MANILA, OCTOBER 7, 2003  (STAR) Despite his resignation from the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. was appointed yesterday by President Arroyo to head a caretaker government while she is in Bali, Indonesia to attend the ninth Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders’ summit.

After landing at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali at 12:30 p.m. yesterday, Mrs. Arroyo immediately headed for Hotel Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua for a short rest.

Before departing for Bali, Mrs. Arroyo handed Guingona a letter asking him "to act for and on my behalf" until she returns home tomorrow night.

"The executive secretary and all concerned departments and agencies shall assist you in the discharge of your functions," read the letter.

"I am confident that as always, this arrangement will ensure national stability and delivery of basic services and that you will always uphold the interest of the nation."

Guingona said he was surprised by the appointment after he had resigned as president of the pro-administration Lakas-CMD over policy disagreements with Mrs. Arroyo and other party leaders.

"I really did not anticipate it," he told reporters at a breakfast forum.

"I really have prepared myself emotionally, physically and intellectually on whether or not she will appoint me as caretaker. But I thank the President for appointing me as caretaker," he said.

Guingona said Mrs. Arroyo’s decision to name him head of a caretaker government is consistent with a Malacañang statement that his relationship with the Chief Executive is based on "professionalism."

Mrs. Arroyo smiled at him and said, "Thank you and goodbye" when he saw her off at Villamor Air Base, Guingona added.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Guingona will be government caretaker, but Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo will take care of the day-to-day matters of state.

"We would have the same arrangement, with the caretaker committee headed by Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. to be assisted by Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo," he said.

Romulo led the small party that saw off Mrs. Arroyo and her delegation as they boarded a chartered Philippine Airlines flight at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

In Bali, Mrs. Arroyo spoke at 1 p.m. yesterday at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit at the Grand Ballroom of the Bali Hilton Hotel.

After her speech, Mrs. Arroyo and a small group of delegates attended a meeting of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asian Growth Area, which was participated in by the president of Asian Development Bank and the secretary general of ASEAN.

Today, Mrs. Arroyo will take part in the ninth ASEAN summit, where the declaration of the ASEAN Concord is expected to be signed.

She also has a working lunch with the ASEAN+3 heads of state at the Bali International Convention Center.

Mrs. Arroyo will also hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Go Chok Tong of Singapore, Prime Minister Atal Behan Vajpayee of India and Premier Wen Jiabao of China.

In the evening, Mrs. Arroyo will attend the working dinner hosted by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Tomorrow, she will attend the ASEAN+3 China Summit signing of China’s Accession to the Treaty on Amity and Cooperation, and the joint declaration of the heads of state/government of China and ASEAN on Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity.

She will also meet with heads of state of ASEAN and Japan for the signing of the ASEAN-Japan Framework for Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Mrs. Arroyo and ASEAN leaders will also meet with the heads of state of India and South Korea.

After that will be the signing of India’s Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation of Southeast Asia and the Framework Agreement for Comprehensive Economic Partnership Between ASEAN and South Korea.

Romulo is Guingona’s conduit at Malacañang as chairman of the caretaker committee.

During her recent trip to New York, Paris and Rome, Mrs. Arroyo also named Guingona as head of a caretaker government.

However, Mrs. Arroyo remained in control of the government via modern telecommunications facilities on matters of state needing her immediate attention.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces placed troops nationwide on alert yesterday to thwart any attempt to destabilize the government while Mrs. Arroyo is out of the country.

Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero, Armed Forces spokesman, said the move is part of precautionary measures by the high command whenever the Chief Executive is on a foreign trip.

"This is (standard operating procedure) due to the absence of the President," he said. "Effective 7 a.m. (yesterday) red alert has been declared nationwide and will be lifted on Oct. 9, also at 7 a.m."

Two weeks ago, the Armed Forces also declared troops on alert nationwide when Mrs. Arroyo left for the US and Europe.

Since the failed July 27 military uprising, the Armed Forces has placed troops on an "on and off" alert status nationwide. — Marichu Villanueva, Jaime Laude

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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