PHILIPPINES – With the official campaign period for the May 10 Philippine presidential election beginning on February 9, the race is currently split between nine candidates. One popular position, however, has united most of the presidential hopefuls. Most of candidates have vowed to have President Arroyo prosecuted for her alleged misdeeds – all except her party’s bet, Gilbert Teodoro Jr.

Each of the candidates promised to take legal action against the President during the ANC Youth 2010 presidential forum held at De La Salle University (DLSU) in Manila on January 30. They were responding to a question from forum moderator Ted Failon on whether prosecuting Mrs. Arroyo would be part of their agenda if elected.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III said Mrs. Arroyo must be prosecuted and all the cases against her must have closure.

“We are lacking in transparency. The fertilizer fund scam took four years to be investigated. And there must be certainty of punishment (for corrupt officials). If we are not going to pay attention to this, we are continuing an erroneous system,” Aquino said. He said it would be up to the courts and other concerned agencies to undertake the task of prosecuting Mrs. Arroyo, even as he gave assurance that her rights as accused would be protected. Aquino said Mrs. Arroyo should face prosecution because she “destroyed a lot of institutions that we depend upon to have a vibrant and really functional democracy.”

Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., who is trailing Aquino in the surveys, said members of his Nacionalista Party, led the investigation into the various anomalies involving the Arroyo administration.
“I will not lift a finger to defend the President against any of these accusations should charges be filed when she steps down,” Villar said.

Sen. Richard Gordon noted that as chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, he had recommended the filing of charges against Mrs. Arroyo and he would form a special group to deal with the issues against her if he becomes president.

Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Olongapo City Councilor John Carlos de los Reyes, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas and spiritual leader Eddie Villanueva all agreed on prosecuting the President, saying corruption and human rights violations under her term have brought shame to the country.

Former President Joseph Estrada did not attend the forum, saying he had to do an infomercial.