, November 27, 2005
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo and former President Fidel Ramos met publicly for the first time in months yesterday in Calamba City, Laguna, ever since news of their alleged "rift" was reported in October.

While their exchange was casual, Ramos reiterated a few words of advice for Mrs. Arroyo before she arrived for the event.

As he has said before, Ramos advised Mrs. Arroyo to keep her hands clean, keep her mouth shut and avoid building a fortress around her.

The two were together at the groundbreaking of the NYK Shipping Line and Transnational Diversified Group (NYK-TDG) Maritime Academy in Calamba City.

Ramos was said to be instrumental in Mrs. Arroyo’s political survival last July after 10 of her Cabinet secretaries and heads of agencies or the so-called "Hyatt 10" resigned and called for Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation amid allegations of electoral fraud.

A faction of the Liberal Party led by Senate President Franklin Drilon, a group from the Makati Business Club and former President Corazon Aquino then joined in the chorus for Mrs. Arroyo to step down.

At the time, Ramos came forward to propose Charter change as a "graceful exit" strategy for the beleaguered President. However, reports recently suggested that Ramos was behind destabilization moves against Mrs. Arroyo.

Other reports had said Ramos was under surveillance for his alleged role in a planned coup d’état but the reports were flatly denied by the Palace.

Ramos had said Mrs. Arroyo should come clean on those reports, and state clearly whether or not he had her full trust.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Generoso Senga and the Philippine National Police have since insisted that Ramos was never placed under surveillance.

Senga said the investigation to find out who fed the reports to the media was continuing. "It will continue because the efforts of some people are also continuing to sow confusion among our people."

PNP Deputy Director General Oscar Calderon shared Senga’s view. "We never doubted the support of former President Ramos," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo motored from Malacañang to lead the laying of the cornerstone to the maritime academy situated on a nine-hectare property in Barangay Canlubang.

The NYK-TDG Maritime Academy is the newest joint venture between NYK Line, one of the world’s oldest and largest shipping companies, and the Filipino-owned Transnational Diversified Group.

Upon arrival, Mrs. Arroyo viewed a scale model of the academy and was present at the lowering of the time capsule, assisted by Ramos, Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koichiro Yamazaki and Laguna Gov. Teresita Lazaro.

Mrs. Arroyo praised the NYK-TDG for investing $15 million to put up a world-class maritime academy that would upgrade the quality of Filipino seafarers.

The partnership of NYK and TDG started as early as 1976. Since then, TDG has deployed 65,000 Filipino seafarers on NYK ships.

The NYK and TDG established their own maritime and technological institute as a world-class facility with state-of-the-art equipment, classrooms and laboratories as well as topnotch faculty and professors.

Ramos and Mrs. Arroyo met in early November to clear the air between them following a rumor that Ramos — along with some former military generals loyal to him — was plotting a coup, which Ramos strongly denied. Malacañang also brushed aside the rumor.

The rift reportedly developed between Ramos and Mrs. Arroyo after she appeared hesitant to cut her term short to pave the way for moves to amend the Constitution and change the country’s form of government from a presidential to a parliamentary system.

Shortly after the opposition began its campaign to force Mrs. Arroyo from office, Ramos issued his proposal, which he said would minimize political bickering.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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