PALACE  ECONOMIC  PANEL  SEEN  AS UNITY  TOOL

MANILA,  JUNE 28, 2004
(STAR) 
By Marvin Sy  -  While the political opposition remained reluctant in accepting President Arroyo’s offer for a government of national unity, a member of her Cabinet suggested using the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) as a tool to make it work.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office chief Secretary Gabriel Claudio said the Ledac could "provide as an excellent ice breaker towards reconciliation" considering the cynicism of some from the opposition.

"The so-called government of national unity can’t be expected to happen abruptly after the last elections. Ledac is the readily available mechanism to break the ice and reestablish trust and goodwill among contending parties in the last (May 10) polls," Claudio said.

Ledac is an advisory and consultative body to the President and the legislature to coordinate efforts on various socio-economic issues and concerns to ensure consistency in executive and legislative development and budgeting.

Claudio explained that opposition lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are represented in the Ledac along with members of the Cabinet, from local government units and other key players in the society. "It can be a good catalyst and precursor for a government of national unity because it is provided by law and immediately legislation -related," he said.

Some members of the opposition, particularly those from the camp of Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) of Fernando Poe Jr., have rejected the call of Mrs. Arroyo for unity and reconciliation following her victory in the May 10 vote.

Poe and his allies in the KNP have refused to accept Mrs. Arroyo’s election victory and expressed their interest in filing a protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

But some from the opposition seemingly accepted their fate and are not keen of lodging a complaint before the PET since it would take years and a lot of financial resources to sustain the case.

Some like Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. gave their support for Mrs. Arroyo’s call for national unity and sustain programs for the poor.

"The opposition cannot be leery of its (Ledac) agenda. Discussions on legislation can also be a good takeoff point for sharing insights on urgent issues on the economy, security and governance confronting the country and for the opposition to be freely heard," Claudio said.

To facilitate the objective of unity and reconciliation, Claudio suggested the Ledac should be convened at least once a month instead of the usual once every three months.

"Perhaps a meeting convened by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo once or twice a month will be sufficient," he said.

Speculations came up about the offer of Mrs. Arroyo to the members of the opposition of positions in the government. Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye did not rule out such possibility since Mrs. Arroyo has indicated her desire to tap the best and the brightest to join her government.

"The best and the brightest are not only confined to her supporters. What is important is whoever will be able to push her pro-poor agenda, wherever this may originate, I believe the President will do this (tap their expertise)," Bunye said.

Bunye, however, stressed the reconciliation should be based on principles, particularly focusing in promoting the welfare of the poor.

"There should not be any secret deals. The exchanges (or deals), these are not being discussed," Bunye said.

Several camps also accused Malacañang of entering into some sort of a deal with administration critic Sen. Panfilo Lacson who conceded defeat to Mrs. Arroyo and called for unity among other losing presidential candidates after several months of exchanging tirades with her.

Bunye defended Lacson saying his calls for unity was on his own voluntary gesture.

Bunye though refused to elaborate on the progress of the ongoing talks between Mrs. Arroyo and with three other presidential candidates in the proposed government of national unity.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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