Malacanang, June 14, 2004 By Marichu Villanueva (Star) President Arroyo was elated that an international credit rating agency recognized the reforms she has instituted, but stressed that no amount of local or international pressure would make her change her mind about not running for president next year.

This was how Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye described Mrs. Arroyo’s reaction after the London-based credit rating agency Fitch Ratings said that her decision not to run on May 10, 2004 will spur skittishness over the continuity of policies she has instituted over the past two years.

House Deputy Speaker Raul Gonzalez, who spearheaded a recent signature campaign in the House of Representatives urging the President to run in 2004, said it is her "duty" to run, especially since it was the first time foreign investors expressed concern over political continuity in the country.

Mindanao leaders also backed moves to persuade the President to retract her Dec. 30, 2002 announcement that she would not run for president next year.

Even communist leader Luis Taruc, one of the founders of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP), said Mrs. Arroyo "has the right to change her mind" and seek a full presidential term.

But the President appeared to be unruffled by the growing appeals for her to run and issued a statement reiterating her desire to bow out of public life.

"I have unburdened myself of politics to serve the people. There are many who are equally worthy of the presidency, or even more worthy, than me," the Palace statement quoted the President as saying.

Mrs. Arroyo also twitted Fitch Ratings for ignoring the stability attained by her administration and assured the people that her reforms can be sustained even after she steps down from office in June next year.

"These transient sovereign ratings are irrelevant to my political future. Nevertheless, it is regretful that Fitch has downgraded our sovereign ratings without giving proper weight to the valiant efforts of our people to shore up and maintain the stability of the economy," the President said.

"This is a temporary setback. We will forge on," the President added.

Presidential suitors

But undeterred by the President’s apparent resolve at not running next year, Gonzalez said the President cannot turn her back on the growing international and local clamor for her to run and the Fitch assessment "only confirms the wisdom of Mrs. Arroyo running next year."

"That is precisely our point," Gonzalez told The STAR. "Every time you have a new administration, we go back to square one. That is another setback."

"I would venture to say that it is her duty to continue running the country," he said, noting that local and international calls for her to continue her economic policies have a strong bearing on the country’s "national and international credibility, especially on the economic situation."

The Iloilo congressman urged Filipinos to set aside parochial concerns "because we are living in a global village. Other countries are concerned over the political developments here as we are with theirs."

Gonzalez said the signatures of 85 congressmen who signed the petition for her to change her mind and run next year can be translated as a commitment to deliver the votes the President would need to get her own mandate as president.

"The congressmen were elected by their constituents. Each could (deliver) 50,000 votes. So that’s more than four million," he said.

Gonzalez’s petition is being considered by some leaders of the ruling Lakas Christian-Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) as a nomination for Mrs. Arroyo to be the party’s standard-bearer next year.

Some 25 Mindanao leaders also signed a strongly worded manifesto urging Mrs. Arroyo to run and gave the manifesto to the President after she visited the towns of Pagalungan and S. K. Pendatun in Maguindanao.

The manifesto, signed by Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Vice Gov. Bimbo Sinsuat and their 23 constituent mayors, pointed out that there is a need for the President to ensure the continuity of her socio-economic programs.

Supporting moves to urge the President to run, former communist rebel leader Taruc quoted deceased former President Manuel L. Quezon as saying "only fools don’t change their minds." – With Paolo Romero, John Unson, Ding Cervantes

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved