MANILA, June 11, 2005
(STAR) By Delon Porcalla - Administration lawmakers have vowed to repel moves by the opposition to force the resignation of President Arroyo, calling the effort nothing but a "daydream."

In a major show of support, some 1,200 lawmakers, Cabinet members and local officials vowed to put up a united front against all efforts by the opposition to unseat Mrs. Arroyo over allegations of electoral fraud and members of her family receiving monthly payoffs from illegal gambling.

Led by Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., the administration lawmakers threw their support behind Mrs. Arroyo and vowed to quell efforts of the opposition to try to "turn the nation into a banana republic."

De Venecia shot back at the opposition yesterday, branding them "the forces of darkness" fomenting the latest crisis to promote their political agenda.

Led by De Venecia, the more than 1,200 Lakas senators, congressmen, Cabinet secretaries and local officials met at Malacañang Friday night to pledge their support for the embattled Chief Executive.

"We will confront this political crisis the same way we faced the financial crisis — with deliberate speed and decisive steps, and with full support for the President’s leadership," the party delegation said.

House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles (Davao City) and Aklan Rep. Florencio Miraflores said the opposition’s call for Mrs. Arroyo to step down was a "hallucination, an impossibility and simply outrageous."

"The House leadership will not support any more of this civilian or military adventurism. We will support whatever measures the President would take to repel this new threat of destabilization," Nograles said.

Nograles and Miraflores said the opposition was trying to bring down the government, making it appear that the jueteng issue and the alleged May election fraud "would be enough to trigger another uprising."

"This call for the President to resign is wishful thinking and the product of a hallucinating mind. The President cannot just resign on the mere basis of these baseless allegations. That’s totally outrageous," Miraflores said.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the calls for Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation "are long shots from the wilderness of contrived accusations and partisan innuendo."

Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Gerry Salapuddin (Basilan) said the "unequivocal support" by the US government for the President shows the efforts to bring down her administration are "blatantly illegitimate" and unacceptable to the international community.

Salapuddin said the US support is an affirmation that Mrs. Arroyo was duly elected to office.

"In times of crisis the Filipino people must ensure national survival by strengthening our constitutional democracy — and by ensuring the cooperation of every sector in achieving the national goal of economic development to lift the lives of millions of our people," the ruling party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats said in a statement.

A total of 40 governors, 58 city mayors, 60 percent of the mayors from the country’s 1,500 municipalities and a sizeable number of congressmen formed the Lakas delegation to express their support for Mrs. Arroyo in Malacañang.

You First

Malacañang also slammed the opposition, particularly Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., for leading the calls for Mrs. Arroyo to step down.

"Those who want the President to resign may go first if they wish because the President plans to continue the work she has started. These detractors have no plan for the nation at all. The President has not violated any law and is not charged with any crime," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

"We will not allow these ambitious, noisy and selfish few to destroy what we have built for this country," he added.

Bunye said those calling for the President to quit want to set back the country’s fiscal stability and economic security on top of throwing the nation’s economic engine in reverse.

"We have finished phase one of our economic plan while they have not shown any shadow of a plan. We have already started phase two to broaden the benefits of economic stability while they sit idly by and want power to be handed to them on a silver platter," he said.

Bunye maintained that Mrs. Arroyo and Vice President Noli de Castro were duly elected by the people.

He noted the jueteng scandal and allegations of electoral cheating have hurt the economy by downgrading investors’ confidence.

Bunye also echoed the claims by administration lawmakers that the opposition is "daydreaming" in calling for the President to step down and to hold snap elections.

Pimentel claimed Mrs. Arroyo’s credibility to lead the nation has been compromised by allegations that she cheated her mandate.

He also claimed De Castro won the vice presidential race under "questionable circumstances."

Pimentel suggested Senate President Franklin Drilon should stand as acting President and exercise his duty as the third-highest elected official of the country in order to call for elections and fill the vacancies in the offices of President and Vice President.

Gearing Up

A group of public school teachers joined the call for the President’s resignation with a threat to walk out on their classes in the coming weeks.

"We plan to paralyze schools. We plan to boycott the classes in the coming weeks," Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) president Benjamin Valbuena announced yesterday.

He said the protest action of the teachers would highlight their demand for Mrs. Arroyo to step down for her "anti-people education policies."

Valbuena claimed the Arroyo administration had neglected its responsibility over the education sector.

"Despite our series of mass-concerted actions, the proclaimed President has never shown genuine commitment to save our ailing educational system and to grant us our legitimate demands," said Valbuena.

He said the people are left with no option but to take to the streets and air their sentiments against the Arroyo administration.

He said the group would be joining a massive rally of Church leaders and opposition groups to press for Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation.

In the coming weeks leading to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July, Mrs. Arroyo will face more protest actions from militant groups and other sectors joining to demand her resignation, Valbuena warned.

Militant groups also threatened to take the issue to the streets to force Mrs. Arroyo to step down.

The political opposition, on the other hand, are gearing up for massive protest rallies in the coming weeks, starting today with the "national day of mourning" prayer rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, a member of the United Opposition (UNO), said the proposal to push for impeachment proceedings against Mrs. Arroyo is not a viable alternative, claiming the process takes too long.

His half-brother, San Juan Mayor Jose Victor Ejercito, also said protest actions against Mrs. Arroyo will show the true extent of public disfavor with the President.

Ejercito said Mrs. Arroyo "has lost her moral ascendancy to continue staying in Malacañang" in the face of allegations she had cheated her way to victory in the May polls last year.

Copies of the so-called wiretapped conversations between Mrs. Arroyo and an election official were distributed to the media last week.

The allegedly wiretapped conversations purportedly reveal Mrs. Arroyo urging an election commissioner to ensure her victory in the May 10, 2004 vote.

The allegations of electoral fraud surfaced as witnesses at an ongoing Senate hearing have accused the President’s husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, her son Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo and brother-in-law Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo of receiving jueteng payoffs.

The accusations fueled political tensions amid rumors of a pending coup and a backdrop of rising prices, new taxes and the President’s plunging popularity ratings.

Mrs. Arroyo said allegations by the opposition that she cheated in the May elections were part of an orchestrated plot to unseat her. – With Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan, Sandy Araneta

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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