'PGMA unable to fulfill duties by running'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2009 11:59 AM | Updated as of Dec 01 2009 07:59 PM

MANILA - A lawyer on Tuesday said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be violating her oath of office by choosing to run for a local post while sitting as chief executive.

Amado Valdez, dean of the University of the East College of Law, told ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG) that Mrs. Arroyo will not be able to fulfill her duties as president of the Philippines by running for Congress without quitting her post.

"She will be violating her oath of office that 'she will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill her duties as president'," he said.

As an example, Valdez raised the possibility of public officials from Pampanga's 2nd district being accused of violating election laws. As president, Mrs. Arroyo would have to take administrative actions against them, such as suspending them or removing them from their posts.

However, since she is still the sitting president, she will not be able to fulfill faithfully and conscientiously fulfill her duties as chief executive considering that she is also running for representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga.

"There would be conflict of interest," Valdez added.

He urged President Arroyo to take a leave of absence and let Vice-President Noli de Castro assume the presidency until a new president is proclaimed next year.

But Valdez said one possible reason why Arroyo does not want to resign is because she will lose her immunity from suit.

"One of the effects of her filing of candidacy [for representative of Pampanga's 2nd district], she goes to the level of an ordinary candidate and her immunity from suit will be gone," Valdez said. 

Opposition leaders have threatened to file graft and corruption cases against the president after she steps down in 2010.

Valdez said Vice-President Noli de Castro can take over the presidency until a new president is proclaimed after the May 2010 elections.

Valdez also advised Mrs. Arroyo's critics to immediately question her candidacy either before the Supreme Court or the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Not ready to leave

Mrs. Arroyo filed her certificate of candidacy (CoC) at the Comelec office in San Fernando City in Pampanga Tuesday morning.

The President announced on Monday that she was not yet ready to leave public service and that she has decided to run for Congress. She would be the second Philippine president to seek a local elective post after serving as president.

The first was Jose P. Laurel who served as president from 1943 to 1945 during the Japanese Occupation. After the war, he became a senator.

Mrs. Arroyo made the announcement after "visits" from her would-be constituents from Pampanga's 2nd District. The province's local leaders, including mayors, earlier passed a manifesto urging her to run for congresswoman.

"While I am very much looking forward to stepping down as president at the end of my term, I am mulling different ways to stay involved. Tiningnan ko ang pagbalik sa pagturo; I also studied working with nonprofit organizations on issues ranging from the environment to women's issues. After much contemplation I realized I am not ready to step down completely from public service," she said in a speech on Monday.

Casiño: GMA a megalomaniac

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said in a text message that President Arroyo is a "megalomaniac." He said the President is "a person who is obsessed with their own power; a person who has delusions about his own power and importance."

Sen. Francis Pangilinan of the Liberal Party, meanwhile, said he believes Mrs. Arroyo's decision was a form of political survival.

"I am not surprised. She is still motivated by political survival at all costs," Pangilinan said.

He said a President running for a local post would be demeaning.

"But to PGMA, nothing is demeaning when it comes to political survival," he said.