ORETAMANILA, August 29, 2003 (MALAYA) By JP LOPEZ  - Sen. Teresa Aquino-Oreta yesterday called for a snap presidential election, a day after other opposition leaders urged President Arroyo to step down before the scheduled May elections.

Oreta said the Arroyo administration has already lost its moral ascendancy to govern following a series of events culminating in what she described as state-sanctioned abduction of Eugenio Mahusay Jr., Sen. Panfilo Lacson's witness in the alleged money laundering of Mike Arroyo, the President's husband.

Senate President Franklin Drilon proposed instead a mini-summit of political leaders to forge a common agenda to stabilize the situation.

"I don't think there is any basis for a snap election. What we should do is to join together to stabilize the situation. I think we owe it to our people that the situation be stabilized because in these uncertain times, the economy suffers," Drilon said.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye rejected the call for a snap election, saying the President "enjoys wide support from the people as borne by the most recent surveys."

The other day, former Senators Francisco Tatad and Juan Ponce Enrile urged the United Opposition to come up with a manifesto calling for the resignation of Arroyo which they said would be an act of "humility and patriotism" on the President's part.

In calling for snap elections, Oreta said democracy dictates that power reside in the people, not in a few individuals who can choose to twist the truth to suit their ends.

"The questionable actions of Malacaņang puncture the state of normalcy and stability that it has been trying to project before the public. After its squeeze job on members of the mainstream opposition and attempts to muzzle the media, it has now resorted to dubious steps to muddle the truth behind allegations of impropriety and corruption against a member of the First Family," she said.

She said a snap election is the only option that is left to give the country a fresh start and bring an economy burdened by Malacaņang's political machinations back on track.

Minority leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Rodolfo Biazon supported Oreta.

"If there are no solutions in sight, it seems that the country would really go into not only economic but social turmoil. It is best that we call for a snap election," Sotto said.

Sotto, however, also welcomed Drilon's proposed summit.

Drilon said the summit would address the growing dissent to the Arroyo administration.

"I would urge the President to call on all political leaders, the legitimate opposition, to a mini-summit in order that all these problems can really unite our people and those who are really interested in upholding the Constitution regardless of our differences," he said.

He also said there is no provision in the Constitution providing for snap elections.

Drilon said while a precedent was set by the 1986 snap election called by President Ferdinand Marcos, the situation is different today.

"The election will be forthcoming and, therefore, those who are seeking office can continue with their political campaign. But we should draw the line between political campaigns and extra- constitutional means," he said.

Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., a member of the majority bloc, echoed Drilon's position.

"Why force an issue which can be resolved in nine months through a regular election? The matter of who will be the next president is a concern with a definite answer on May 10, 2004. For now, let us stop politicking and address our nation's problems. Bayan muna bago pulitika," Magsaysay said.

The People's Movement Against Poverty said a snap election is probably the best solution to the growing discontent over the corruption and ineptness of the Arroyo administrarion.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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