MANILA, September 5, 2005
(STAR) President Arroyo called on the people yesterday to "stay the course" in allowing her to pursue economic and political reforms for the sake of the country.

She said Filipinos should remain focused on economic and political reforms and avoid being seduced by destructive and divisive politics.

Mrs. Arroyo said the modest fiscal gains, including the record-breaking revenue collections for August, "show that nothing, not even the worst form of machinations at the expense of the rule of law, will distract the people from their responsibility to build a strong nation upon the foundations of civic duty."

"To our people, I ask that they stay the course with me as we continue to take the brave path towards meaningful reforms to help us obtain freedom from debt and grinding poverty," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Despite the political turmoil, the President said the country’s economy showed a significant and steady growth at five percent.

"(It) shows that the Filipino people are keenly focused on enterprise and hard work, and not catering to overtures of national division and distraction," she said.

Even as critics are praying for her downfall, Mrs. Arroyo said she is seeking divine guidance "to do what is best for our people."

Mrs. Arroyo issued the statement as she appeared close to hurdling an impeachment battle in Congress.

The President is fighting for her political life in the wake of scandals that have rocked her four-year presidency.

The opposition has accused her of cheating in last year’s presidential election even as members of her family were accused of accepting illegal gambling payoffs.

Even as she faces an impeachment complaint before Congress, Mrs. Arroyo called on lawmakers to hasten moves to rewrite the Constitution for a shift to the parliamentary federal system of government.

Amid the political squabbling, the President commended the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) headed by Commissioner Jose Mario Buñag for its accomplishment and urged them to improve on their revenue collection efforts.

"This (improved performance) is effective governance at work, with the indispensable support of the people," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She said the Supreme Court ruling last week that upheld the legality of the expanded value-added tax (EVAT) law would boost the administration’s target of balancing the budget and raising more revenues for infrastructure and social spending.

Even while admitting the EVAT would be a burden, Mrs. Arroyo said this would be shared by all, with measures to spare the poor from its impact.

"We shall maintain the safety nets needed to insulate the poorest of the poor from high prices and protect their families from hunger and disease," she said.

In separate interviews, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio said this week’s House proceedings on the fate of the impeachment complaint against the President would help return the country to normalcy.

While the opposition might be able to raise the required 79 signatures to automatically transmit the complaint to the Senate for trial, Claudio said all indications suggest this is unlikely.

Claudio said the plenary voting on the impeachment complaint is the "proper time and place" for the opposition to show up and participate in the process.

"We’d like to think that the period of political bickering is now going to be over especially with the positive economic developments," Claudio told The STAR.

He said the opposition should be ready to accept defeat and moving their doomed cause to the streets would only show their "desperation."

Gonzales, for his part, noted the debates on the impeachment were reaching an end.

This will allow the House to attend to other priority legislation and cue the Filipino people to go on their lives.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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