MANILA, March 26, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo accused the political opposition yesterday of using the courts to stop her bid to seek a full six-year term on May 10.

"The courts are a forum of the truth and of noble intentions, not an instrument to impede earnest public service," she said in a statement from Malacañang.

"The cases filed against me are a means to prevent me from serving the people, and they will not deter me a bit from doing my duty."

Mrs. Arroyo cited the following allegations:

• Her supposed use of Philhealth cards as illegal campaign material.

• Her purported 120-minute political ads on television

• Her alleged "sweetheart deal" for the bailout of Maynilad Water Services Inc.

"Every case filed against me is an opportunity for my detractors and the opposition to grandstand in the media," she said. "Nevertheless, I am ready to face any charges and present my case before the judiciary."

On the other hand, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the "nuisance suits" would not prosper in court for lack of merit.

"This is campaign season, and part of that perhaps, this strategy by the opposition is to file cases against the President to irk her of nuisance suits," he said in an interview over state-owned Radyo ng Bayan.

"If these cases were filed by candidates (they are mere) publicity-seeking ones, because they get media mileage if they file such cases against the President."

As president, Mrs. Arroyo has to campaign and to govern at the same time, which her rivals are taking against her, Bunye added.

Meanwhile, Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. said the opposition has shifted to high gear its black propaganda campaign against the administration as the May polls near by employing "movie industry-style intrigues and telenovela plot-lines" in a desperate bid to reverse Mrs. Arroyo’s rise in survey ratings.

Pichay said the opposition’s wild accusations against the administration were apparently designed to reverse the President’s ratings and at the same time shore up the sagging performance of movie star Fernando Poe Jr.

"They (opposition) are slinging mud at the administration, and it is so easy for them to do this because the incumbent will always be vulnerable to intrigues," he added.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo said politics was "muddling the truth" in the controversial government bailout of Maynilad, the financially strapped, Lopez-owned water company.

"Once they have a full grasp of the issues and directly benefit from the services of the water firm under government management, the people will realize that we made the right decision," she said in a statement from Malacañang.

Mrs. Arroyo said the proposed government takeover of Maynilad’s water concession seeks to protect the public from any possible disruption of water service in west Metro Manila.

"Nobody will stop us from bringing clean water to the home of the average Filipino," she said.

Speaking to reporters after inaugurating another "Patubig ni Gloria" in Novaliches, Quezon City, Mrs. Arroyo said Maynilad would have to pay its P8 billion debt to creditors and stockholders without government assistance.

"In that issue, the government does not pay anything to the Lopezes," she said. "But the Lopezes would still have to pay their debts."

The "quasi-reorganization compromise" between Maynilad and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System is still subject to review by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the courts, Bunye said.

Meanwhile, pro-administration congressmen Prospero Nograles of Davao City and Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City described yesterday as "another nuisance case" the disqualification suit filed against Mrs. Arroyo in connection with her distribution of Philhealth cards.

"The case absolutely has no legal leg to stand on, and its outright dismissal by the courts is proper," said Nograles.

"The case filed against the President is purely harassment and publicity gimmick by the desperate opposition. Those who hit the program and the President are clearly anti-poor and inconsiderate of the our people’s welfare."

"The charges by the so-called Pro-Con lawyers are wild as the wind," said Cuenco.

"The opposition will use any issue against her since the May polls is nearing. Just because it’s elections does not mean the President will stop the delivery of health services to our people."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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