MANILA, January 22, 2004
(STAR) President Arroyo rejected yesterday stinging criticism of her leadership as she marked the third anniversary of her rise to power and prepared for May 10 elections as the underdog. "The past two and a half years were rocked by sieges on the government and global economic constraints, but the vision of EDSA II lives on," Mrs. Arroyo said in a statement, referring to the bloodless people power revolt that toppled Joseph Estrada in January 2001.

"We have turned around the economy and stabilized the mess we inherited," she said. "We have made a down payment and we will pay the installments faithfully." The influential Roman Catholic Church last Tuesday strongly rebuked Mrs. Arroyo, saying she failed to deliver. Mrs. Arroyo countered that economic growth, at 4.3 percent in the nine months to September 2003, was at its fastest clip since the 1997-1998 Asian crisis. "More than three million jobs were created under my watch," she said. "Wages improved 11.2 percent adjusted to inflation. Strikes have been cut by half." She said her government has "made a strong start in a short time."

"Among the poorest families, the number of household heads earning a living doubled in three years," Mrs. Arroyo said. "I will fight to change the culture of corruption, stop the scourge of drugs and wipe out terrorism," she added. Manila Roman Catholic Bishop Socrates Villegas said in his homily during Mass attended by Mrs. Arroyo on Tuesday that "politicians have abused and betrayed people power." He said "the politics of convenience and compromise that we see around us cannot save the nation." Catholic Church leaders played key roles in withdrawing public support to Estrada, whose rule was mired in a corruption scandal and who has since been put on trial.

Mrs. Arroyo, who was elected as vice president in 1998 and took over the reins from Estrada in early 2001, is lagging in opinion polls as she prepares to do battle with Fernando Poe, an Estrada ally and movie icon, in the May 10 presidential race. Estrada, elected in 1998 in an unprecedented landslide victory, was forced to step down on Jan. 20, 2001, following massive corruption allegations that he ran an illegal gambling protection racket, misused public funds and profited from insider trading. Estrada, now behind bars on trial for economic plunder, a capital offense, insists he was illegally ousted. He never issued a resignation letter. — With AFP

Palaces urges public to stay calm amidst threats of protest actions in FPJ citizenship issue (From Malacanang, Office of the Press Secretary, January 21, 2004)

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today called on the public to stay calm and vigilant in the face of the opposition’s threat to launch a massive protest if their standard bearer is disqualified in the May 2004 Presidential elections.

In an official statement, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye appealed to everyone to stay sober against the threat of demonstration if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declares Fernando Poe Jr. ineligible for the presidential race.

"We reiterate our call to the public to treat this matter with prudence and sobriety and lawful conduct," says Bunye.

In a press briefing, Presidential Campaign Spokesman Michael Defensor also called on to the opposition not to turn the controversy into a political matter.

The Secretary stressed that there’s no need for any camp to ride on the issue and make it into a full-blown controversy.

Defensor welcomed the Senate efforts to clarify the authenticity of the documents presented to Comelec by Atty. Victorino Fornier, National Archives chief Ricardo Manapat, and Poe’s defense team.

He added that it is normal for the opposition to accuse the administration of fabricating documents against Poe to show to the public that the administration is desperate to win in the coming polls.

"Surveys show the President is picking up and we believe the real issues, the platform and track record will prevail and the President will get the support of the electorate," Defensor said.

Defensor supported an investigation to verity if the documents from the National Archives are authentic.

Malacañang also requested the Comelec to get a third party opinion to clear the air on the authenticity of the documents by the parties involved in the citizenship row.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved