MANILA, July 10, 2005
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo feels saddened and betrayed that the Cabinet members whom she considered to be "trusted and loyal friends" were the first to abandon her at a time when she needed them, her spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.

But Press Secretary Bunye said "life must go on" for the President, who repeated her vow not to resign and her determination to defend the Constitution and the rule of law.

"(The President) will ensure that the welfare of the people will not be undermined by the current political instability," he said.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who had refrained from criticizing his former colleagues on Friday, said yesterday he did not consider the actions of resigned Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Education Secretary Florencio Abad, Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin, Trade Secretary Juan Santos and Agrarian Secretary Rene Villa to be heroic or pro-poor.

The defecting group also included Presidential adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, National Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Imelda Nicolas, Internal Revenue Commissioner Guillermo Parayno and Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina.

They announced their resignations in a press conference Friday, hours after the President had called on her entire Cabinet to quit in order to give her a "free hand" to reorganize her official family.

"If they have nationalism and are indeed patriotic and individuals, they should have realized the damaging effects of what they did to the economy. And the majority of the people are the ones who suffer because these negative actions hurt the economy," Ermita said.

He said it was inappropriate for Purisima to claim that the longer the President stays, the worse it would be for the economy.

"We have different beliefs and opinions. We know that he helped the President draft programs to improve the economy but maybe he said that for the sake of drama, thinking that people would support him for what he did," Ermita said.

But the public, he claimed, was apparently uninterested in joining another "people power" movement to oust the President.

Ermita admitted they were shocked by the Purisima groupís actions and he suspected they had been pressured to make such a move.

"We never expected them to join the calls of the Presidentís detractors and the opposition," he said.

Ermita said Mrs. Arroyo had learned about the press conference Purisima and company had called for Friday, and thus the night before she ordered her Cabinet members to tender their resignations to allow a revamp.

Secretary to the Cabinet Ricardo Saludo said: "Itís a sad testimony to our politics that on the basis of illegal recordings, which may have also been manipulated by the opposition, an elected leader is being pressured to quit and elections widely seen as generally clean are cast in doubt."

Saludo stressed no formal investigation had taken place, no charges had been proven, yet public trust had been severely damaged and guilt was imputed on officials who should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

MalacaŮang assured that government services would not be disrupted despite the resignations of some Cabinet members and the revamp announced by Mrs. Arroyo.

Ermita clarified that while all Cabinet members had submitted their courtesy resignations, all those who had not been replaced would stay on in a holdover capacity.

Ermita and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said undersecretaries and assistant secretaries were also not covered by the Presidentís resign order.

"What happened canít really paralyze the government. Anyway, the President had announced a Cabinet revamp before they resigned," Bunye said.

"The different organizations, the bureaucracy are in place, there are different levels from secretary down to the undersecretary to the assistant secretary so services would not be interrupted, government transactions would continue," Ermita said.

He added there would be no vacuum as Mrs. Arroyo had already announced replacements for those who resigned.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo had announced some of the following replacements already: Mario Relampagos, Department of Budget and Management; Roberto Tan, Department of Finance; Thomas Aquino, Department of Trade and Industry; Ramon Bacani, Department of Education; Nasser Pangandaman, Department of Land Reform; and Lualhati Pablo, Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Mrs. Arroyo also appointed Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio Jr. as chairman of the National Labor Relations Commission to replace Roy SeŮeres.

Mrs. Arroyo also said she would announce a new Cabinet in the coming days, which would be made up of individuals whose commitment to the nation and democratic principles would be "beyond doubt."

Meanwhile, Davao Cityís political and business leaders pledged yesterday their continued support for Mrs. Arroyo, saying the crisis should be resolved through an impeachment trial.

"I will never support any extra-judicial means in ousting the President. She should be accorded due process," Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, a staunch Arroyo supporter, said. ó With Edith Regalado

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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