President Gloria Macapagal ArroyoManila, June 20, 2003 (Star) ‘Body language’ clue to GMA 2004 poll plans, says Alvarez.

Watch the body language.

The spokesman for the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party said yesterday that voters and politicians should read President Arroyo’s body language come August to determine whether she would stand for election next year.

That is what the Lakas-CMD would be doing in six weeks when party leaders draw up a shortlist for the elections on May 10, 2004, party spokesman Heherson Alvarez said.

There has been intense speculation regarding Mrs. Arroyo’s political plans in recent weeks even though she declared in Baguio City last Dec. 30 that she would not seek a full six-year term in the elections next May. She has kept everyone guessing by saying she is happy with her decision at this time.

Senate President Franklin Drilon has said he believed the 55-year-old grandmother was reviewing her options, and that her popularity ratings and the state of the economy would guide her in making her decision in October.

Alvarez said the Lakas leadership has passed a series of resolutions on the selection process for the party presidential candidate.

"One of these resolutions said that sometime in August, we will read the body language," he said on ABS-CBN television.

"What would be the body language of the President? Is she going to be favoring somebody of those who have indicated within the party their candidacy, like (Sen. Ramon) Magsaysay for instance, or like (Sen. Juan) Flavier for instance? Or is she going to run?" he asked.

The party should be ready to announce its standard- bearer in October, he added.

The election campaign starts in December.

Swept to power by a military-backed popular revolt amid a corruption scandal that toppled then-president Joseph Estrada in January 2001, former vice president Gloria Arroyo’s short term has been a "very trying presidency," Alvarez acknowledged.

But he said she has overcome "challenges to her performance... and to her legitimacy."

"And yet this President has achieved global attention, and global, I think, endorsement," said Alvarez, a former environment secretary of Mrs. Arroyo.

Run GMA run

From Pampanga to Iligan City, the clamor for Mrs. Arroyo to seek a full six-year term just won’t die down. And her political affairs officers are making sure she hears it.

Hernani Braganza, Mrs. Arroyo’s new political adviser on political affairs, told a television talk show Wednesday night that there is sufficient basis for the President to reverse her earlier decision not to run in the May 2004 elections.

"She’s doing well as president considering what she started out with. Two years ago, the economy was down, (the) security issue was a problem in the (Estrada) government. The President has put in a lot of effort for the Philippines to return to its rightful state, not only locally but internationally," Braganza said on ANC’s "Online."

"I will be guilty in the sense that I want her to run," he added, in reference to Mrs. Arroyo’s adamant stand to stick to her decision to quit the race, which she announced on Rizal Day last year.

Braganza, however, stressed that it is still up to Mrs. Arroyo if she would change her mind about not running.

"If and when the President will reconsider her decision, she will talk to her family," he said.

Braganza assured that the President has the political machinery, the full support of the Lakas-CMD party, and most likely that of the public if she decides to run.

He warned of the possibility that having a presidential contender not as formidable as Mrs. Arroyo could "weaken" the party particularly after the elections if the candidate does not win.

This, he said, is among the "many reason" why the administration party has not yet abandoned its call for Mrs. Arroyo, Lakas national chairman, to reconsider her decision not to seek a full mandate as president.

He also said that there is a need for "continuity" in the policies set by the Arroyo administration.

"If the most probable contender for Lakas is not as strong, that might weaken Lakas even after the election period has ended. But that is not new to us. During the Estrada administration, we lost a lot of congressmen but we survived," said the former press secretary.

Braganza said it would also suit the interest of the international community if Mrs. Arroyo decided to throw her hat in the presidential ring in 2004.

"So this is the situation. There are many factors that the President has to consider. I don’t think it will just be based on one (factor) alone," he said.

Meanwhile, Braganza said he and Lakas-CMD executive director Jose Rufino, who is now political liaison officer, would have to "come together" whether or not Mrs. Arroyo decides to run.

Rufino is reportedly disgruntled for losing his post to Braganza, who is also Lakas’ deputy secretary general and vice president for youth.

Braganza laughed when it was pointed out to him that the President’s having two political advisers seems to signal her having two minds on the issue of seeking reelection.

"Many have said that. As I’ve said, the two offices are different in one way or another. But at the end of the day, we’d have to come together if not for the President, for the party. Maybe this is what we have to do," he said.

In San Fernando, Pampanga, a movement of prominent Capampangans led by Health Undersecretary Epifanio Lacap is launching a nationwide campaign to generate support for their move to convince their cabalen to change her mind and run next May.

"We will fill the provinces from Luzon through Visayas and Mindanao with streamers urging the President to run," said Lacap, former mayor of Masantol town in the province, during the gathering of local officials led by Gov. Lito Lapid.

Lacap said his group, the Aguman ding Capampangan (Society of Capampangans), is composed of Pampanga natives who established themselves and became successful in their careers in other provinces and countries.

He cited the Dizons and San Pedros of Davao, the Guintos of General Santos City, and the Riveras of Zamboanga as among the successful cabalens who are supporting the move in Mindanao.

The other day, Lapid and Mabalacat Mayor Marino Morales, president of the Pampanga Mayors’ League, met to sign a resolution asking Mrs. Arroyo to run for president in 2004.

Lakas Rep. Oscar Rodriguez of the province’s third district also pitched in, saying the incumbent is still "the best (Lakas) candidate" for the presidency because of her "experience."

Speaking on behalf of the mayors’ league, Morales said three years "is not enough to enable her (Mrs. Arroyo) to finish her noble programs for the country’s development."

Former Angeles City mayor, now National Housing Authority general manager Edgardo Pamintuan said that there were signs that the President was reconsidering, citing that her reaction to the growing calls for her to run has lately been more of amusement rather than pique.

"If she announced today that she would run for president, her critics would again say that all her moves are politically motivated. But I think she will announce it eventually," he added.

In Iligan City, leaders in Western and Northern Mindanao see the need for the President to continue her strong, unwavering and hard policy towards terrorism, particularly in Mindanao, congressmen from the island said.

At least six congressmen from the Zamboanga peninsula are urging Mrs. Arroyo to run in 2004, according to Rep. Isidoro Real, regional chairman of the Lakas-CMD.

The other five congressmen are Felomina San Juan, 2nd district, Zamboanga del Sur; Belma Cabilao, lone district of Zamboanga Sibugay; Angel Carloto, 3rd district, Zamboanga del Norte; Herminia Ramiro, 1st district, Misamis Occidental, and Ernie Clarete, 2nd district, Misamis Occidental. All are Lakas members.

They said even congressmen from other parties support their call, including Cecilia Jalosjos-Carreon, 1st district, Zamboanga del Norte, younger sister of the jailed former congressman whom Mrs. Arroyo once visited in prison.

House defense committee chairman Prospero Pichay (Lakas, Surigao del Sur), meanwhile, remarked that Butuan City residents received the President warmly during her recent weeklong sortie in Mindanao, and they came waving banners urging her to run.

"After all, who among the presidentiables have the experience to run this country?" Pichay asked. "There is no law or sacred code prohibiting her candidacy particularly when the interests of the country would be furthered by her election."AFP, Ann Corvera, Ding Cervantes, Lino dela Cruz

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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