CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines?Pampanga Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David has asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo not to run for representative of the province?s second district for a host of legal and moral reasons, including respect for the 1987 Constitution and decency.
David made the call on Saturday as Pampanga mayors and village leaders trooped to Malacañang and, in a program, praised the President and asked her to heed their clamor that she seek the congressional seat of Pampanga?s second district.
After the local officials spoke, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, the President?s son and the district?s incumbent representative, announced he has dropped his plan to seek a third term, urging instead his mother to take his place and be the ?best asset? to their constituents.
It was Ms Arroyo's father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, who was a native of Lubao.
The Arroyos have not maintained a home in Lubao. Mikey lived there when he served as vice governor in 2001.
A house near the Lubao church, built in March and believed in the neighborhood as belonging to Ms Arroyo, is registered under Eva Development Corp., a company owned by the Arroyo family.
?My dear mother? my sentiments should be taken as inconsequential. My political future must be brought to the back seat,? Mikey said.
?Madam President, I believe that the best service I can give is not to deny them the privilege to be represented by you,? he added.
The President did not speak during the program.
Asked if Ms Arroyo answered their clamor, Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda, president of the Pampanga Mayors? League, said: ?Hanggang 30 pu abalu tamu pu mag adwa yapu isip (We will know up to Nov. 30. She?s having second thoughts).?
Pineda, however, did not provide other details on why the President was having second thoughts on running for Congress.
Bishop David said Ms Arroyo should not run ?in the name of decency and for the sake of propriety.?
?I?d appeal to her not to run and to respect the spirit of the Constitution instead of exploiting the letter of the law, which indeed does not categorically mention prohibition of running for lower positions,? David said.
The bishop is a native of Guagua, one of the six towns in the second district, and is a younger brother of University of the Philippines professor and Inquirer columnist Randy David.
Known to take progressive stands on issues, Bishop David said his views have nothing to do with his brother's plan to challenge Ms Arroyo.
The Charter bans a President from running for reelection. The delegates to the 1986 Constitutional Commission put the term limit in reaction to the long rule of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
But Jose Melo, chair of the Commission on Elections, said neither the Charter nor election laws prevents the President from running for a lower position.
?The only position not open [to reelection] is president,? Melo told the Inquirer.
But David said the drafters of the Constitution were ?such decent people they left some room for common sense and propriety.?
?To have to ask the Supreme Court to state it categorically means we?ve sunk that low in our sense of civility. How sad indeed,? the bishop said.
?The drafters of the Constitution had obvious reasons for prohibiting a sitting President from running for reelection. Of course, it has to do with the immense advantage she has over other candidates. How much more over any other candidate for a lower position?? David said.
In the Palace event, the mayors took turns speaking on the podium, citing the many projects and services that Ms Arroyo had worked to bring in the second-district towns of Guagua, Sasmuan, Lubao, Sta. Rita, Floridablanca and Porac.
David said the propriety issue was ?already the issue in 2004 even as she promised before the [monument] of [national hero Dr. Jose] Rizal that she would not run.?
?She was already a sitting President in 2004 because of Edsa II and we saw how she took full advantage of her position back then. She has since lost every sense of propriety. What institution can put it on check? It?s obviously a non-issue to her,? the bishop said.
San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto advised the President to ?pray and discern seriously before making the final decision whether to run for a congressional seat in our province or not.?
?She must weigh her options and choices well. Her responsibility is to promote the genuine welfare of the people,? said Aniceto, who Ms Arroyo recognizes as one of her advisers.
The church, said Aniceto, ?provides moral guideline and principles to the faithful in their selection of candidates.?
Sought for his view on the legal aspect of the issue, Aniceto said: ?We are living in an imperfect democratic system that allows a sitting public official to run immediately for lower office.?
Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, Lakas-Kampi-CMD chair in the third district and a close ally of Ms Arroyo, said she ?will definitely run as congresswoman in the second district because the people of Pampanga want her to run.?
Gonzales said he does not see anything wrong with Ms Arroyo?s plan to seek the congressional seat.
?The law allows it, her kabalen (province mates) look forward [to her running] and GMA certainly deserves the trust and confidence of her people,? Gonzales said. ?She?s earned that right to represent and continue to serve them in a new position.?
During Ms Arroyo?s 47 visits in Pampanga, most of which were in the second district, she opened or inspected government projects like farm-to-market roads, school buildings and water systems.
Her frequent visits and delivery of government projects in the district have fueled speculations that she will run for representative.
With a report from Charlene Cayabyab, Inquirer Central Luzon