macapagals.daughter

Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo takes her seat at the House of Representatives.

 

MANILA — After leaving the presidency, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continues to walk the corridors of power, but this time in the halls of Congress, after making an unprecedented move of running for — and winning — a lower position as congresswoman of Pampanga in the last May elections.

Based on congressional records, the former leader has been active in legislative work even while trying to keep a low profile as lawmaker amid persistent efforts by her successor to prosecute her for alleged misdeeds during her nine-year presidency.

However, despite heading a much-reduced Lakas-Kampi-CMD party, she continues to wield influence and even has a significant number of “secret allies” within the administration bloc in the House of Representatives, some veteran lawmakers insist.

“She (Mrs. Arroyo) continues to be an influential figure in government, and in the country,” according to a third-term congressman, whose family comes from a prominent political clan in Luzon.

“She can call in a lot of favors in the House or even in other branches of government but it remains to be seen how she would wield that power,” the lawmaker said, as rumors of her being installed as Speaker of the House occasionally crop up.

Another lawmaker, identified with her but who has joined the administration bloc in the 15th Congress, said it would be too early to predict what the political landscape would be in the next few years with Mrs. Arroyo in the chamber.

Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez, who belongs to the Lakas-Kampi-CMD party but has allied himself with the majority coalition in Congress, said being a former president, “she carries plenty of weight.”

“She’s been there (presidency) not to mention that she was also a vice president and a senator. So when it comes to policy-making, she would be of great help in the House,” Alvarez said.

He, however, scoffed at talk of Arroyo planning a major political comeback.

“I don’t think she wants to be involved in partisan things anymore. I think she just wants to do her job as a congresswoman very well. After all, she is still young, she’s not idle, and she still works hard the same way as she has been doing before,” he said.

The former leader has been in Congress only since July and the first half of the year was her last six months as president, during which she continued to generate controversy, particularly her packing key government agencies with her “midnight appointees.”

In her last months in office, Arroyo assured her successor of smooth transition of power and of easier governance because of the reforms and policies she had put in place.

She said those reforms gave the Philippines an unprecedented 37 consecutive quarters of economic growth in the face of a global economic downturn.

“The administration has a big plus on infrastructure. A lot of roads, bridges and classrooms have been constructed. We have the rise of renewable energy. We are No. 2 in the whole world for geothermal energy, and maybe No. 1 in wind energy in the ASEAN. A lot in housing has also been achieved,” she said.

“Everyday, I wake with work (as) the first thing in mind, on how to bring all the services they need, work on straightening out the wrinkles in our economy to turn it around, create jobs, raise capital for infrastructure and that brings me fulfillment,” she said as she appealed to Filipinos for understanding that she had to make tough decisions “to end the cycle of economic misery.”

At the end of the second quarter of 2010, Gross Domestic Product growth exceeded expectations by coming in at 7.5 percent.

By the time she stepped down from office on June 30, she was able to build, improve, repair or rehabilitate a total of 47,773 kilometers of national roads and 289,944 lineal meters of national bridges.

However, at the end of her term on June 30, she had become the most unpopular president based on surveys.

But her close allies and supporters said the U.S.-trained economist would be vindicated in the years to come.

She claimed her greatest legacy was ensuring the success of the country’s first nationwide automated elections.

Survivor

Arroyo began 2010 fending off a plunder complaint filed with the Ombudsman by a militant group over the purchase by then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap of allegedly overpriced ice-making machines.

Yap, now a Bohol congressman, dismissed the complaint as baseless.

The start of the year was also marred by a death in her official family.

In January, former journalist and then Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, 51, succumbed to a heart attack in his Makati City residence.

Remonde, one of the trusted and loyal friends of Mrs. Arroyo, was given a posthumous presidential citation.

Midnight appointments

Arroyo again found herself at the center of controversy with her making over 250 appointments several days before the election ban in March.

Her appointees included her manicurist and a gardener to key government corporations.

The two reportedly turned down the appointments due to widespread criticisms.

Backed by a favorable ruling from a Supreme Court packed with her appointees, Arroyo pushed through with naming Renato Corona as chief justice, citing her constitutional duty to make the appointment.

Corona’s appointment took effect upon the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno last May 17 amid threats from then president-in-waiting Benigno Aquino III not to recognize him.

The former leader also named her trusted and controversial Gen. Delfin Bangit as the Armed Forces chief of staff in March.

Bangit was scheduled to retire in 2011 but he hung up his uniform last June after Aquino made it known he did not trust him.

Laws signed

In her last weeks in the Palace, Mrs. Arroyo enacted several laws, including last year’s P1.54-trillion national budget, which critics said was padded by a whopping P65 billion in pork allocations for her close congressional allies by slashing automatic appropriations for debt service by the same amount.

She also enacted into law the Free Legal Assistance Act, which allows lawyers tax deductions for giving legal services to poor clients, as well as Republic Act 10001 that reduces taxes on life insurance policies and provides for staggered rates for documentary stamp tax.

The former president also enacted RA 10068 promoting organic agriculture and granting incentives to organic farmers, including a seven-year income tax holiday and zero-rated value-added tax on transactions involving the sale of bio-organic products.

Foreign trips

The former president made numerous foreign visits in the first half of the year that included the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on April 13 called by U.S. President Barack Obama.

While in Washington, Arroyo was conferred the prestigious Teddy Roosevelt International Conservation Award in recognition of her efforts to support of the Coral Triangle Initiative and other environmental advocacies.

Prior to attending the meeting in Washington, she participated in the two-day 16th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

She, however, cut short her trip in Vietnam when her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo underwent heart surgery.

Mrs. Arroyo paid a visit to Madrid, Spain that same month where she held talks with King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia, as well as other Spanish officials, and was also awarded he Premio Internacional Don Quijote de la Mancha award for promoting the Spanish language and culture in the Philippines.

During the visit, she secured a 20-million euro commitment from Grupo Leche Pascual Alimentacion to make the Philippines its dairy export hub for Asia.

Three weeks before she was to step down in June 30, she visited China to mark the 35th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-China diplomatic relations.

Congresswoman Arroyo

In her farewell address to the nation, Arroyo said she was moving to the House of Representatives “into a new phase of life, leading a quieter public role.”

Barely a week after the 15th Congress opened on July 26, Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello stood before the plenary and delivered a scathing privilege speech against the former president for her alleged “orgiastic compensation, brazen manipulation of government agencies and fund for political purposes, and massive waste of people’s money,” during her nine-year administration.

In October, it was Arroyo’s turn to take the floor to blast the Aquino Administration’s P21-billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, saying the foreign loan-funded program ate up chunks of budgetary allocations intended for other agencies and was too ambitious to be fully implemented by the government.

It was she who pioneered the CCT in the country when she was still president.

Since the 15th Congress opened, Arroyo has authored 17 bills and co-authored 66 measures addressing issues on good governance, environment, labor and employment, transportation, among others.