GMA CALLED ON 11 NEW SENATORS TO JOIN UNITY GOVT

MANILA,  May 26, 2004
(STAR)
By Marichu Villanueva  -  President Arroyo called yesterday on the 11 newly proclaimed senators to join her in forming a "government of national unity."

At the same time, Mrs. Arroyo congratulated the 11 senators who were proclaimed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Monday night.

The President urged the lawmakers — a mix of veterans and fresh faces — to promote "unity, reconciliation and statesmanship" and "uphold the national interest with daring and collective fervor."

"It was a hard fought and hard earned victory for them," Mrs. Arroyo said. "I hope they will join the march for national unity and reconciliation as we face the difficult struggles ahead."

Mrs. Arroyo made the appeal a day after she was virtually assured of victory over her four other rivals, based on the same certificates of canvass (COCs) used in the tabulation by the Comelec for the senatorial positions.

A Comelec official, who did not want to be identified, disclosed that Mrs. Arroyo won the May 10 presidential elections based on the COCs used in the senatorial tabulation.

Six from the administration Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4) joined the Senate after they were formally proclaimed by Comelec which canvassed the results for the senatorial positions.

Five from the opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) were also proclaimed by the Comelec during a simple ceremony at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) where the canvassing was held.

Former trade secretary Manuel Roxas II led the newly proclaimed senators after garnering the most number of votes at over 18 million. Popular actor and former Cavite governor Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. came in second.

Re-electionist Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. of the KNP came third while neophyte Ma. Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal, also from the KNP, came in fourth place.

Former tourism secretary Richard Gordon of K-4 placed fifth followed by another K-4 candidate, Pilar Juliana "Pia" Cayetano, at sixth place.

Former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago of K-4 placed seventh while former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim of the KNP was eighth.

Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile of the KNP came in ninth.

Former San Juan mayor Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada of the KNP came in 10th and former Pampanga governor Manuel "Lito" Lapid of K-4 ticked in at 11th spot.

Both Defensor, reportedly indisposed, and Pimentel were no-shows during the proclamation.

The last slot is being contested by two administration bets, re-electionist Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Robert Barbers.

Senators in the next Congress are likely to number 23, since leading vice presidential candidate Sen. Noli de Castro is expected to leave his seat in the chamber in midterm.

Mrs. Arroyo said the proclamation of the winners would signal the beginning "to forge ahead in meeting the nation’s most pressing issues, especially those affecting the lives of the average Filipino."

"I am confident that the Senate is prepared to accept this high responsibility and it will continue to uphold the national interest with daring and collective fervor," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo was earlier invited by Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos to attend the formal proclamation of the winning candidates at the PICC.

He said KNP presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. was also invited to witness the proclamation.

Bunye said there was no time for Mrs. Arroyo and Poe to talk lengthily in their first meeting following the bitter three-month political campaign. "They were civil (to each other though)," he said.

Even with the administration gaining a majority of the seats in the Senate, Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo does not have any plans to host a victory reception for the senators-elect.

"But the President’s going there at the PICC was a signal that she congratulates all the senators-elect, not only those from the administration, but also the members of the opposition," Bunye said.

"And it was also an opportunity for our President to call upon them (senators-elect) to have unity and reconciliation so that we could move faster our country’s progress," he added.

Bunye conceded yesterday to the defeat of five other K-4 senatorial candidates, including former opposition stalwart Sen. John Osmeña.

"What we’re saying and what the President has said all our candidates, both in the administration and the opposition, have fought well and fought hard. The people have spoken and whatever are the results, let us just respect it," Bunye said.

Mrs. Arroyo extended her invitation to her political opponents to join in a "new government of national unity and reconciliation."

Extending a hand to her political rivals, Mrs. Arroyo said she wanted to form a "government of national unity and reconciliation, and it would be good if my opponents would join me."

Mrs. Arroyo said the most important goal now is to unite the Filipino people behind democracy and good governance.

She said the May 10 general elections were "an opportunity for change," and she needed a six-year mandate to complete economic and political reforms she had already initiated during her three-year term after she succeeded President Joseph Estrada after he was ousted in 2001 in a popular revolt.

Mrs. Arroyo said she would work on "institutional reforms" and changing the country’s culture of corruption while increasing the speed of privatization of public utilities and keeping the budget deficit down.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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