ERAP'S FINANCIAL ADVISERS VOW THEY WON'T JUMP SHIP
Manila, Nov. 5, 2000, Sunday (STAR) - They’re standing by their man. The economic managers of President Estrada vowed yesterday to remain in their respective posts and just do their job of keeping the country’s economy afloat amid a whirling political and economic crisis.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Felipe Medalla, and Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma assured the President during his weekly radio/TV program that they remain steadfast in their posts.
Conspicuously absent during the show was Finance Secretary Jose Pardo, who reportedly had a previous engagement.
Speaking on behalf of Mr. Estrada’s economic managers, who like their boss have also been under pressure to resign, Medalla said their job now is to continue keeping an atmosphere of transparency and accountability in government.
Medalla, though, admitted he was most surprised by the decision of Trade Secretary Manuel Roxas II who quit the Cabinet Thursday.
"In short, I mis-read the intentions of my good friend, Mar. If I were in his shoes, I could understand why he did not reveal everything to me. Everyone has to make his choice," Medalla said.
Pardo, another of the President’s economic managers, has admitted Cabinet members have been under tremendous "pressure" from family, kin, friends and other groups to similarly quit.
The resignation of Roxas came on the heels of the resignation of Mr. Estrada’s senior economic advisers.
But the President clarified that former Central Bank Gov. Gabriel Singson, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, former Sen. Vicente Paterno, and businessmen Washington Sycip and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala need not resign because they had no formal appointment papers.
The President also said he was assured by them that they would still be available should he need their advice or counsel.
"They can continue individually... But I thanked them for the past months; they’ve been very helpful," he said, adding, "They are free (to quit) anytime."
Mr. Estrada designated Pardo as his official contact with the former economic advisers.
Diokno, on the other hand, said the best measure to restore economic and political stability in the country is to allow the constitutional process to run its course, referring to impeachment proceedings against the Chief Executive.
"Perhaps, there is really a political crisis but the solution is to go through the constitutional process," Diokno said. "Our job here is to make sure government continues to work."
Medalla explained that the fast-tracking of impeachment proceedings is a positive development because this would quickly resolve the crisis of confidence affecting the administration, triggered by jueteng payoff allegations by Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson.
"In a way, what happened was a positive development. This will make the impeachment process more impartial and speedy. You cannot accuse the Senate of being biased, especially now that the Senate president himself has left the coalition," Medalla said, referring to the resignation of Sen. Franklin Drilon from LAMP.
Medalla said the political controversies, coupled with the global currency meltdown as a result of a strong dollar, have caused the peso to plunge to 51 to the greenback, or about P5 lower than its "normal" trading band.
But the economic managers, determined to ride the storm through, believed the peso-dollar rate would correct itself by the Christmas holidays. – Marichu Villanueva
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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