OPINION: Gloria Arroyo is crudely and secretly ramming through a legal bid to stay in power forever

Raïssa Robles

Posted at Oct 08 2018 09:30 PM

Can it get more thick-faced and ham-fisted than this?

Thanks to the alertness of ABS-CBN reporter RG Cruz, we now know that House Speaker and former President Gloria Arroyo has authored a House Resolution to scrap the 1987 Constitution and replace it with her own version of a federal government.

She never ever announced this before. Nor can her resolution be found online. RG Cruz only found out about it AFTER the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments approved it WITHOUT AMENDMENTS.

One of its provisions? The removal of term limits for all lawmakers.


Arroyo’s draft specifically skips Vice-President Leni Robredo as the successor to the presidency in case anything should happen to President Rodrigo Duterte. Instead, according to a GMAnetwork report, the Senate President will become the “acting President”.

The proposed provision favors Arroyo. It states:

“In case a vacancy arises by reason of removal, resignation, permanent incapacity or death of the incumbent President, the incumbent Senate President shall act as President until a President shall have been chosen and qualified.”

The section states that the Senate President will only be in that post “until a President shall have been chosen”. This does not say that an election will be held. It merely says the next President will be chosen. Since there is no ban on former presidents being chosen, then Arroyo could well maneuver to be chosen.

The 1987 Constitution restricts congressmen to three successive terms of three years each. After which they have to sit out a term before they can run again for Congress. Senators are restricted to two successive terms of six years each.

Arroyo’s proposal would effectively allow her, and all lawmakers, whose terms expire next year, to run. She could also run again for the presidency.
That is a vulgar use of law-making powers. For Arroyo to legislate something that will benefit her directly.

The House Resolution was quickly endorsed – without PUBLIC HEARING, without DEBATE – to the House plenary for second reading. This means, it can be passed viva voce or by verbal voting without counting the votes. And likely passed on third reading by a simple majority vote.

This means, the House can quickly pass it and endorse it to the Senate for approval.

We don’t know if the Senate will be willing to cha-cha with her. The Senate President, Vicente Sotto, is her ex-running mate. They had a falling out but they patched up.

Arroyo’s proposal will reduce the present 24-member chamber to only 15. And senators will no longer run nationwide but regionally.

The country will be divided into five regions—Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, Bangsamoro and Metro Manila (conveniently forgetting that another region, the Cordilleras, was also granted autonomy).

I tried looking for Arroyo’s House Resolution on the Congress website and I could not find it. Neither did the Office of the Speaker or she ever announce to the public that she had filed it. Which makes me conclude that this is a sneak attack on the present 1987 Constitution that all congressmen had sworn to uphold when they took their oath of office.

Another objectionable provision requires a college degree for everyone who wants to run for Congress and for the post of President and Vice-President.

Why is that objectionable, you might ask? You might even point to Joseph Estrada as an example of a college dropout who won the presidency and flubbed it.

Because if you look at the profile of our congressmen and presidents, most of them have college degrees. And their having college degrees have not translated to a dramatic reduction in nationwide poverty.

In fact, most congressmen have selfishly legislated only for the interests of their families and political clans and allies. A college degree is not the only criterion. Requiring this would shut out the vast majority of Filipinos who don’t have degrees simply because they are poor. Or because they did not finish college.

The lack of degree is not the problem. Our problem is the lack of candidates who don’t run for office thinking only of themselves and what they can steal from public office.

That is the sad truth about our democracy.

As for Estrada, don’t blame the poor for voting him into office. Blame his political backers for putting him up as candidate. And that includes the late Senator Edgardo Angara who slid down to be Estrada’s vice-presidential running mate, and gave him a sheen of legitimacy akin to an honorary degree. Imagine, the former president of the country’s premier state university backing the presidential run of a college drop-out. That was what was running through my head while I was then covering Angara’s news conference announcing his slide to VP.

Which brings me back to why we should have term limits.

When we had no term limits—and that was before the 1972 Martial Law—the same names kept occupying seats in Congress. I have the proof. Ask me and I will post it online.

After the 1987 Constitution legislated term limits, it still didn’t work the way it was supposed to. Term limits were supposed to expand the bench of participation in governing by encouraging more and more people from all walks of life to run for office.

But what actually happened? Politicians found a sneaky way out of term limits. They did this by NOT LEGISLATING the necessary LAW BANNING POLITICAL DYNASTIES. To this day.

So, because we have term limits but no ban on political dynasties, politicians simply passed on their posts to family members. Political families dribbled the political power among themselves.

Sometimes, when I am interviewing a mayor or governor who heads a political clan and I would ask how many members are also in office, and I find out that the brothers and sisters and mother occupy most of the seats in the legislative council, the thought comes unbidden into my mind – why, they need not even hold meetings in city hall. They could do it all in their dining room and the decisions would be legal.

This abysmal situation, in turn, has affected the growth of political parties. Why would you join a political party if your father could guarantee you a seat in Congress or the mayor’s post? When your clan is one giant political party?

It’s clear that detention did not dull the cunning of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Just as she turned her administration into a lame duck government because of her alleged election cheating, now she still shows the same grasping desire to cement herself into office.

Yes, she did say she would take time out next year to write her memoir. But she also said on December 2002 that she would not run for president in 2004. She took back her word in October 2003.

If Arroyo and her allies really want political change – which I’m sure they don’t – they would place term limits. They would state that all incumbent lawmakers cannot run in the 2019 elections to ensure a fresh beginning. They would ban political dynasties, even up to the second degree of marriage, blood and civil partnerships (i.e. the kabit system).

Then I would believe Arroyo has changed.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.