SC allows Arroyo to contest polls

MANILA: The Philippines’ highest court today ruled President Gloria Arroyo was allowed to run for a seat in parliament in this year’s elections, disappointing critics who said her move was unconstitutional.

The decision meant Arroyo had cleared the final legal hurdle in her bid to win a parliamentary seat in the May elections.

The Supreme Court dismissed a petition by an opposition legislator to bar Arroyo from running, saying an earlier ruling by the Commission on Elections allowing her to run was valid. “The court did not find any grave abuse of authority on the Comelec’s part,” a spokesman for the court clerk told AFP, reading from the court resolution.

Critics believe that Arroyo, who is running for a congressional seat to be vacated by one of her sons, wants to enter parliament as a backdoor route back to power.

They allege she intends to use her influence to have the House of Representatives rewrite the constitution and shift the nation’s form of government from presidential to parliamentary.

She would then want to become prime minister, with the president relegated to a largely ceremonial role. Opposition lawmaker Riza Hontiveros had argued in her petition to the Supreme Court and the Commission on Elections that the constitution banned any sitting president from running for re-election in any capacity.

But the Commission on Elections ruled that the constitution only barred her from running again for president.