MANILA,  May 15, 2004
By Delon Porcalla  -  President Arroyo’s party, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, has started constructing an "all-embracing multi-party coalition" to speed up the government’s peace negotiations with the communist and Muslim rebels, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. said yesterday.

De Venecia also disclosed his plans to revive the so-called "Rainbow Coalition" in the House of Representatives that would push for the parliamentary form of government, which Mrs. Arroyo believes would speed up passage of vital legislation.

De Venecia, who won re-election in Pangasinan’s fourth district in last Monday’s general elections, said there was a need to expedite the government’s peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"A house divided against itself cannot move forward," he said.

The CPP has been waging a Maoist revolution for the past three decades while the MILF has been fighting for a separate Islamic state in Mindanao.

Talks with the MILF are now "in the advanced stage," De Venecia said without elaborating. Malaysia is brokering the negotiations to help ensure success while Norway provides the venue for negotiations with the communist rebels.

De Venecia also has been pushing for a shift of the country’s form of government to parliamentary.

However, the drive was derailed early this year when the Senate disagreed with the House of Representatives on when and how the country’s Constitution was to be amended to pave the way for the shift to a parliamentary system.

De Venecia is spearheading the latest move to amend the Constitution.

Previous attempts to amend the Constitution during the administrations of Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada were derailed by fierce public opposition.

Fueled by memories of the brutal Marcos dictatorship, most Filipinos fear that Charter change proponents might remove limits on elective officials’ terms.

Term limits were put in place in the Constitution when it was rewritten in 1986 to prevent a repeat of the Marcos dictatorship as well as prevent abuse of power.

De Venecia made the disclosure at a luncheon he hosted in honor of the 25-year-old Hamns Seidel Foundation, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Achievement, Congress’ highest award, "in tribute to its dedicated work worldwide in the service of democracy, peace and development."

He also hailed the group’s contributions to the development of cooperatives as well as the introduction of the German dual technology program in the Philippines.

De Venecia said its presence "deepened the tradition of Christian democracy and helped modernize Asia’s parties."

Among those honored by De Venecia were the foundation’s officials led by Dr. Hans Zebezmair, minister of the German state of Bavaria, deputy director Dr. Rainier Gepperth and Paul Schaeler, the group’s representative in the country.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved