MANILA, September 27, 2003  (MALAYA) By JP LOPEZ  - Sen. Sergio Osmeņa III and former Ambassador Ernesto Maceda yesterday said President Arroyo has been training her eyes on the 2004 presidential elections since Day One of her presidency.

Osmeņa said Arroyo promised to concentrate on solving the country's economy and peace and order when she announced on Dec. 30 last year that she would not run in 2004.

"(But) she did not do that. She never meant what she said. Right away she was already going around on provincial sorties," he said.

He said what the President has been doing is the same when she became senator from 1992 to 1995. He said that from Day One in the Senate, Arroyo started campaigning preparing for her reelection in 1995.

"Talagang Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday ... all over the country, that's a Macapagal technique," he said, alluding to Arroyo's father, President Diosdado Macapagal. Her father, then vice president who was sidelined by President Carlos P. Garcia, spent his term preparing for his presidential run in 1961.

Maceda, quoting Vice President Teofisto Guingona, said Arroyo's body language indicates she is indeed running.

"The events of the last few months have shown that we have a very insincere President that we can no longer trust," Maceda said.

He said Arroyo has not categorically ruled out joining the presidential race.

What the President has been saying lately, Maceda said, is that she's seeking divine guidance for her 2004 plans.

"Well, sabi niya, nagdarasal pa siya, ibig sabihin, di pa maliwanag na di siya matutuloy," he said.

Maceda said the President's word could not be trusted since she has this tendency of not honoring her promises.

"There have been quite a few assurances given to Danding (Cojuangco) during the past and all of these have not been fulfilled. I cannot go into details because that is between her and him," Maceda said.

Osmeņa predicted that once President Arroyo decides to run in 2004, he expects more and more "skeletons" in the President's closet to be exposed.

"The campaign season has practically begun, although officially the Commission on Elections says it does not officially start until around Feb. 10 or 12. More and more scandals committed by her administration would be coming to light," Osmeņa said.

He said the country's economic woes are going to be a major issue in the 2004 elections.

"In any country, the issue is always the pocketbook. Any country, rich or poor, the issue in election is always the economy. Jobs. Can I keep my job or is there a danger I will lose it. Am I earning enough to support my family," he said.

"It seems that on all the poll questions related to the economy the majority feel that they are worse off today than they were when Gloria took office on Jan. 20, 2001," he said.

Osmeņa said that the best politics is to do the right thing but the President failed to do this and instead "has been doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons."

"She feels that she would get more votes jumping from beach to beach, shaking hands with people. She feels that going to Jolo, Sulu, Tungawan, going surfing will get her votes. But if her presence in Malacaņang is needed to manage the economy in the proper way, then that's what she should have been doing all along," he said.

Osmeņa said the question of competence in managing the economic affairs of the country would hound the President in her campaign trail.

"Is she competent to do the job? That's ... a matter of knowing economics. I can hire an economist; they're a dime a dozen. If you have five economists, you come up with six opinions. It's the management that is important," he said.

Osmeņa said this is the edge that Cojuangco has over Arroyo.

"If you ask Danding about the law on supply and demand probably he cannot explain it to you the way Gloria can. But he has been exercising it and using it for decades. That's why people say maybe we need somebody like Danding ... who knows how to manage, who knows the economy, who knows the business sector, who knows how to create jobs, who knows how to manage and motivate people. You have to motivate people. Alam mo hindi mo mabu-bully ang tao," he said.

The Alyansa ng mga Maliit na Magbubukid at Mangingisda, a coalition of farmers and fisher folk, urged Arroyo to abort her plans to run in the 2004 as she no longer enjoys the support of the people.

Jimmy Tadeo, chairman of the Demokratikong Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, a member of the coalition, said the recent survey of Pulse Asia is indicative of the lack of confidence in Arroyo's administration.

He said farmers also criticized Arroyo for not prioritizing agrarian reform in using the P38 billion ill-gotten wealth recovered from the Marcoses. (With Wendell Vigilia and Evangeline de Vera)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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