ARROYO  URGES  NATION:  RALLY TO  ME

MANILA, May 4, 2005
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo urged Filipinos yesterday to unite behind her, while security officials said there was no danger of a coup despite retired Maj. Gen. Fortunato Abatís call to replace the government with a military junta.

"It is now time for all our people to leave recriminations behind and push forward together for the economy," she said in a statement released by MalacaŮang.

The solutions to the fiscal constraints saddling the economy "lie in our unity and solidarity to make a tough decision for the future," she added.

Mrs. Arroyo said she supports the call of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. to convene a meeting of the various political parties to unify the nation.

"Well, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. has always been the advocate of win-win solutions, so we appreciate all these efforts," she told reporters yesterday.

Mrs. Arroyo said she would not close her doors to unity and reconciliation with the various sectors of society, but that she would not tell De Venecia whom to invite to the meeting.

"I will not advise him anything," she said.

"This is his initiative and he knows best how to carry out this concept. Reaching out is always helpful, thatís why if you remember in the 10-point legacy agenda that I enunciated in my inauguration last year, item No. 10 was reconciliation. Thatís very well within our policy."

De Venecia said officials of the Liberal Party, National Peopleís Coalition, Nacionalista Party, Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas, Kampi, Akbayan, Bayan Muna, PDP-Laban, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino and Muslim Ompia party will be invited to the meeting.

De Venecia is co-chairman with Mrs. Arroyo of the pro-administration Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Mrs. Arroyo takes comfort from the many supportive text messages she receives from people, especially after Abat called for her ouster last Saturday.

"A lot of people are sending her text messages expressing their support for her and that helps calm her down," he said.

Ermita said Mrs. Arroyo was not distracted by the destabilization talk against her administration, and that she might speak with Abat herself.

He noted the President did not let the coup rumors disrupt her busy schedule. "As you can see in the newspapers, she goes to Mindanao, Visayas, to the North. That only shows there are really no serious problems as regards to peace and order," he said.

Ermita said Mrs. Arroyo had faith and confidence in her Cabinet, the police and military forces, and the National Bureau of Investigation.

"She knows everyone is loyal, especially for the countryís sake, and she believes that the government is prepared to address all these concerns," he said.

"Thatís why the President feels okay, she knows she and her officials are doing their job."

Meanwhile, Ermita said Abat, a former Army commander and defense secretary, is well loved in the Armed Forces, and he refused to belittle him.

"For the senior officers of the Armed Forces, General Abat is somebody to look up to," he said. "I also served under General Abat, whom I totally respect. Thatís why I was really shocked, was caught off-guard" by his pronouncements.

Ermita appealed for sobriety from Abat and his group of retired generals, saying there are many other ways for them to air their grievances.

"But it should not be through public pronouncements that would be shocking and alarming and trouble the minds of the people," he said.

Ermita said the government cannot just brush aside the statements of Abat since they come from somebody known and respected.

"General Abat is one of the most respected senior officers of the Armed Forces, especially when he was still in service and even when he became defense secretary," he said.

Ermita expressed hope that Abat would understand and respect the governmentís position and would not influence other sectors to join him.

"Itís saddening because he is a known personality and (his statements) are really a cause for concern," he said. "At this point, we donít want the people to worry."

Coup rumors spread through Metro Manila over the weekend after Abat called for a civilian-military junta to replace Mrs. Arroyo and Congress because of "a crisis in leadership."

Police and troops went on high alert in Metro Manila, where about 11,000 protesters turned out on Sunday during Labor Day events to demand a wage hike amid rising oil prices. ó With AP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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