MANILA, November 26, 2003  (BULLETIN) By Genalyn D. Kabiling -President blames partisanship for poverty & division .

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday promised to stay away from the rising political tension ahead of next year's national and local elections and focus on promoting reforms and reconciliation.

The President made the pledge as various political parties gear up for their respective campaign trails in connection with the elections on May 10, 2004.

In a statement, Mrs. Arroyo blamed the "excessive partisan politics" for the country's perennial problem of poverty.

"Excessive partisan politics is a root cause of poverty because it draws our attention and energies away from development and social reform and deepens the divisions in our society," she said.

"This is why we are trying to stave off the election frenzy by upholding a platform of reform and reconciliation," she added.

The President called on the public to unite "even in the midst of the heated partisan contention, one nation in the midst of many parties and persuasions."

Still, amid the mounting preparations of political leaders for the 2004 elections, the President advised the public to make the wise choice come election time.

"We call on the people to come together and help shape the future of this country by making wise decisions and choices based on genuine patriotism and concern for the common welfare," she said.

Following the resolution of the Davide impeachment controversy, the President proposed national reconciliation and healing especially with the anti-government and opposition forces for the country to move forward.

The President herself is seeking a full six-year term next year under the ruling Lakas-CMD party. She however has yet to pick her vice presidential candidate.

Even as she vowed to distance from the election frenzy, the President has made frequent provincial sorties and even squeezed in concerts and movie premieres in her hectic schedule, which has drawn criticisms that these were part of her early campaigning.

The President yesterday flew to Dumaguete City to attend its 55th founding anniversary. She also inaugurated the Negros Oriental Drug Rehabilitation Drug Center in Barangay Talay and the President's Bridge project in Barangay Balugo.

She returned to Manila last night to attend the premiere movie showing of "Chavit" at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. The film, which stars Cesar Montano, depicts the life story of former Ilocos Sur governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, the so-called star witness in the impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada.

Singson is working for the Arroyo government as the presidential adviser for Northern Luzon growth projects.

Today, the President will visit San Miguel, Bulacan to grace the anniversary of the Scout Rangers. Later, she will proceed to Nueva Ecija for the ceremonial switching-on of "Kalsada Natin, Alagaan Natin" billboard at the Central Luzon State University.

Last Friday night, the President made a special appearance at the First Music Television (MTV) Summit Concert for AIDS in the Philippines topbilled by American pop star Mandy Moore at the Global City, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Metro Manila.

The local political fever now runs high following the creation of an alliance among three political parties of former Education secretary Raul Roco's Aksyon Demokratiko, Renato de Villa's Reporma, and Lito Osmeņa's Promdi.

The alliance, known as "Alyansa ng Pag-asa," will support the presidential bid of Roco.

Another presidential aspirant is opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is reportedly tapping television personality Kris Aquino to endorse his bid.

Movie action king Fernando Poe Jr., who has yet to announce his candidacy, is reportedly the strongest contender of the Mrs. Arroyo in the presidential race.

Survey favors GMA

A recent survey conducted by an independent New York-based consultancy firm showed that if elections were held today, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would win by a sizeable margin over her closest rival.

In a question on who the respondents would vote for if elections were held today, 20.5 percent would vote for the President while 19.6 percent would vote for former senator Raul Roco. Sen. Noli de Castro got 9.4 percent, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, 9.8 percent; and movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., 5.7 percent.

Among those cited in the survey, only the President, Roco, and Lacson have declared their intention to run in the 2004 elections.

The same survey also showed that the country's economy would improve, with 31.9 percent of the respondents saying that the economy would improve in the next six months, while 24.1 percent saying that it would worsen. A big percentage, 44 percent, said that they don't have an opinion either way.

The survey was conducted by the Roper ASW-Asia Pacific for the BusinessWorld, the country's most respected business paper. The respondents were mostly consumers and a cross-section of residents in Metro Manila.

Roper ASW operates in 82 countries and its clients and subscribers include, among others, governments, medical organizations, multinationals, the academe, and risk management firms.

The opinion poll was conducted among 300 consumers from October 21 to 27.

The President's winnability rating of 20.5 percent was a big jump from the 14.9 percent she got in a survey made last September.

On performance of the President, a remarkable 52.2 percent said that she is doing a good job while only 33 percent said that she is not doing a good job. A measly 14.7 percent did not want to give their opinion on the performance of the President.

On the sincerity of the President, 48.6 percent believed that she is sincere while 35 percent did not believe on her sincerity, while 16.5 percent refused to comment either way.

Almost 30 percent - 29.70 percent to be exact - said that household income would increase during the next six while 23.20 percent said that their income would decrease.

LMP assembly

The country's 1,498 municipal mayors are to express multi-partisan support to the call of President Arroyo for unity and reconciliation at their annual general assembly next week at the Manila Hotel, it was announced yesterday.

League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) national president Mayor Ramon N. Guico Jr. of Binalonan, Pangasinan said the local officials want "to forgive and forget" in order to leave behind the baggage of the past and move forward to establish enduring peace and stimulate economic growth.

Guico said that the municipal mayors will also press their campaign for constitutional reforms through Constituent Assembly in order to reiterate their position for a shift to unicameral parliamentary government and reforms in the economic provisions of the Charter that have become irrelevant to modern day realities.

With the theme "Malakas at Maunlad na Pamahalaang Lokal: Matatag na Republika ng Pilipinas," the three-day general assembly will focus on the accomplishments of the LMP and the repord cart of the various municipalities in their 2002 working agenda.

War against crime and terrorism, battle against poverty, promotion of the countryside as tourist destinations, and fight against illegal drugs will dominate the reports of the participating delegates while the LMP will report on various partnerships with international funding donors and national government agencies.

Mayor Pacifico Ll. Mayor, LMP secretary general, said that outstanding municipal mayors and award-winning municipalities will be honored during the assembly which will be graced by House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and Sen. Robert Barbers on opening day with President Arroyo as guest speaker during the closing ceremonies. (AG)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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