CABINET MEN WANT GMA TO RUN IN 2004Clark 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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