MANILA, September 19, 2003  (STAR) By Jess Diaz  - The United States wants President Arroyo to "come clean on her 2004 plans" ahead of the expected visit to Manila of President George W. Bush next month, opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara said yesterday.

Angara told a news conference that the official thinking in Washington is that Mrs. Arroyo "should either reiterate her December 2002 promise not to run in next year’s elections or tell the nation and the world if she is breaking that commitment."

"The US does not want the presence here of its president or his body language exploited for partisan purposes," he said.

He said this official thinking has been reflected every now and then in the American media.

He added that apparently, US officials are wary of statements by some Arroyo administration officials that the Bush visit would amount to an endorsement of the American president of Mrs. Arroyo’s supposed plans to run in 2004.

The New York Times ran an editorial in its Sept. 17 issue urging Mrs. Arroyo to "remove the ambiguity over whether she will run next May so she — and the country — can concentrate on the tasks that lie ahead."

"If Mrs. Arroyo has changed her mind -and there is no shame in doing so she should explain why and spell out what she would with a new mandate," said the paper, considered as the most prestigious and influential news organization in the United States.

Last Dec. 30, Mrs. Arroyo announced that she would not run in the presidential race, but the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats has appealed to the President to reconsider her decision.

The New York Times editorial noted that coup rumors and allegations of corruption are destabilizing the Philippine government at a time when it needs more than ever to focus on repairing the battered economy and fighting poverty.

The editorial comes a month before Bush’s state visit on Oct. 18, which opposition Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said could be an endorsement to Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy in next year’s elections.

"Political intrigue," the paper said, "is not just distracting the government from attending to the Philippines’ problems; it is making these problems worse."

The editorial added that the attempted military coup in July scared off investors and tourists and sent the country’s currency, the peso, tumbling to record lows.

"Manila’s political class," the paper wrote, "bears a collective responsibility to confine its squabbling to the ballot box, and to start providing Filipinos with solutions rather than plots and rumors."

Sen. Teresa Aquino-Oreta said on the part of the opposition, "for the sake of the nation, we would like that the President stick to the commitment she made on national television last December – that she would not run."

She said Mrs. Arroyo should fulfill that part of her commitment as well as its adjunct – that she would devote the remainder of her term taking measures to boost the economy, fight graft and corruption and making the nation the strong republic that she envisioned.

She should also make sure that the May 2004 elections would be clean, honest and orderly, she said.

She stressed that if the President can make good on all those promises, she would leave the presidency with a legacy that future presidents would find hard to equal or surpass.

However, Oreta pointed out that because Mrs. Arroyo is fixated on running in 2004, she has failed to work to accomplish her goals.

"The economy is in the doldrums, graft and corruption is endemic and we still are a weak republic. She should not blame us. The blame rests largely on her," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo has attributed the listlessness of the nation and the economy to dirty politics and too much politicking.

Angara said the President "is as much a part of that culture as any other politicians."

But being the leader of the nation, she alone has to answer for its failure since she cannot pass the buck when reckoning day comes, he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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