MANILA,  JUNE 17, 2004
By Joanne Rae Ramirez  -  Former President Corazon Aquino said yesterday she was willing to intercede if a leadership crisis arose as a result of the uncertainty of the congressional canvassing of votes for president and vice president.

But Mrs. Aquino, who was catapulted to the presidency by a Church and military-backed people power revolution in February 1986, ruled out people power as an option to address the problem.

"People power should no longer be used for political purposes, but to support non-government organizations that help uplift the lives of Filipinos," she said.

Asked by The STAR if she would exert by June 30 her moral authority as a past president to bring about some stability to counter the volatile canvassing of votes by Congress, Mrs. Aquino said, " After June 25, not June 30!"

"I am glad I did not endorse any presidential candidate, because I am still able to call on them, and now, there are just two of them," Mrs. Aquino said, referring to President Arroyo and her closest rival for the presidency, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr.

She did not specify how she planned to help defuse the potential political time bomb, but said Archbishop Fernando Capalla had suggested that she invite Mrs. Arroyo and Poe to another unity Mass.

"But I think it might be too late for that now," the former president said. On the eve of the elections, Mrs. Aquino had brought together all five presidential candidates – Mrs. Arroyo, Poe, Sen. Paniflo Lacson, Raul Roco and Brother Eddie Villanueva – in a Mass at the San Agustin Church in Manila. The Mass was largely credited for calming a jittery nation on the eve of the tightly contested polls.

But Mrs. Aquino said she was still optimistic that the winners of the May 10 polls would be proclaimed by June 25.

Mrs. Aquino shared her thoughts on the canvassing before a group of young Filipinos who did the country proud in prestigious international events.

The president received in her office at the Cojuangco Building in Makati, Pulitzer awardee for photography Cheryl Diaz Meyer; international public speaking champion Patricia Evangelista and the members of the Ateneo debating team, which bested 94 countries in the recently concluded Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court competition in Washington DC.

"You put to shame some of our politicians," she told them.

The members of the Ateneo debating team, which represented the Philippines in the competition, included: Frederick Ryan Castillo, Ryan Mancera, Aimee Dabu, Justine Adrienne Guerrero and Andrew Fornier.

Mrs. Aquino also revealed to her guests that she has personally called up newly proclaimed Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca to congratulate her for her victory over the politically entrenched Dy family. "You were able to do what I wasn’t able to – win in Isabela," she told Dy.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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