MANILA, March 6, 2004
(STAR) President Arroyo credited yesterday the marked improvement in the peso and the stock market trading to the positive reaction over the Supreme Court ruling on the disqualification petition against actor Fernando Poe Jr.

Mrs. Arroyo, herself an economist, said the weakening of the peso as well as the slow market trading were caused by the political instability generated by threats of "civil war" by Poe supporters on the possibility that the actor would by disqualified by the Supreme Court from the presidential race.

The President noted that the peso has been recovering in the currency trading from the previous week’s backlash of the market jitters due to political developments in the run-up to the May 10 elections.

"As I said yesterday (Thursday), the rule of law prevails than the rule of intimidation and threats as in this (Poe’s disqualification) case," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Share prices closed 0.76 percent or 11 points higher Thursday, a day after the Supreme Court ruled that Poe can stand in the May elections, easing fears of popular unrest.

Stock market dealers said fears that Poe supporters would launch massive protests, if he had been disqualified, have eased with the court ruling, encouraging investors to return to the market to look for bargains.

The cliffhanger case had unsettled financial markets and business people in recent weeks. Investors are said to be concerned about Poe’s ability to govern given his lack of experience in government service and limited educational background.

Opposition politicians have accused the President’s camp of orchestrating the petition against Poe, a close friend of deposed President Joseph Estrada who was ousted in 2001 amid massive anti-corruption protests Mrs. Arroyo helped lead.

"When the stock market and the peso fell, it was because of the threats of the opposition to launch civil war. So these threats of civil war, I think, were not right," Mrs. Arroyo said.

"Let us follow the rule of law. As you have seen (during) my administration, I have not intimidated the courts. We let democracy work," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo, herself seeking a full six-year term in the coming May elections, took swipes at Poe for the threatening statements made by his political leaders and supporters even as the Supreme Court deliberated on the disqualification case.

"So let the people remembers who followed the rule of law and who is always threatening civil war," she said. – Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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