MANILA, November 17, 2003  (MALAYA) Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. yesterday asked the political opposition and other groups to give President Arroyo's reconciliation offer a chance to succeed, instead of rejecting it right away.

Pimentel said leaders from both sides of the political fence should view the reconciliation call as an opportunity to get the cooperation of all in addressing critical issues like the holding of clean elections in 2004, peace negotiations with insurgent groups, fight against terrorism, and easing the debt burden.

"The President has sounded a call for reconciliation. As responsible leaders, we owe it to ourselves and our constituents to give it a try. Let us look at it positively and consider what good it would do for our people," he said.

He said it is premature to dismiss Arroyo's call as mere politicking before she could expound on the substance and mechanics of her proposal.

Several administration and opposition senators have dismissed the call.

Sen. Joker Arroyo said it was just "for show." Another administration ally, Sen. Juan Flavier, said it was "too late."

Sen. Edgardo Angara said the call would fall on deaf ears "because it seems that our people are numb to it already and the sectors that ought to be reconciled don't seem to believe her."

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it was meant to boost Mrs. Arroyo's chances in next year's elections.

Pimentel suggested Arroyo invite leaders of the opposition and other groups and sectors to enable her to discuss fully the aims and parameters of her reconciliation policy and encourage them to give their inputs.

He said it would be wishful thinking to attain reconciliation and unity if there is nothing to guide parties concerned, "except motherhood statements coming from the President."

He said it would be a mistake to interpret reconciliation to mean that the political opposition should refrain from criticizing the mistakes and excesses of the administration.

"The opposition is willing to cooperate with Malacaņang but not at the expense of sacrificing or renouncing our fiscalizing role," he said.

Arroyo has said "unscrupulous politicians" and "plotters of destabilization" were behind the gathering of at least 10,000 protesters on Ayala avenue in Makati last Wed-nesday. The protesters, be-longing to the October 28 Movement, called for her resignation and that of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

The rally ended in a violent dispersal.

Deputy presidential spokes-man Ricardo Saludo yesterday told "destabilizers" and anti-administration groups they should wait for the elections next year if they want a change in government.

National security adviser Roilo Golez appealed to protesters to spare Makati and other business districts.

He said aside from the endangering security, mass protest actions affect the economy.

The Council on Philippine Affairs said it is PNP chief Hermogenes Ebdane that is the destabilizer and not Copa.

Copa in a statement called "unfounded and irresponsible" Ebdane's statements that the group was involved in the Makati rally and that it has tied up with the pro-Estrada group People's Movement against Poverty (PMAP) for destabi-lization moves.

Copa said it has always acted contrary to the objectives of the PMAP, among them securing Estrada's freedom and returning him to Malacaņang.

It said no Copa members participated in the rally, and unlike PMAP, Copa opposed moves to impeach Davide. (JP Lopez and Jocelyn Monte-mayor)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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