HENPECKED MIKE SAYS GMA IS THE BOSS

Malacanang, June 13, 2003 By Marichu Villanueva (Star)  Gloriaís wish is his command.

First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo said yesterday he would support any final decision President Arroyo makes on whether or not to run in the elections next year, because she is his commander in chief.

"Kung ano ang sabihin ni Misis (Whatever the Missus says)," he quipped. "Ako, ander di saya ako. Kaya ako, sumusunod ako. Hindi ako nagsasabi anong gagawin. Ako ang ander. Sumusunod lang ako (Iím a henpecked husband. I donít say what to do. I just follow)," he said in levity.

Mr. Arroyo broke his silence on the matter yesterday amid renewed efforts on the part of the political allies of the President in the ruling administration party Lakas-CMD to convince her to run for the presidency in May 2004.

"For me, whatever Gloria says. Thatís it. Itís up to her," the First Gentlemen told Palace reporters seriously.

"Itís up first to God. Itís up to Gloria to make the discernment and then itís up to the Filipino people to say what they want," he added.

Offhand though, Mr. Arroyo admitted that "some" of their three children, Pampanga Vice Gov. Mikey Arroyo, Luli and Dato, want their mother to retire from politics after the end of her term. But he did not say who among the three children supports her Dec. 30 decision.

The First Gentleman was one of the few people consulted by Mrs. Arroyo before she announced in last yearís Rizal Day observance that she will just finish the remainder of her term in June 2004.

A few months later, Mr. Arroyo was dragged into a controversy for allegedly trying to generate public clamor for his wife to change her mind about running for re-election when the First Couple was seen distributing "balut" (duckís egg) to taxi drivers late into the night on T. M. Kalaw street in Manila.

Last week, Lakas-CMD congressmen led by House Deputy Speaker Raul Gonzalez submitted a resolution asking Mrs. Arroyo to reconsider her decision because she is the only viable candidate of their party for next yearís elections.

"She has no final decision yet. But she gets angry because this is always being asked about her. She wants to focus on her job. All she just wants to do is to work and work," Mr. Arroyo said.

"What we really need to do is just work and focus on the work we need to do," he pointed out.

Mr. Arroyo said even world leaders were very much impressed with the Presidentís performance. Some of these leaders, he cited, believe in the "continuity" of leadership set by Mrs. Arroyo after she took over the reins of the government from deposed President Joseph Estrada in January 2001.

During the Presidentís state visit to the White House last May 19, US President George Bush was quoted as telling Mrs. Arroyo: "Politicians like women are allowed to change their mind."

The same sentiments were reportedly told by other world leaders during her state visit to South Korea last June 2-4 and during her working visit to Japan last June 5-6.

Arroyo though conceded there have been "mixed" views regarding his wifeís decision.

"She listens to those who are opposed and to those who tell her they want her to run," he said, adding that Mrs. Arroyo takes note of everything and will consider these in finally deciding on the matter.

The First Gentleman was at the Palace yesterday and did not escort Mrs. Arroyo for the traditional Independence Day vin dí honneur reception for the diplomatic community, which she hosted at the presidential yacht BRP Ang Pangulo docked in Zamboanga City. The President is on the third leg of her seven-day Mindanao sortie.

"I donít need to go with her all the time. She is focused on her work. Iím not a government official. So I stayed here so I can enjoy the company of my granddaughter along with my children who are also here," he explained.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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