Malacanang, August 5, 2003 By Marichu Villanueva (STAR) President Arroyo and her top aides remained mum yesterday on her supposed plans to run next year despite former justice secretary Hernando Perez’s claim that she herself had told him she would run and even authorized him to spread the news.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said he could not comment on the report since he has not personally spoken with Perez.

But he quickly said he heard Perez vehemently deny in a radio program yesterday morning that he ever told NBI officials during a gathering in Batangas City on July 22 that Mrs. Arroyo confided to him she would run.

"I’ve monitored an interview with Secretary Perez at around 7 a.m. He belied ever making such a statement," Bunye told Palace reporters.

"What he said was that he was very vocal in saying that some members of Lakas are urging the President to run," Bunye said. "He said in that (radio) interview he never said that the President told him that she was running."

According to an audiotape of Perez’s address on the occasion of the launching of the NBI’s women’s and children’s desk in Batangas, Perez did say that many of his partymates in the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party are urging the President to run.

"Yoon pong mga kasamahan namin sa partido ang nagsasabing ‘huwag mo kaming iwanan, Mrs. President, tumakbo kang muli’ (Our partymates are saying ‘don’t abandon us, Mrs. President, run again’)," Perez told the gathering of NBI officials, headed by NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco.

But after he admitted that he plans to run for provincial governor next year, Perez said "Tinawagan ako ng ating Pangulo (The President called me)."

Perez then related how Mrs. Arroyo told him that she would be running and even authorized him to spread the news.

Perez told the gathered officials that Mrs. Arroyo ordered her aides not to comment on her supposed plans to run next year.

"But I’m not included in the gag order of the President, that’s why I can openly reveal that she’s running for president in the 2004 elections," Perez said.

Perez related that Mrs. Arroyo explicitly ordered her aides not to comment on her plans to run next year because, she said, "your statements are as good as mine."

But, Perez said, he was surprised when Mrs. Arroyo supposedly told him: "Nani, hindi ka kasali sa gag order (Nani, you’re not included in the gag order)."

"Ma’am, anong ibig sabihin noon (Ma’am, what does that mean)?" Perez said he asked the President. "Puede kong ipamalita na tatakbo kayo (I can spread the news that you’re running)?"

"Puede (You may)," Perez quoted the President as replying.

Aside from Wycoco, the NBI officials included assistant director Leonito Utitco, deputy director for regional operations Felomino Bautista, deputy director Nestor Mantaring and regional director Edwin Villarta, among others.

Perez also charged that Philippine National Police (PNP) officials he refused to identify purposely allowed confessed bomber Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi to escape in a bid to derail Mrs. Arroyo’s re-election bid.

"Hindi ako naniniwalang walang opisyal ng PNP na naging kabahagi sa pagkawala ni Al-Ghozi ( I don’t believe that no PNP official was involved in Al-Ghozi’s escape)," he said.

"May mga puwersa sa loob ng PNP na gustong sirain si GMA dahil meron silang gustong suportahan sa darating na presidential election (There are forces inside the PNP who want to destroy GMA because they want to support someone in the coming presidential election)," Perez charged.

"After all the efforts of the NBI and the Bureau of Immigration to have al-Ghozi arrested, they allowed him to escape," he added.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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