Estrada won’t buy First Gentleman’s plea, cites Arroyo’s broken vows
By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo going quietly and giving way to a smooth transition of power? The man she replaced in Malacañang in 2001 can’t imagine it.
“I just hope he’s telling the truth,” Joseph Estrada told the Inquirer Tuesday on the phone, referring to the assurance on Monday of the President’s husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, that she would step down in “a few months.”
Estrada, now the standard-bearer of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), said he found it difficult to believe that Ms Arroyo would leave office when her term ends on June 30.
The ousted leader said Ms Arroyo had a “track record” of not keeping her word, and recalled that she reneged on her promise on Dec. 30, 2002, that she would not run for president in 2004.
Estrada said he and his political advisers were seeing a “pattern” in recent events that could lead to Ms Arroyo’s prolonging her stay at the Palace.
“Mukhang may balak (There seems to be a plan),” he said, citing the recent Supreme Court ruling that authorized Ms Arroyo to name Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s successor despite the ban on midnight appointments—a development that, critics said, could eventually lead to an “Arroyo Court.”
He also mentioned the appointment of Gen. Delfin Bangit as the new Armed Forces chief of staff and the participation in the elections of a number of party-list groups whose nominees are Arroyo allies.
Ms Arroyo herself is running for a seat in the House, representing the second district of her home province of Pampanga. (In an earlier interview with the Inquirer, Estrada said: “She’s already the President but she’s still running for Congress. The lady really has a plan.”)
Estrada said his camp was seeing a “no proclamation” scenario after the May 10 elections:
“If no proclamation is made in national posts, if there will be no proclaimed senator, vice president and president, and she (Ms Arroyo) maneuvers herself to become House speaker, she can become the holdover President.”
To prevent such a scenario, Estrada said he would back the proposal that senators who are not seeking new terms elect a Senate president from among themselves to replace Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Estrada said he had spoken with Enrile—who is part of the PMP senatorial slate—and had been told that the latter was “willing to step down.”
“But it’s not that urgent,” Estrada said. “There is still plenty of time. Senators can elect a new Senate president even after the elections.”