MANILA,  May 18, 2004 (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  -  Malacañang denounced yesterday former senator Francisco Tatad, who was information minister of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, as a master of disinformation.

The Palace described as "concocted" Tatad’s stories about six Cabinet officials who reportedly resigned in disgust over the cheating that marred the elections last week.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye took Tatad to task yesterday for feeding false stories to the media. These stories took off from last week’s announcement by Malacañang that all Cabinet officials had been asked to hand in their courtesy resignations before President Arroyo’s term ends on June 30.

"There is absolutely no truth to that. Let me add, at the rate the former senator is making these pronouncements, it seems that Tatad has perfected the art of disinformation," Bunye fumed.

As this developed, Bunye said Press Secretary Milton Alingod was among the first Cabinet officials to tender his courtesy resignation to Mrs. Arroyo yesterday, adding that he will follow the initiative of Alingod, who had beaten him to the draw.

"Perhaps a number (of Cabinet officials) have submitted this morning but we expect more letters within the day," he said.

Tatad said the other day the Cabinet officials who resigned in disgust were Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, Tourism Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan, Budget and Management Secretary Emilia Boncodin, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman, Trade and Industry Secretary Cesar Purisima and Justice Secretary Merceditas Gutierrez.

"There is absolutely no basis for those claims of Tatad," Bunye said, quoting Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, who had called each one and was told by them they were merely complying with the request for their courtesy resignations.

"This is to give the President a free hand and is in consonance with the practice of the President being able to reorganize the Cabinet at any time. All members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President. We realize that we can all be replaced at any given time," he said.

Bunye pointed out that the request for courtesy resignations "is an accepted practice. It’s a principle that all Cabinet officials serve at the pleasure of the government. We’re actually casual employees. We serve day to day. We’re even worse off than contractual employees with a fixed term. Anytime we could be required and we will comply with the requirement to submit our courtesy resignations."

Gutierrez, for her part, denied Tatad’s claim that she resigned after learning she will be eased out even if Mrs. Arroyo wins the elections. She refused to comment further except to say she will just continue working as usual.

Tatad earlier said sources told him the six Cabinet officials asked to resign for different reasons and that they privately admitted the cheating in the elections has caused restiveness among members of the Cabinet.— with Aurea Calica

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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