Malacanang, July 6, 2003 By Marichu Villanueva (Star) Although President Arroyo remains steadfast in her decision not to run next year, the "encouragement" of Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin is a sign that the prelate approves of how she is running the country, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo was very grateful for the vote of support which Sin expressed to First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo during a visit to the archbishopís Villa San Miguel residence in Mandaluyong City on Friday.

"We are very thankful for these words of Cardinal Sin and we consider this an approval of the things that the President has been doing," Bunye said. "But (on) whether this would affect (her decision not to run), the Presidentís stand is very firm that she will not be distracted by political consideration."

After giving the cardinal a P1 million donation for priests and nuns, the First Gentleman quoted the cardinal as saying "Please tell Gloria, I insist that she runs."

Mr. Arroyo said he felt "very proud" to hear such words of encouragement from Sin that he decided to issue an official statement to the press.

"We have no doubt whatsoever that these conversations took place. We would like to thank the good cardinal for his nice words of encouragement," Bunye said.

Ambassador to Laos Antonio Cabangon-Chua, chairman of the First Gentlemanís Golf Cup that raised the P1 million donated to the Manila archdiocese, said he was also heartened by the Cardinalís words of encouragement.

"I am happy for this because I think, as an appointee of the President, I think our country really needs continuity," Cabangon-Chua said.

The ambassador noted that the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, headed by Robin Sy, has already urged Mrs. Arroyo to reconsider her decision.

But Bunye emphasized that the President "really does not want to be distracted from what she is doing to push our political, economic, legislative and electoral agenda."

At the same time, Bunye dismissed suggestions that Mrs. Arroyo issue a personal statement on her resolve not to run for president so people would focus on vital issues instead of electoral politics.

"I donít think that is needed because our President has already declared it so I donít think there is a need for that again," Bunye said. "The President has already spoken and we believe that this stand has not changed."

The Presidentís partymate Malabon-Navotas Rep. Federico Sandoval II echoed Bunyeís statement and said "politics has to take a backseat given the enormity of the problems facing the country today."

Sandoval urged the opposition to stop wasting their time in speculating whether the President would run and instead "focus their efforts in helping the government solve the countryís problems.

"No matter what the opposition says, only destiny will tell whether President Arroyo will remain the countryís Chief Executive beyond 2003," Sandoval said.

On the other hand, Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles said it is up to the President to decide whether she will run or not.

"If she really wants to run, she will file her certificate of candidacy even without endorsements," Nograles said during the weekly Kapihan sa Sulo forum.

Nograles said the members of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats are forced to look for alternative candidates outside of the party because none of their members appear to be strong contenders in next yearís elections. Ė With Jose Rodel Clapano, Ding Cervantes


The Philippine Star 07/06/2003

Press Secretary Milton Alingod refuted yesterday reports that Roberto Lastimoso was relieved as chief of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) without being officially informed beforehand.

Alingod said Undersecretary Enrique Perez of the Presidential Search Committee called Lastimoso on the phone on Thursday to inform him that DOTC Undersecretary Agustin Bengzon had been designated LTO officer-in-charge by President Arroyo.

"Perez had been trying to contact Lastimoso since July 1, 2003 but the latter was either out of town or in meetings," Alingod said.

He also pointed out that the Office of the Executive Secretary transmitted the Bengzon and Lastimoso papers, by courier and fax, before the close of office hours on July 3, 2003. These were officially received by the LTO and DOTC early evening of the same date, he said.

Alingod emphasized that the process of replacement was routine and proper, and it was never intended to treat Lastimoso unceremoniously or put him in a bad light.

"In fact, President Arroyo said Lastimoso was trying to do his best but he was simply overwhelmed by the morass of problems in the LTO," he added.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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