Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Estrada not moved by assurances Arroyo will step down

Former President Joseph Estrada said Tuesday he was not convinced that President Macapagal-Arroyo would go quietly to pave the way for a smooth transition of power.

Estrada, whose ouster in 2001 allowed then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to assume office, took with a grain of salt repeated assurances by Malacañang officials and spokespersons that the President will step down on June 30.

Even First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo appealed to his wife’s detractors to bear with her remaining two months in office, saying: “It’s just a few months. All they have to do is wait.”

“I just hope that he’s telling the truth,” Estrada told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

He said it was difficult to believe that Arroyo would leave office quietly, owing to her “track record” of not honoring her word. He recalled that Arroyo promised on Dec. 30, 2002 that she would no longer run for President, only to break her word when she joined the 2004 presidential race.

Arroyo allegedly manipulated the results to win against the late Fernando Poe Jr., Estrada’s close friend, based on the “Hello Garci” tapes that surfaced the following year. Ms Arroyo denied the allegations.

Estrada said he and his political advisers saw a “pattern” in recent events that could lead to the President prolonging her stay in Malacañang.

“Mukhang may balak (Seems she has a plan),” he said, citing the recent Supreme Court decision empowering Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice in spite of an explicit constitutional ban on "midnight appointments" by an outgoing President.

He also mentioned the appointment of Gen. Delfin Bangit as the new Armed Forces chief of staff and the participation of a number of party-list groups whose nominees are allies of Arroyo. Bangit belongs to the Philippine Military Academy Class 1978, which adopted Arroyo as a member.

Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Miguel” Arroyo is running again for Congress using the partylist route, claiming to represent a group of security guards. Earlier, he insisted on the idea that he was making a “sacrifice” by giving way to his mother to run in the congressional race in the second district in Pampanga.

In a previous 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 saw a “no-proclamation” scenario, meaning it was possible that only winners of local electoral races would be proclaimed.

“If no proclamation is made in national posts, if there will be no proclaimed senator, vice president and president and she maneuvers herself to become House speaker, she can become a holdover president,” he said.

To prevent such a scenario, he said he supported the proposal for senators not running in the coming elections to elect a new Senate president from among themselves to replace Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who is part of Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino ticket.

Estrada said he has spoken with Enrile and has been told that “he’s willing to step down.”

“But it’s not that urgent,” the former president said. “There is still plenty of time. Senators can elect a new Senate even after the elections.”


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