MANILA, January 31, 2004
(STAR) Government officials involved in the political campaign of President Arroyo for the May 10 elections need not resign from their posts.

This was the position taken by Malacañang yesterday on the issue raised by the group of Army officers calling themselves "Kawal" (soldiers), who denounced the active role of Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita, among other Palace officials, in the campaign of Mrs. Arroyo.

Ermita was singled out by the group last Wednesday when they called for his resignation and accused him of ordering the military to spy on Mrs. Arroyo’s rivals in the presidential race.

Mrs. Arroyo is seeking a full six-year mandate in the May 10 elections.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye voiced the stand made by Malacañang that all officials involved in the campaign of Mrs. Arroyo need not resign.

Bunye pointed out that Ermita is also the regional head of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats in Southern Tagalog Region.

Aside from Ermita, another Palace official involved in the campaign is Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairman Secretary Michael Defensor, Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign spokesman.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Secretary Gabriel Claudio, campaign manager for the administration’s Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K4), is also directly involved in the campaign.

Other point men are presidential adviser on media and ecclesiastical affairs Conrado Limcaoco; presidential liaison on political affairs Jose Rufino who also serves as executive director of the Lakas national committee, and presidential adviser on Official Development Assistance (ODA) Marita Jimenez.

Bunye stressed that some Palace officials involved in the campaign for Mrs. Arroyo have their respective positions and duties in the ruling party that must be carried out during the campaign period which officially starts Feb. 10. –Marichu Villanueva

Peso will stabilize, Arroyo says The Philippine Star 01/31/2004

President Arroyo assured the nation yesterday that the peso’s continued fall is temporary, and that its adverse effects would be cushioned by the country’s strong economic growth.

"This is a transient problem, and we will get over it soon," she said in a statement from Malacañang. "The economy is well and moving upward, but the peso is being pummeled by political bickering and electioneering, coupled with isolated military adventurism," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Speaking before journalists and communicators belonging to Samahang Plaridel at Malacañang Thursday, the Chief Executive said "excessive politics" is the "real culprit" for the falling peso rate against the dollar.

"Why is it (peso) falling?" she asked. "Because of excessive politics. That’s the main reason. (But) there are other reasons like the strengthening of the dollar."

Mrs. Arroyo said her leadership in ensuring "strong macroeconomic fundamentals" has enabled the peso to weather the attacks. "(Moody) downgraded us, not because of my fiscal and economic policies because it’s been good, but because of excessive politics," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo hopes that government would be able to contain the budget deficit to rein in interest rates and stop the peso’s fall.

"Because this year, 2003, we had good collections of the (Bureau of Internal Revenue) and (Bureau of Customs), and government handled well its expenses, we reduced our budget deficit through disciplined fund releases of the Department of Budget and Management," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo, quoting unnamed market and economic analysts, said the peso will continue to fall despite the strong macroeconomic fundamentals of the country.

"Market and economic analysts have made it clear that the fate of the peso largely depends on the mode of the campaign and the kind of elections that we will have," she said.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals are "sound," but they are not enough to stave off the negative impact of "too much" politicking. — Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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