Lakas to field GMA as bet for Speaker
By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) Updated February 15, 2010
MANILA, Philippines – The cat is finally out of the bag.
The ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD will field President Arroyo as its candidate for Speaker of the House of Representatives, party leaders said yesterday.
Speaking for the administration party, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said there is a big chance that Mrs. Arroyo, who is running for representative of Pampanga’s second district, would be the next Speaker.
“There are more than 100 Lakas-Kampi congressmen who are seeking reelection in their districts. Additionally, there are several Cabinet members who are seeking House seats. An overwhelming majority of these candidates will win on May 10,” Albano said.
He said there are also administration supporters who are seeking congressional seats as party-list representatives.
“There is no doubt that President Arroyo and the party she heads will be a force to reckon with in the next Congress,” he stressed.
For his part, Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino said Lakas-Kampi and its allies would still be the biggest political group in the incoming Congress.
“PGMA (Mrs. Arroyo) will win as Speaker hands down. She continues to wield power and influence. So if her detractors think they’d seen the last of her, they are mistaken. She’ll be around longer than they think,” Aquino said.
There are speculations that Mrs. Arroyo, despite having attained the pinnacle of public office, has decided to seek a congressional seat so she could be elected Speaker and then prime minister, if she and her allies succeed in shifting the country to a parliamentary system.
Even if the envisioned shift to the parliamentary system fails, as Speaker or even an ordinary House member, Mrs. Arroyo and her allies could hold the next administration hostage with threats of impeachment.
They could delay or block the expected filing of criminal charges against her after she steps down as president, or her arrest if charges are filed in court.
In a recent television interview, Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said he would not allow Mrs. Arroyo to become Speaker if he wins the presidency.
Aquino said even if there are only a few LP members who are seeking congressional seats and who may win, he and other party leaders would make sure that the Speaker would be an Aquino administration ally.
“We will move fast to gain a majority in the House. Having been congressman for nine years before becoming senator, I know the political dynamics (in that chamber),” he said.
Aquino did not go into specifics, but he was obviously referring to the possibility that a House run by Mrs. Arroyo and dominated by her allies could derail his legislative agenda.
Worse, the President and her supporters could impeach him.
Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar, for his part, downplayed the possibility that Mrs. Arroyo could end up Speaker in threatening his administration should he become the next president.
“If I become President, let me assure you that I can handle the presidency and I will not be threatened by that (Mrs. Arroyo getting the speakership). I am not going to be threatened by anyone,” Villar said.
If Mrs. Arroyo poses no threat to him, Villar said the same goes with Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile if he gets reelected and retains his position as Senate President.
“Same answer will be given. I am not worried about that,” he said.
Amid speculations that Villar has struck a deal with the Arroyo administration, the Nacionalista Party presidential bet said the President does not even have the assurance that she can dictate matters in the House.
“Normally, the Speaker is elected by all members of the House of Representatives,” said Villar, who also served as Speaker during the botched administration of former President Joseph Estrada.
Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, a staunch ally of Mrs. Arroyo, said Aquino, if he wins the presidency, could block a possible quest by the President for the position of Speaker and No. 4 official of the land.
Suarez recalled that when Fidel Ramos was elected president in 1992, most of the congressmen who won were members of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) who were not allies.
“They were loyalists of the late Speaker (Ramon) Mitra. You will remember that President Ramos bolted the LDP and formed Lakas Tao and later won the presidency with the support of the late President Cory Aquino,” he said.
But Ramos and his allies moved fast to control the House and installed Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia as Speaker, Suarez said.
“The same thing happened when Erap (Joseph Estrada) was elected president in 1998. Lakas members led by Manny Villar defected to Erap’s camp and Villar became Speaker,” he said.
Less than three years later, it was Villar, as Speaker, who railroaded the transmittal of the impeachment complaint against Estrada to the Senate. Three months later, Estrada was forced from the presidency.
Asked what makes congressmen defect to the camp of the winning presidential candidates, Suarez said, “It is the President who dispenses pork barrel funds.” – With Christina Mendez