ARROYO: VOTE STRAIGHT 'KKKK' TO ENSURE CONTINUED REFORMS

TARLAC CITY, TARLAC, February 12, 2004
(STAR) By Benjie Villa - President Arroyo has urged the electorate to vote straight K-4 (Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan) to establish the continuity of reforms begun under her administration in 2001.

The President, apparently still seeking divine intervention in her bid for a full six-year term of office in the May elections, courted yesterday the Independent Baptist Mission for Asians (IBMA), a Baptist sect based in this province that boasts of a membership of 1.7 million followers nationwide.

The IBMA was marking its 20th founding anniversary and the President was the guest of honor at the celebration, during which Baptist preachers prayed over her.

Before she knelt for prayer, Mrs. Arroyo told IBMA leaders, missionaries and members about her administrationís accomplishments in fighting graft and corruption in government.

Even the World Bank (WB), she said, has praised the "lifestyle checks" to which public officials are now subjected. She also cited the implementation of the Procurement Reform Law, which she said "lessened opportunities for corruption" in government purchases.

However, Mrs. Arroyo said ridding the country of corruption will not happen overnight. She said it took Hong Kong seven years to straighten out its corruption problem.

"I want to change the culture of corruption through education," she said, as she asked the IBMA leadership and members to vote for her, her running mate Sen. Noli de Castro and the administration coalitionís senatorial ticket.

With the President and De Castro were K-4 senatorial bets, reelectionist Senators Robert Barbers, Robert Jaworski and Rodolfo Biazon, and former Videogram Regulatory Board (VRB) chairman Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., and former trade secretary Manuel Roxas II.

The President arrived shortly before noon on board a helicopter at Camp Gen. Servillano Aquino, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), located across the Cojuangco family-owned Hacienda Luisita in Barangay San Miguel.

Biazonís Inspiration

Biazon, meanwhile, said in a statement that it has always been his aspiration to improve Filipinosí quality of life by crafting laws that will pave the way for much-needed reforms and empower Filipinos to achieve development and prosperity.

"Having served in the Senate for so long, I have been afforded the opportunity to know the present needs of our country and serve my constituents in every way I can," Biazon said.

Biazon has laid out five advocacies he intends to pursue if reelected: Reforms in the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP); a review of the Philippines bargaining position in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of the World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO); providing necessary support for cooperatives; housing-related legislation, and sponsorship of population and gender-responsive legislation.

During the 12th Congress, Biazon filed six bills to reform the AFP, particularly the National Defense and Security Act, which provides the mechanism for coordinating departments and agencies in addressing the multi-dimensional facets of national defense and security and the Code of Military Justice, which sets an effective means of enforcing the highest degree of military efficiency in the AFP.

He also earnestly called for a review of the countryís position in the GATT-WTO. He has filed Senate Resolution No. 52 seeking an inquiry in aid of legislation into the impact of the implementation of the countryís commitments to the WTO under the GATT-Uruguay Round agreement.

A former AFP chief of staff, Biazon is the chairman of the Senate committee on cooperatives and is vice chair on the committees on national defense and security, foreign relations, urban planning, housing and resettlement and agriculture and food.

As the President knelt before members of the IBMA in a prayer gathering at the IBMA main headquarters in Barangay Matatalahib in this city, over 500 militants led by the Tarlac chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and left-leaning party-list groups Anakpawis and Bayan Muna staged a "lightning rally," forcing local authorities to deploy riot police.

As the Presidentís convoy exited Camp Aquino, some 100 militants ó mostly farm workers at the sugar estate end factory workers from the Luisita Industrial Park (LIP) ó displayed anti-government placards.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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