TOWN MAYORS' LEAGUE SUPPORTS ARROYO'S DECISION TO RUN IN 2004

DAGUPAN CITY, PANGASINAN, OCTOBER 4, 2003 (STAR) By Eva Visperas  - The country’s association of town mayors is set to pass a resolution on Thursday declaring their support for President Arroyo’s bid for a full six-year term in next year’s election.

Binalonan, Pangasinan Mayor Ramon Guico Jr., who is the president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), said they originally thought of passing a resolution urging Mrs. Arroyo to rejoin the May polls.

But now that she is back in the running, the LMP will pass a resolution declaring their support for her instead.

Mrs. Arroyo reversed her December decision to withdraw from the 2004 race in a rally in the former US air base at Clark Field in her home province of Pampanga last Saturday.

The resolution will be officially approved by the LMP in a meeting of Luzon mayors on Thursday at Westin Philippine Plaza in Manila with Mrs. Arroyo as their guest.

At least 500 mayors have confirmed their attendance, Guico said.

Mayors from the Visayas and Mindanao have already met in separate conferences in Manila and declared their support for Mrs. Arroyo, the LMP said in a statement.

"Local leaders determine success and defeat for national candidates. The presidential race will rely heavily on the support of the local leaders who are in direct contact with their constituents," Guico said. "This is where President Arroyo will enjoy a tremendous advantage over the rest in the field."

After months of speculation, Mrs. Arroyo’s announcement will finally give the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats ruling party direction, Guico said.

It might also create a "bandwagon effect" in which politicians will be enticed to join the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats ruling party.

Vice Gov. Oscar Lambino, acting chairman of Lakas in Pangasinan, told The STAR in a separate interview that the President’s decision to rejoin the presidential race "erases political uncertainty and ensures positive growth in our economy."

"Unlike before when everybody is in a wait-and-see attitude, now there’s a clearer picture and those belonging to the administration party can now chart their plans on what to do next year," he said.

The LMP passed an earlier resolution urging Mrs. Arroyo to run. But they will pass another for the President to see that they are firm on their earlier endorsement, Guico said.

The LMP has 1,500 members who belong to various political parties but the majority of them are pro-Arroyo, Guico said, adding that the endorsement reflected the general sentiment of LMP members.

Guico said Mrs. Arroyo will be the candidate to beat in next year’s polls.

Mayor Elizabeth Delgado, of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, said the Lady Municipal Mayors Association of the Philippines Inc. has also vowed to support Mrs. Arroyo.

Local leaders in Mindanao were elated by Mrs. Arroyo’s decision to run next year because of her efforts to end the decades-long Muslim insurgency in the south, Delgado said.

"Mindanao will truly become a land of promise once genuine peace is established. We are banking on the President’s unrelenting efforts to seek peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front so that a multi-donor trust fund for Mindanao may be made available to step up development here," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo’s decision to run pits her against her former education secretary, Raul Roco, and opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who accuses her husband of money laundering.

Tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., chairman of food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp., is believed to be also in the running but has not made any decision whether or not to make a second bid for the presidency, so far.

He earlier said he would make a decision last month.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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