NEWSFLASH

GUINGONA LAUDS GMA MOVE BUT SAYS NO TO NEW POST

MANILA, January 4, 2003 (STAR)  By Aurea Calica  - He may be impressed with the decision of President Arroyo to withdraw from the 2004 presidential race, but Vice President Teofisto Guingona is no longer interested in serving as member of the Cabinet.

Guingona yesterday expressed his apprehensions on taking over the Department of Justice, citing policy differences with Mrs. Arroyo. "I don’t want lightning to strike thrice," he said.

Guingona made the statement following the resignation of Justice Secretary-on leave Hernando Perez on Thursday, ending weeks of speculation about his fate as a Cabinet member.

Earlier, Guingona was prematurely announced to have resigned from his position as secretary of foreign affairs and was mistakenly declared to be making a comeback to the Cabinet as Mindanao czar.

"Frankly speaking, my position is still not to join the Cabinet. But now I have to keep an open mind because she (Mrs. Arroyo) has shown the spirit of sacrifice," Guingona said.

But to opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the sacrifice would mean Mrs. Arroyo could now exert more efforts in eradicating graft and corruption, maintaining peace and order, and creating an environment conducive to investments in the last 18 months of her administration.

Pimentel also stressed the need to modernize the electoral system.

"If the President could do these things, she will leave a legacy of concrete achievements and secure herself a rightful place in the gallery of great leaders of our nation," Pimentel said.

The only thing to do, according to Pimentel, is for Mrs. Arroyo to "muster enough political will to carry out her mandated tasks and weather the odds."

In a statement, Pimentel said he does not share the view of her critics in claiming Mrs. Arroyo ended up as a political lame duck in withdrawing from the 2004 presidential race.

On the contrary, Pimentel said, Mrs. Arroyo could now be more decisive and effective in implementing her programs since she can make her decisions free from constraints of partisan politics.

Pimentel pointed out that the "Achilles heel" of her administration was graft and corruption. "She (Mrs. Arroyo) should not shirk from this challenge (eradicating graft). It has to be an honest-to-goodness fight. It cannot be photo-ops, that will not work," he said.

As to the country’s present political system, Pimentel stressed the system remains fraudulent as long as the electoral process is not reformed and modernized. – With Sammy Santos


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