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Arroyo announces bid for Congress seat in Pampanga

Ending months of speculation, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo formally announced on Monday that she will be running for congresswoman of Pampanga's second district. In a recorded interview aired over the government-run dzRB radio station, Arroyo said: "Gaya ng alam ninyo, hiniling rin ako ng mga mamayan ng aking tahanang distrito sa Pampanga na manatili sa buhay publiko (As you all know, the residents of Pampanga's second district have urged me to remain in public service)." "After much soul-searching, I have decided to respond affirmatively to their call. To that end, I will file my (certificate of) candidacy for Congress in order to serve the hardworking people of my home province," she said. Mrs. Arroyo added: "I am not ready to step down completely from public service."

I am not ready to step down completely from public service.
Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Political aspirants have until Tuesday midnight to file their certificates of candidacy with the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Mrs. Arroyo's duly-authorized representative will file her CoC Tuesday in San Fernando, Pampanga, according to her official political spokesperson Romulo Macalintal. The representative will be accompanied by Pampanga mayors who support her congressional bid. Mrs. Arroyo will attend mass in a church in Lubao town at 9 a.m. and will deliver a short message to her constituents before her representative files her CoC. Mrs. Arroyo's frequent visits to Pampanga--she has gone to the province at least 50 times this year alone--had earlier fueled speculations that she will seek a House seat in next year's polls. [See: Arroyo sets 50th visit to Pampanga] Administration critics allege that once she is elected into office, her colleagues in Congress would push for a shift into a parliamentary system of government and subsequently elect her as prime minister. Answering a question from a government broadcaster about the issue, Mrs. Arroyo said: "The situation is so hypothetical. I won’t even bother to speculate about it." Mrs. Arroyo has served as the country's chief executive for nearly nine years, next only to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who held the country's top position for 20 years. She took over the presidency in 2001 when then-President Joseph Estrada was forced to step down amid popular calls for him to relinquish power due to allegations of corruption. In 2004, Mrs. Arroyo ran and won as president in an election allegedly marred by fraud. [See: 'Hello, Garci' timeline] In Monday's radio interview, she dismissed accusations that her congressional bid was simply a means of evading possible cases that might be filed against her once she steps down in 2010. "Congressional immunity is only from libel suits and utterances made in Congress. 'Di 'yun ang hinahabol ko," she said. "I will satisfy the call of my constituents and my own desire for public service. The best way to champion the things I love is now in Congress," Mrs. Arroyo added. Mikey to give way Mrs. Arroyo's son, incumbent Pampanga second district Representative Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, told GMANews.TV in a phone interview that he has decided to give way to his mother given the public clamor for her to run. [See: For yet another day, calls for Arroyo to run for Congress persist] "If GMA is filing tomorrow, I am not filing for any position," he said, adding that his feelings were "inconsequential" and that his own political ambitions "must be brought to the backseat" in consideration of their constituents' clamor. "Until last month I was gearing up for my re-election bid," added Mikey, who is still eligible to run for a third term in Congress. The second district of Pampanga is composed of the municipalities of Floridablanca, Guagua, Porac, Santa Rita, Sasmuan and Lubao, Arroyo’s hometown. Three weeks ago, Arroyo's half-sister Cielo Macapagal-Salgado appealed to her to give other candidates a chance to run for the same post. "Nakasiyam na taon na siya, di ba? You have reached the highest post na binigay sa iyo ng mamamayan. Binigyan ka na ng pagkakataon, bigyan mo naman ng pagkakataon 'yung iba," Salgado said in an interview with GMA News. Macapagal-Salgado said she has been eyeing Pampanga's 2nd district congressional post for some time but had to give way to her younger brother Arturo, who in turn had to give way to Mikey. Salgado and her brother Arturo are children of former president Diosdado Macapagal by his first wife Purita de la Rosa, who died during World War II. She was the sister of Macapagal's close friend, the movie star Rogelio de la Rosa. Sociology professor and civil society leader Randy David, who had earlier expressed that he might consider going against Mrs. Arroyo if she runs for the post, said Monday that he has decided to heed his family's request for him not to go into politics. David said it was difficult to contest Mrs. Arroyo in Pampanga, saying, "Ang kalaban mo rito higante, eh. Ito yung amo ng lahat ng mga warlord (You will be going against a giant; the boss of warlords)." Arroyo's closeness to the Ampatuans, the most powerful political clan in Maguindanao province, has been criticized since the gruesome massacre in Ampatuan town that resulted in the deaths of at least 57 people, including around 30 journalists. David maintained that he was against Mrs. Arroyo's possible entry into the race, saying it was an insult to the country’s democratic institutions. Still in charge Asked how she will run the government during the election period, Arroyo said, “Konting konting panahon lang ang gagamitin ko sa pangangampanya sa kongreso." (I will use up very little time in campaigning for a seat in Congress) “I will remain firmly in charge of the nation ... until my last day in office," she added. - Aie Balagtas See, Johanna Camille Sisante, and Sophia Dedace/LG/YA, GMANews.TV