[THE VICTORS: President Arroyo and Vice President-elect Noli de Castro are proclaimed winners of the May 10 elections by Senate President Franklin Drilon (left) and Speaker Jose de Venecia at 3:35 a.m. yesterday at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City. At right, the President gets a congratulatory buss from First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo. - Fernan Nebres]

MANILA,  JUNE 25, 2004 (STAR) By Jose Rodel Clapano  -  Senate President Franklin Drilon congratulated yesterday President Arroyo and Vice President-elect Noli de Castro for their victory in the May 10 elections.

Drilon said Arroyo and De Castro’s proclamation at 3:38 a.m. yesterday should signal the start of the healing process.

"Now is the time to move forward. This election has shown us how difficult we stand as a divided nation. It showed us how difficult it is to get things done when we are politically at odds. It showed us how swiftly the people’s confidence is eroded when we act as partisan politicians instead of statesmen," he said.

Though Drilon said he is supporting Mrs. Arroyo’s move to extend the hand of reconciliation to the opposition, he cautioned her against forging too many compromises that are often mistaken as unprincipled political pragmatism.

"This fresh mandate should be translated into the political will needed to pursue economic and political reforms in the country. Now is the time to put partisan politics behind us and let real governance begin," he said.

Drilon asked Mrs. Arroyo to organize a credible and effective Cabinet and appoint officials based on their competence, integrity, and willingness to do hard work.

"There must be a limit to the folly of political accommodation and patronage. Much has to be done. Our people are counting on us to immediately address pressing problems such as the huge budget deficit, the need for political stability, the maintenance of peace and order, and above all, the need to restore the people’s confidence in government," he said.

Drilon pointed out that the answer to these problems is not more politics, but sheer political will.

He thanked his colleagues in Congress for standing up to "the very difficult task" of canvassing the votes for president and vice president and expressed his gratitude to the employees of the Senate and the House of Representatives, members of media and to the Filipino people for "bearing with us."

Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., on the other hand, said the country’s political leaders should unite and work together to face the daunting problems and challenges besetting the nation.

Villar, president of the Nacionalista Party, said partisan politics has divided the country and hindered its progress in the past few years.

"After three weeks of heated debates and political wrangling, it is high time for us to begin the healing process. People have grown tired of partisan politics, which has impeded the growth of our nation," he said.

Villar said the election results showed that more people would like to see continuity in national policies and programs initiated and implemented by the Arroyo administration.

He added that the government must focus on addressing the ballooning budget deficit and rising prices of basic commodities.

"The government can no longer afford to be sidetracked by politics. There is no time to waste. The people expect government officials to immediately buckle down to work and hit the ground running," Villar said.

He said the Senate will miss De Castro, who had been a valuable member of the 12th Congress and lived up to his promise to be the people’s voice in the Senate for the past three years.

"De Castro is well-prepared to face new challenges. I am sure he would be an able partner of the President in serving the interest of the people," Villar said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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