THE poll body’s second division dismissed Thursday the disqualification case filed against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is seeking a congressional seat in the second district of Pampanga this coming elections.

Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros, who filed the petition, already expected the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to rule in favor of Arroyo.

“I went here expecting nothing. I was just hoping that Comelec will level the playing field in the coming elections,” Hontiveros said.

In the resolution, the second division headed by presiding Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer reiterated that the application of Section 4 Article VII of the Philippine Constitution only prohibits the incumbent President to run for the same position.

“The petition cites no particular law or jurisprudence that would prohibit the herein respondent, incumbent President Arroyo, from running for another position in the government, such as the lower position of Congressman, in the coming elections when her term as President will expire.”

Hontiveros said the decision of the Comelec's second division help prevail the “field of combat” especially in the second district of Pampanga where Arroyo is pursuing her bid.

“The competition is unfair that the bid of a seating President is contradictory to the rules of the Constitution and that she can use the power and resources of her office for a lower position,” added Hontiveros.

Hontiveros, who is running for senator under the Liberal Party (LP) of Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, said she will continue the fight against the President.

LP is fielding its own congressional candidate in Adonis Simpao, the sole competitor of Arroyo for the position.

Hontiveros also argued that Arroyo's opponent "would be denied of equal opportunity for public service" since he will be running against an incumbent President.

Arroyo's camp

For his part, Arroyo's election lawyer Romulo Macalintal already expected the petition to be dismissed because "those are mere political statements."

"This kind of petition is just a political statement because they are very inconsistent in their position," said Macalintal.

Macalintal also questioned why the likes of Hontiveros would not go after senators who are running for much higher positions.

“Those senators who are running for President, they also have the advantage against presidential candidates like Perlas, those independent candidates who don't have political parties," he said.

Arroyo's lawyer furthered that the petition is just a waste of time for the commission who needs to be focusing in the preparations for the 2010 automated elections.

Smooth-sailing campaign

With the development, administration officials expect a more spirited and smooth-sailing campaign between President Arroyo and her rival in the congressional seat in the second district of Pampanga.

Like Macalintal, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar also expected the dismissal.

Olivar said they are happy and agree with the decision of the Comelec. “We are happy that this last legal hindrance was already removed… this will help the plans of the President to continue serving, if elected, as congresswoman of the second district of Pampanga.”

The Palace official however admitted that they are not expecting the issue to be over, saying administration critics would not stop there.

“What I learned in my short time on this job not to expect anything from the President’s critics. Hindi talaga nagpapaawat, so natuto na ako. So we hope for the best, but we are prepared for business as usual,” Olivar added.

Motion for reconsideration

The Akbayan lawmaker meanwhile intends to either file a motion for reconsideration to Comelec or file straight to the Supreme Court (SC) making sure that Arroyo's name will be excluded from the official ballots.

In a press statement, Hontiveros said: "The elevation of the disqualification case against Mrs. Arroyo before the SC is anticipated as a critical moment that could potentially shift the balance and influence the outcome of the 2010 elections.

Hontiveros has also accused Arroyo of spending P459 million in infrastructure projects in 2009 alone for her district in Pampanga, an amount that is nine times more than the annual infrastructure allocation given to congressmen.

Earlier, the second division also dismissed the disqualification petition of lawyer Elly Pamatong against President Arroyo. (Kathrina Alvarez/With JMR/Sunnex)