CABINET MEN WANT GMA TO RUN IN 2004

Clark Field, Pampanga, June 2, 2003   Some members of President Arroyo's 
official family are not about to abandon hopes she would reconsider her 
decision to withdraw from the presidential race next year.

Even after Mrs. Arroyo expressed her irritation over speculations that she 
would seek a full term following the success of her state visit to the 
United States, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) 
chairman Michael Defensor said, "For many of us who work with her, for many 
political leaders and non-government organizations, such as urban poor 
groups, the President should consider running in the elections."

Defensor, however, lamented Mrs. Arroyo "seems to be sticking to the 
decision" not to run, even as he personally urged her "to consider" running 
for the presidency.

In an interview here during the recent first congress of homeowners' 
associations of resettled victims of Mt. Pinatubo in Central Luzon, 
Defensor said that "the President should give it serious thought as it's 
not only a personal thing for her but it's also good for the country."

For her part, Camarines Sur Vice Gov. Imelda Papin, a member of the ruling 
Lakas-NUCD party, said there was nothing wrong if Mrs. Arroyo changed her 
mind.

But she declined to comment on whether voters in the Bicol Region held the 
same sentiment, pointing out that another presidential hopeful, former 
Education secretary Raul Roco, is from the region.

Pampanga Gov. Manuel "Lito" Lapid said he respected Mrs. Arroyo's decision 
but personally preferred she would still run for the presidency in 2004.

Last week, Mrs. Arroyo ordered Palace officials to "buckle down to work" 
amid rumors that she was again casting a moist eye on the elections next year.

Presidential Chief of Staff Rigoberto Tiglao dismissed reports that Mrs. 
Arroyo issued a gag order to stop speculations on her plans for 2004. He 
said the order was merely for Malacanang officials to get down to work.

He described Mrs. Arroyo's irritation to queries about her plans for 2004 
as a normal, "human response."

There have been reports, however, that some members of the ruling Lakas 
party are still convincing Mrs. Arroyo to reconsider her decision.

Negros Occidental Rep. Apolinario Lozada, chairman of the House foreign 
relations committee earlier said "no matter what her detractors may say, 
President Arroyo remains the most powerful and most influential political 
figure around and whatever she does or says, particularly in relation to 
the forthcoming polls, would ruffle the waters, so to speak."

Lozada said "presidentiables" from the People Power Coalition, particularly 
in the Lakas-NUCD, would have to temporarily withdraw their bids, should 
Mrs. Arroyo reverse her decision.

"The administration will give the opposition a run for their money if the 
ruling party has the President of the Republic on top of its slate," Lozada 
said.

Davao Oriental Rep. Mayo Almario, said Mrs. Arroyo as the "woman to beat in 
2004."

Opposition leader Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, on the other hand, was reported 
to have warned Mrs. Arroyo against running for next year's election, saying 
it would be a "political suicide." 

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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