NEWSFLASH

PALACE GOES SLOW ON NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT

MANILA, January 6, 2003 (STAR)  While President Arroyo may have started the call to establish a "government of national unity," Malacañang yesterday called on its proponents not to be hasty in pushing for the idea as it has to be carefully studied first.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the concept of a government composed of representatives from the entire political spectrum — strongly pushed by Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. — is welcome, but has to "evolve first."

"While the government of national unity is attractive, the details and implementation thereof must be thought out very carefully. All of its aspects must be anchored on moral and constitutional grounds," Bunye said.

He added that the emphasis should not be on personalities or parties that will participate, but on actual points or programs for cooperation.

"Otherwise, we will forever be at square one," Bunye said.

The matter, he said, is being studied by select members of the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security, including Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.

"We hope to come up with a clearer definition of the government of national unity," he said.

Bunye said deposed President Joseph Estrada’s reported offer to serve in the proposed government of national unity in whatever capacity indicates that many people believe that unity will help the country move forward.

De Venecia said the government of national unity would include representatives of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and other political parties.

He said this concept of government could be in place in 45 to 60 days if effort is exerted to form it.

"The vital task in 2003... is to concentrate on no-politics and no-nonsense government, and push ahead with the implementation of Economic Action Plan 747, which envisions seven years of at least seven percent GNP growth performance to accelerate the Filipino people’s crossover from poverty to the threshold of the middle class," De Venecia earlier said.

CPP spokesman Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal, however, virtually rejected the proposal, saying it is "without any clear principled basis of unity."

Rosal said the country’s political forces must first discuss and resolve issues among themselves. Otherwise, the proposed government would only be a combination of "opportunist bedfellows."

He also asked the government to drop the terrorist tag on the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

The MILF, for its part, remained wary over De Venecia’s proposal, saying there are a lot of issues that must be threshed out between their group and the government.

The President has long wanted to put up the government of national unity since she assumed office in January 2001, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo said earlier.

Mr. Arroyo said the President has taken initial steps when she appointed former opposition senator Blas Ople as her foreign affairs secretary, to the consternation of her civil society supporters.

Mrs. Arroyo, however, ignored these objections and appointed Ople to her Cabinet.

The President, in her capacity as national chairman of the ruling Lakas-NUCD party, will convene a party caucus on Jan. 8 to discuss the proposal. — Paolo Romero


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