PRESIDENT ARROYO MAY SHORTEN TRIP TO MIDDLE EAST, EUROPE

MANILA, September 6, 2003  (STAR)  President Arroyo, who survived a military rebellion in July, is likely to shorten her three-nation tour of the Middle East later this month amid fears of a new plot, a spokesman said Friday.

Arroyo is set to visit Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from September 21.

"What we know is that the trip is still a go except that the duration may be cut short," said Arroyo spokesman Ignacio Bunye. "Our country has many issues that our president must deal with," he added.

The actual duration of Arroyo’s trip to the Middle East has never been made public but earlier reports said it would be less than a week. When asked if the trip would be cut short because of allegations of a new plot to topple the president, Bunye replied, "not necessarily". — AFP, Marichu Villanueva

Poll: GMA an election frontrunner The Philippine Star 09/06/2003

Incumbent Gloria Arroyo is now considered among the frontrunners of the May 2004 Philippines presidential election, having caught up with two other presumed rivals over the past eight months, an independent polling outfit said Friday.

There is now "a tight three-way race for the 2004 presidency," said Manila-based Social Weather Stations, citing a July 26-August 27 nationwide survey commissioned by the ABS-CBN broadcast network.

The survey coincided with the start of a short-lived July 27 military rebellion that has resulted in the arrest of more than 300 soldiers led by junior officers.

Arroyo is widely expected to officially declare her candidacy shortly before the mid-December deadline, after publicly pledging on December 30 last year that she would stand down.

The poll of 1,200 adults found 20 percent would be voting for Senator Noli de Castro, who moonlights as an ABS-CBN broadcaster, if the May 10, 2004 polls were held now.

Former Senator Raul Roco, an estranged former member of the Arroyo cabinet, got 18 percent and Arroyo was at 16 percent. The only other double-digit scorers were local movie star Fernando Poe at 12 percent and Senator Panfilo Lacson at 11 percent.

A similar SWS/ABS-CBN poll in December had Roco on top at 24 percent, Poe at 21 percent, de Castro at 19 percent, and Arroyo at 13 percent. Both polls had error margins of plus or minus three percent. — AFP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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