MANILA,  JUNE 17, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva  -  Malacañang squelched yesterday as just "coffeeshop talks" renewed coup or power grab rumors spawned by alleged clandestine meetings of certain ranking military officers once President Arroyo is officially installed into office for a full six-year term.

The President’s spokesman Ignacio Bunye reaffirmed Mrs. Arroyo’s confidence in the loyalty of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the chain of command.

"I think this (coup rumor) is coffeeshop talk. We hope that nothing like this really occurs," Bunye told Palace reporters.

Mrs. Arroyo’s three years in office, after succeeding ousted President Joseph Estrada, have been besieged with destabilization and coup plots, one of which was actually staged but barely lasted a day. The July 27 Oakwood mutiny was brought about by complaints of graft and corruption in the military. Yet talks of a coup plot were revived anew following rumors of conspiracy between retired generals and some still in active service who supposedly support the opposition’s claim of victory for actor Fernando Poe Jr., chief rival of Mrs. Arroyo in the May 10 polls. Dismissing the rumor, Bunye appealed to Poe’s "sense of sportsmanship."

"We know that he (Poe) has more sense than some of the members of the opposition," Bunye said.

Bunye also brushed aside suggestions for the President to conduct loyalty checks on the top brass of the AFP.

"The loyalty of the AFP has been tested," he said, expressing confidence on the military’s loyalty. "We’re confident they would not break the chain of command."

Political instability blamed for unemployment rise By Marichu Villanueva The Philippine Star 06/17/2004

Malacañang blames the reported rise in the number of unemployed Filipinos on the political uncertainty caused by the failure of Congress to proclaim the winner in the May 10 presidential elections. Congress is constitutionally mandated to canvass the votes for president and vice president. But delays in the canvassing have raised fears that there will be a leadership vacuum after the term of President Arroyo ends on June 30. Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye Jr. said in a statement yesterday that the "steady growth of jobs" under the Arroyo administration was "getting bogged down" by the lack of political stability.

"We all know that the key to more jobs is economic and political stability," he said. "We have to clear the political atmosphere for the job planners to get back to work."

On Tuesday, the National Statistics Office reported that the unemployment rate this year rose to 13.7 percent from last year’s 12.2 percent. This translates to 4.2 million unemployed Filipinos. Bunye insisted that the administration had managed to create more than a million new jobs in the last two years because of strong investor and business confidence.

"Jobs form the main platform of President Arroyo. The Cabinet is focused on this issue each and every single day," he said.

He said that the country’s employment outlook would not improve unless "we are able to stabilize the political situation as soon as possible."

"If we have an early proclamation, definitely that would help in stabilizing the situation," he said. "The earlier we can make another strong start, the better for our people."

Malacañang’s sentiments were shared by Makati Business Club executive director Guillermo Luz.

Speaking before yesterday’s Citio Fernandina forum in Greenhills, San Juan, Luz said that the business community was "getting a bit tired" by the slow pace of the congressional canvass.

"It is a disservice to the country and a disservice to the people," he said. "I think everybody should behave responsibly and finish the canvass."

Luz urged candidates who believe they were victims of fraud not to stall the canvass but to file their protests after the winners have been proclaimed.

"If there are people who sincerely think they were cheated in the elections and they have evidence, the proper venue is to file the election protest after the proclamation. Under Philippine electoral law, there is no such thing anymore as a pre-proclamation protest," he said.

Luz, who is also the secretary-general of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), found it puzzling why the votes for president and vice president are still being contested, while "the results for the 12 senators" were "not questioned."

"That is probably the ultimate case of denial. The numbers are well known by all parties. They have seen the results during the canvassing for the senators. All the lawyers took their notes and all of them know the results," he said.

He said that some candidates were "behaving like children" by their refusal to accept the "reality" that they lost.

"They should be prepared to live by the results, and I’m hoping that the politicians would behave accordingly. Oftentimes voters are being blamed for their so-called immaturity. But the problem isn’t the voters’ but the candidates’ immaturity. It’s not the voters. The candidates are behaving like children," he said.

But administration Sen. Ralph Recto has a different view of the country’s unemployment problem. He believes it’s actually worse. Recto said that on top of the 4.2 million unemployed Filipinos the number of underemployed Filipinos increased from 4.7 million to 5.8 this year.

"If you could combine the unemployment and underemployment rates, it would add up to an alarming 32.2 percent," he said. Recto also called attention to the large number of Filipinos who "created their own jobs."

"An engineering degree graduate who can’t land a job and in the meantime opts to work as a kristo in a cockpit is deemed an own-account worker by the government’s job census formula," he said. Recto placed the number of "own-account" workers at 11.7 million or one-third of the estimated 31.5 million employed Filipinos. — with Mike Frialde, Jose Rodel Clapano, AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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