MANILA, Philippines--Saying that the Constitution disallows only an incumbent President from seeking reelection, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Thursday junked a complaint to disqualify President Macapagal-Arroyo from running for a congressional seat in May.
In a six-page decision written by Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, the Comelec?s second division said the complaint filed by Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party (LP), ?lacks merit.?
Hontiveros, who attended the promulgation, said she would appeal the ruling before the commission en banc and the Supreme Court.
The division issued a similar ruling on Jan. 20, when it denied a case filed by lawyer Ely Pamatong to stop the President?s candidacy for representative of the second district of Pampanga, her home province. The President?s term ends in June.
In her complaint, Hontiveros cited Section 4, Article VII, of the 1987 Constitution for disallowing an incumbent president from running again. But this provision, Ferrer said, was insufficient to ban Ms Arroyo from seeking a congressional seat.
The ban does not cover local contests, Ferrer said.
?The petition cites no particular law or jurisprudence that would prohibit ? [Ms Arroyo] from running for another position in the government, such as the lower position of congressman, in the coming elections when her term as President will expire,? the Comelec division said.
Hontiveros asserted that Arroyo?s local political ambitions would make for a lopsided contest in Pampanga and violated the ?equal protection clause? in the Constitution.
?This is the intent of the constitutional ban?to prevent an incumbent President from using such undue advantage to seek reelection, which the framers of the 1987 Constitution drew as a lesson from Marcos? 20 years of dictatorial rule,? she said.
This view was ?misplaced,? Ferrer said.
If the commission that crafted the Charter intended to prohibit presidents from joining future electoral contests, it would have ?worded the pertinent constitutional provision in an unequivocal manner,? the decision read.
Ferrer, in an interview after the promulgation, said the division would have taken on the duty of the legislative branch if it expanded the interpretation of the law.
The division also noted that Hontiveros was not the ?proper party? to file the complaint, but it said it accepted her complaint in acknowledging the ?transcendental importance? of the case involving the President.
Ms Arroyo?s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, welcomed the ruling, but noted that one more case questioning her candidacy was pending at the Comelec first division.
In Pampanga, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, who is running for senator under the Nacionalista Party, and other members of the party-list group had started talks to support the LP candidate facing Ms Arroyo in the second district.
?Bayan Muna and Ka Satur are inclined to support Adonis [Simpao]. We just have to go through some necessary organizational processes. The issue in this case is GMA [the President?s initials]. He?s the only credible person that can challenge her,? Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said after he spoke in a human rights summit in the City of San Fernando on Thursday.
Simpao attended the summit and was hailed by Casiño for having the courage to face Ms Arroyo. Two other candidates are running for representative in the second district, which will be vacated by Ms Arroyo?s son, Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo.
?Most likely we will be supporting Mr. Simpao,? Casiño said.
Simpao said the support of Bayan Muna and Ocampo, a Kapampangan, had ?raised my morale to persist with the fight of the Kapampangans and Filipinos and bring it to victory.?
Gov. Eddie Panlilio, LP provincial chair, said progressive candidates are encouraged to help Simpao.
?That?s not only because he faces a rival who, as a sitting president, has all the resources and machinery of government and the support of her allies. Adonis needs to win so that the second district can have a true representative, not a bogus representative who is running to protect herself,? Panlilio said.
Ocampo is visiting this city on Sunday for the unveiling of the bust of Pedro Abad Santos, founder of the Socialist Party of the Philippines and elder brother of the martyred Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos. He will meet with Simpao in Guagua, a town in the second district.
Casiño said the congressional bid of Ms Arroyo was aimed at ?protecting herself and the rest of her family.?
?As a member of Congress, she can use her position to influence investigation of wrongdoings in her administration and stop efforts to make her stand up to her crimes to the state,? he said.
He said a seat in the House will give Ms Arroyo the chance to become Speaker and later use that as a ?launching pad? to be prime minister if the 15th Congress would agree to a shift from presidential to parliamentary form of government and create a transition government. With a report from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon