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Is there the possibility of a Prime Minister Gloria Arroyo?

ow that Philippine House of Representatives has passed HR 1109Flanked by Sec. Puno and Speaker Nograles, Gloria Arroyo presides over the Lakas-Kampi merger to convene Congress into constituent assembly for charter change, might Filipinos be using the term "madam prime minister" anytime soon? With the recent merger of the two major political parties, Lakas and Kampi—to the consternation of a few senior leaders of both those parties—the Arroyo administration might now have what it needs to tackle the major hurdles on the road towards a parliamentary system of government.

The present Philippine constitution limits the president to a single six-year term. However, if it can be revised to allow the country to switch over to a parliamentary system, then Gloria Arroyo can run for parliament and then be elected prime minister, thus keeping her at the helm of government albeit a parliamentary one.

The two stumbling blocks that stand in the way of this 'nightmarish scenario' are the Senate and the Supreme Court. The senators will certainly ask the court to declare unconstitutional, the Lower House convening as a constituent assembly without the Senate. Sadly, the hastily drafted 1987 Constitution is not clear as to whether the three-fourths majority needed to call for a constituent assembly shouldThe Philippine House of Representatives vote to convene as a constituent assembly come from the House and Senate voting separately or as one. Since the Lower House clearly has the overwhelming numbers, they argue they can satisfy the constitutionally required majority even if no Senator participates.

Given this push for charter change after Gloria Arroyo's ten years in office, one has to ask the question why? Is ten years at the helm not enough? In fact the constitution allows for only a single six-year term and Arroyo should consider herself blessed to be given those extra four years as president. Has a decade of Arroyo created a trapo-tocracy, where political operatives need Gloria Arroyo at the helm in order to hold on to their power. And the president in turn has to keep all her operatives and her power brokers happy least she find herself in former president Joseph Estrada's shoes. If this is so, then Gloria has a tiger by the tail and can't afford let go.

Only then does this concerted push for charter-change begin to make sense. Arroyo and those who benefit from her being in power have a lot more to lose than just the office of the president. The next few months will give us an indication of just how important it is for this trapo-tocracy to hold on to power.

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