GMA ADVISED TO KEEP WORD ON 2004

Manila, April 8, 2003 (Tribune) -- President Arroyo will sure have to deal 
with credibility problem should she bite the bait of some members of her 
Cabinet who are reportedly pushing her to run in the 2004 elections.

It won't even make her "winnable" or "appealable" before the public if she 
would break her very own vow not to run in the presidential race next year, 
cautioned opposition legislators Gilbert Remulla (Cavite) and Didagen 
Dilangalen.

They also lashed out at Presidential Adviser on Special Concerns Norberto 
Gonzales for insinuating that a silent majority in Malacaņang is pushing 
Mrs. Arroyo's to seek the presidency. The two lawmakers said Gonzales' 
statement would only put the President in a bad light.

"Don't they realize what they're doing? The President had already made her 
vow, and eventually she gained the respect of the public and the opposition 
as well after doing that," Dilangalen pointed out.

Remulla said the President should not go back on her word or she will lose 
whatever credibility she had sought to establish. In the end, this won't 
help her deliver votes, he stressed.

Gonzales admitted the other day the administration's People Power Coalition 
(PPC) might endorse instead Mrs. Arroyo as the party's bet if there is no 
other potential candidate as strong as the President.

Mrs. Arroyo vowed in December last year that she would not seek the 
presidential seat in next year's polls.

"Even if I get four million signatures, I will not run," she had promised 
the public. She was also quoted as saying, "Whatever the skeptics say, I 
will not run. I'm determined to make the best of the remaining months in my 
presidency and help move our people forward on the road to recovery and 
progress."

Malacaņang yesterday stressed nothing could change the President's 
pronouncement last Dec. 30 that she would not run in 2004 despite pressure 
from some of her Cabinet men.
Statements coming from presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye and political 
adviser Jose Rufino said Mrs. Arroyo should be respected for her decision.

When pressed whether Gonzales would be sanctioned, Bunye said, "No, the 
President has not...we know what the President's stand on this matter 
is...it's for us to explain that she has really made a firm decision and 
that it would not be reconsidered."

But administration lawmakers at the House of Representatives are now open 
to the idea that Mrs. Arroyo may change her mind specially when the 
coalition could still not find a better potential candidate who is fit for 
the job.

The Lakas party, which adopted Mrs. Arroyo during the 1998 presidential 
elections as running mate of now Speaker Jose de Venecia, had admitted 
facing difficulties in choosing its presidential bet.

It is expected that the party will be in further disarray if Mrs. Arroyo 
backtracks on her own promise not to run since it is trying to convince 
businessman and former Ambassador Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco to be Lakas' 
bet in 2004. There were reports that Lakas, under the leadership of De 
Venecia, has been trying to negotiate with the Nationalist People's 
Coalition, the political party of Cojuangco.

De Venecia has refused to make any statement over reports that some Cabinet 
officials are pushing Mrs. Arroyo's candidacy. (By Dona Policar and Sherwin 
C. Olaes)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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