‘GMA country’ split on her legal woes
AVELINA DIZON, 77, is not worried that she and residents in the second district of Pampanga could lose their representation in Congress, through Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, although the former President is facing six plunder cases and has been implicated in alleged electoral fraud in the 2004 polls.
“How can you be worried for her? She’s still in power,” Dizon, a retired cashier, said in Kapampangan as she bought fruits at the public market in Sta. Rita, Pampanga.
The five or so people who milled around her, including a woman who took bets for Small Town Lottery, nodded. The interview was held on Saturday last week, a day after Arroyo, 64, survived a spinal surgery.
“She can’t be convicted of plunder because she is still a congresswoman,” Dizon said.
Ruben Reyes, 68, said there’s no reason for Arroyo to go on leave, be forced to do so, or be replaced.
“She’s alive. She can only be replaced when she’s dead,” Reyes, a vendor, said. “We need to support her because she’s a fellow Kapampangan.”
A sampaguita vendor from Lubao, who did not want to be named, used the situation of Sen. Panfilo Lacson to show that legislators with pending criminal cases can still serve public office and not neglect their constituents.
He said that if Arroyo could not bring much projects and services to her constituents in the district, her political allies, like Gov. Lilia Pineda and mayors in the towns of Guagua, Lubao, Sasmuan, Sta. Rita, Porac and Floridablanca, seemed easy to approach for help.
Other residents are unaware of what Arroyo—the first former president to run and win a lower position—is going through.
“I don’t know a thing about that,” Eddie Torres, a resident of Guagua who drives a jeepney for a living, said in Kapampangan. Like Dizon, Reyes and the sampaguita vendor, he had voted for Arroyo.
Ariel Cruz, also from Guagua, said that while he sympathized with her, only she could solve her problems. This 32-year-old tricycle driver said his priority was how to bring food and money to his family amid the high cost of living.
In Lubao, where Arroyo keeps a house, Manny Morales, a construction worker and driver, said she should be “spared from intrigues” because as a former President and congresswoman, she has served the town well through projects that benefit farmers and ordinary residents.
The second district received P434 million worth of projects from the Department of Public Works and Highways during her last year in office. Of that, P233 million went to Lubao. In contrast, the three congressional districts of Pampanga got a total of P371 million.
“The past is past. Noynoy (President Aquino) should stop digging from the past,” Morales, 35, said.
Teresita Dizon, 58, sounded sure that Arroyo would surmount her legal problems. “She fought impeachment attempts. She’s a brave woman,” said Dizon, who runs an eatery across the Porac municipal hall.
Several voters who went for Arroyo expressed regret in electing her as plunder cases appear to be affecting her health, said Adonis Simpao, the Liberal Party candidate who faced her in the congressional race in 2010.
Surviving two disqualification cases, Arroyo ran and garnered 169,109 votes or 61 percent of the 276,778 registered voters in the district, Commission on Elections records showed. She had visited the district more than 50 times, showering it with projects before she filed her certificate of candidacy.
During the campaign period, Simpao had warned that Arroyo was seeking a seat in Congress not to serve the district but to protect herself and her family from suits arising from controversies in her nine-year administration.
Feliciano Serrano, who also lost to Arroyo, said it “seemed she cannot continue serving the second district if the process is quick.”
Lawyer Raul Lambino, Arroyo’s spokesperson for legal matters, said she would “continue serving the second district of Pampanga.”
“She would not take a leave of absence,” Lambino said. “It is not necessary for her to be in [Congress] unless there’s a need for her to be physically present,” he added.
The set of plunder cases, rued Lambino, is a result of the “obsession” by President Aquino and his allies with Arroyo. “It’s like a contest. They rush to beat one another in filing cases against GMA (Arroyo) to please Noynoy (Mr. Aquino),” he said.
But Arroyo won’t be out of office until Congress orders the Comelec to conduct a special election in the district if, say, she has been convicted of plunder or other charges, said lawyer Emmanuel Ignacio, assistant director of the Comelec in Central Luzon.
Election offenses carry a heavier toll on any public official, Ignacio said. The penalty is perpetual disqualification from public office. Plunder, on the other hand, carries an imprisonment of 20 years.
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