By Ben Rosario
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Friday branded as “black propaganda” claims aired by senators and other opposition groups that she is eyeing the prime minister post under a federal system of government.
Arroyo also confirmed early reports that she will not support proposals to cancel next year’s mid-term elections to pave the way for a shift in system of government through Charter revision.
“Look, to begin with, the proposed Constitution is presidential federal, isn’t it? So that is black propaganda,” said Arroyo, referring to accusations that her ultimate goal in supporting Charter change and in accepting the speakership post is for her to become the first prime minister under a federal Constitution.
Arroyo, who visited calamity-stricken areas in Bataan and Pampanga yesterday, also stated that she has yet to peruse the proposed federal constitution that the Consultative Commission submitted recently.
“I have not seen it because I have not seen the committee report but the Constitutional Commission given by the president with the mandate to draft (the proposed charter) is presidential,” she explained.
The newly installed House leader also stressed that she is not supportive of the “no election” proposal espoused by her predecessor, former speaker and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
“No, definitely I am not supporting term extension,” she said in response to questions from the media.
Earlier, 1PACMAN Partylist Rep. Mikee Romero, a staunch Arroyo speakership backer, said the former chief executive and political parties that supported her bid to head the Lower House have agreed to drop the “no el” proposal.
“Even Speaker GMA will not support it (no election), this will be her last term (as congresswoman),” Romero said.
Romero also revealed that the majority bloc led by Arroyo will pursue Charter revision, specifically the shift to federalism.
Talks about Arroyo’s bid to become prime minister reportedly came from her Senate critics who were quick in assailing her ascent to the speakership post.
Her allies quickly slammed senators for alleged interfering with purely House of Representatives affairs, telling their Senate counterparts to “mind their own business.”
Representatives Doy Leachon (LP, Oriental Mindoro), Dennis Laogan (Ang Kabuhayan Partylist) and Cecille Chavez (Butil Party-list) defended Arroyo from a series of attacks aired in the media by Senators Grace Poe, Antonio Trillanes and Panfilo Lacson.
On the other hand, another administration lawmaker noted that the three senators who have assailed Arroyo rise to power in the Lower House have “axes to grind” against her.
“Poe is still bitter about the results of the 2004 presidential elections while Ping and Trillanes suffered punctured egos when a ‘small lady’ gave their comeuppance for being mischievous during her presidency,” said the solon, who requested anonymity.
The three senators decried the House decision to remove Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez and replace him with Arroyo. They aired suspicions that the move would pave the way for Arroyo’s bid to become prime minister under a federal system.
Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said the three senators may have felt threatened by Arroyo about their respective presidential ambitions
Leachon called on the three senators to observe “the immemorial doctrine of interparliamentary courtesy” by leaving the House to mind its own affairs.
“After all, the decision to install Speaker CGMA was made by an overwhelming majority of 184 House members who feel the common sentiment that she is the rightful woman for the job considering the wisdom of experience, knowledge, governance and leadership,” said Leachon, vice chairman of the House committees on justice, on appropriaitons and on good government.
He said meddling in the internal affairs of the Lower House ‘would pose only an unhealthy working environment” that could threaten the legislative priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Laogan, who administered Arroyo’s oath of office, said Arroyo was reluctant to become speaker and was only convinced to seek the position when an overwhelming majority of congressmen aired strong support for her.
The country’s youngest congressman said what happened was not a “power grab” as some media entities described it, but a mere observation of the will of the majority.
For her part, Chavez said the three senators and other critics of Arroyo should remember that “we are still in a democracy and the majority should always prevail.”
The lady lawmaker said that if senators have personal issues with Arroyo, they must also remember to act within the bounds of courtesy to the leader of a co-equal branch in the legislature.