effectively extends the terms of lawmakers have earned the ire of members of the so-called super majority bloc since it was not the sentiment of the lawmakers.

Atienza was one of the 184 lawmakers who voted for Arroyo to replace Alvarez on July 23.

Senators Panfilo Lacson, Antonio Trillanes 4th and Grace Poe and Makabayan bloc lawmakers earlier warned that the bid for term extension for elected officials being pushed by Alvarez is not yet dead considering that Arroyo is in favor of amending the 1987 Constitution.

Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis party-list said, “As far as Charter change is concerned, Arroyo is the tail to Duterte’s horns. They deserved each other as to form the perfect partnership for ramming their Charter change down our throats.”

“That is why I urge the people to be more vigilant and active in opposing Charter change. With Arroyo’s successful grab of the House leadership, Duterte has found an able partner in driving his Charter change forward,” Casilao added.

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