COJUANGCO: NEXT RP LEADER SHOULD BE A 'HEALING PRESIDENT'

Manila, August 1, 2003 (Star) By Paolo Romero  - The country’s next president should be a "healing president."

This was what businessman Eduardo Cojuangco said on Wednesday night as he urged the nation to forget the past and unite as a people.

Speaking before the Philippine Constructors Association at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong, Cojuangco said only with a united people can the nation surmount its many problems.

He told the forum that he is committed to run under a united opposition.

Cojuangco said past administrations all had very good chances of saving the country’s sagging economy but these opportunities were squandered because of their vindictiveness to get back at perceived political enemies.

Cojuangco recalled that shortly after the 1986 EDSA people power revolution, he was forced into exile. And when he came back, and even up to now, he has been required to secure a special permit from the government before he can leave the country.

"They wanted me to leave the country before, now for the past 16 years, they make it hard for me to do so," he said. "But I’m used to it, though it hurts me sometimes."

Cojuangco, founder of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and currently chairman of the food and beverage conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), is currently touring the country to determine whether he will run for president in 2004.

Allies of Cojuangco in the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) have reiterated their support for his presidential bid despite the growing clamor in the party to have President Arroyo as its standard-bearer in the May 2004 elections.

Lakas-CMD Rep. Jacinto Paras of Negros Oriental said some 20 Lakas congressmen met with Cojuangco on Wednesday night in his SMC office to reaffirm their support for him.

Paras, however, declined to name the lawmakers, but said they are part of the 50 Lakas congressmen who signed a manifesto urging Cojuangco to run.

According to Paras, Cojuangco also met with 10 Lakas legislators earlier this week. "These congressmen have not reneged on the commitment they have made to go for him all the way," Paras said, adding that the administration People Power Coalition (PPC) might break up as the elections draw nearer.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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