MANILA,  May 4, 2004
By Mike Frialde - An alliance of Muslim and Christian groups pledged its support yesterday for President Arroyo’s bid for a full six-year term in next Monday’s elections.

Calling itself the Filipino Muslim and Christian Alliance, the umbrella group of various Muslim and Christian groups said that of the candidates vying for the presidency, only Mrs. Arroyo has the capability and experience needed for the highest post in the land.

"She (Mrs. Arroyo) has the experience. The people and the country are now in the right direction for development. Malacañang is not just an ordinary sari-sari (variety) store that can be handed over to just anybody even without experience," said Philippine Muslim Alliance national president Amran Andoga.

Signatories to the alliance in its manifesto of support included the groups Filipino for Gloria, the Balikatan Peoples Alliance, Alagad party-list, the 200,000-strong Federation of Mindanao Overseas Contract Workers, the Ulama Council of the Philippines and the Ilonggo Livelihood Foundation.

In their manifesto of support, the Christian and Muslim groups which composed the alliance said Mrs. Arroyo is assured of victory at the polls.

They also pledged their support for the President and said her experienced and competent leadership will rebuild the Philippines into a strong republic.

The alliance leaders said they are manifesting their support for Mrs. Arroyo, adding that she is sure to win in the elections as shown by their monitoring.

"We believe that (Mrs. Arroyo) can lead the country to development. We are fully supportive of the President. She will win as the next president of the country," Filipinos for Gloria chairman Carlitos Alcover said.

Andoga told reporters that their alliance now has over a million members nationwide and has been actively campaigning for Mrs. Arroyo.

He also said 75 percent of the Filipino Muslim voters nationwide are for the President "because she has done so much for the Filipino-Muslim community, such as declaring the end of Ramadan a holiday and helping to improve the madrasah (Islamic school) system."

Davao City Rep. Vincent Garcia (NPC), meanwhile, said even the poor prefer the President over her main rival, Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr.

Garcia and Bulacan Rep. Wilhelmino Alvarado-Sy (Lakas-CMD) said the preference of the poor was clearly established in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, which showed that the President’s ratings jumped to 36 percent in April from 32 percent in March while Poe’s ratings in the same survey dropped from 39 percent in March.

Among the SWS survey’s class D respondents, the President became the top choice of 34 percent, as opposed to Poe’s rating of 31 percent.

Both lawmakers said the preference of the poor for Mrs. Arroyo indicates the clear and solid accomplishments of the Arroyo administration’s pro-poor programs like health insurance, scholarships, job generation and food security.

In contrast, they said, "Poe failed to present his plan of action to uplift the condition of the poor, who were previously misled into believing that the opposition would fight for their welfare. His failure to expound on his platform for the poor caused his diminishing ratings and growing unpopularity among the poor."

"Despite charges of electioneering and misusing public funds by the desperate opposition, the President continued with the delivery of basic services, like food and clean water, educational opportunities and employment for the poor," Alvarado said. "In the end, the people realized that she only meant business and is being serious in addressing the needs of the poor."

According to Garcia, over five million families, or about 25 million people, have benefited from the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) program.

He added that the President has provided for vocational and technical scholarships for indigents and established the Student Assistance Fund for a Strong Republic (SAFE4SR), which provides college students with loan assistance.

According to Alvarado, as of last month, over 800,000 urban poor households in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal and Cavite were provided with clean water by the Arroyo administration.

He also cited the President’s hybrid rice program, which has provided employment to over 160,000 farm workers and aims to totally eliminate the country’s need to import rice, modernize the agricultural sector and improve the lives of farmers.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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