, January 25, 2006, (MALAYA) ‘No el’ a disaster in the making: FVR Council sentiment heavily against poll scrapping.

PARTICIPANTS in yesterday’s Council of State meeting yesterday thumbed down the proposal of President Arroyo’s Consultative Commission that the 2007 elections be scrapped in the transition to a parliamentary form of government.

"Sa tingin ko ay halos lahat, say 99 percent, ay sumasang-ayon na ating ipagpatuloy yung ating halalan sa taong 2007," President Fidel Ramos, a council member, said.

Ramos, in his opening speech, said the proposed "no el in 2007" is "a national disaster waiting to happen but which could be prevented or remedied by congressional action or damage control" by Malacañang.

He said it will send the signal to the international community that the Philippines is not free. "It is wrong to equate a strong state with the curtailment of civil liberties through strongman methods and similar measures," he said.

"No nation is ever built from Square One, nor should be rebuilt every time there is a change in government," he added.

He said the problems that caused Katipuneros to rise up in arms in 1896 – poverty, injustice, non-participation in governance of common Filipinos, and lack of basic services – are still the same challenges that beset the country.

In an interview after the meeting, Ramos said he was very satisfied with the discussions which were "very fruitful."

Antipolo City Rep. Ronaldo Puno (Kampi) said there was "almost unanimity" that there should be elections in 2007.

Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado said the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines which he heads is not in favor of postponing the 2007 polls.

"Mukhang maliwanag na ang consensus o nabuong opinion ay hindi nababagay na ituloy ang provision na ito," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said.

Budget Secretary Romulo Neri said discussions also centered on economic reforms that call for mobilizing funds of overseas workers, liberalizing the airline industry to attract more tourists, tapping the business sector to help improve the dairy industry, accelerating the release of P60 billion to P100 billion in coconut levy funds to pump-prime the rural areas, and distributing four million upland hectares to the rural poor.

Neri said the Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Office of the Solicitor General will be asked to help in the early release of the coconut levy funds to increase the productivity of three million hectares of land planted to coconut where the poorest farmers live.

He said the P17.5 billion in internal revenue allotment that government owes local government units can be used to open up the four million hectares in the upland.

He said government will develop special investment instruments to mobilize OFW funds. He said he will ask the approval of the Monetary Board.

He said the Civil Aeronautics Board will be asked to liberalize its policies to bring in more tourists.

He said Sen. Richard Gordon told the council meeting that CAB’s cancellation of the Macau route of Tiger Air sent a very bad signal to the international community.

He said the business sector will also help fund the development of the dairy industry and promote guaranty mechanisms for small and medium enterprises.

The United Opposition (UNO) said the move of the Palace to seek help from PR practitioners is a desperate and futile attempt to shore up the sagging image of an "illegitimate" President.

"Resorting to PR is definitely not the answer that will solve their problems, particularly the questions of legitimacy, cheating in the 2004 presidential elections and other scandals that continue to hound this administration. Again they are missing the point," said Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, UNO chair.

Bunye on Monday sought the help of PR practitioners during the Third Public Relations Summit at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel to counter the bad press that President Arroyo has been getting.

Binay said asking for help from PR practitioners was like "putting a Band-Aid solution on a surgical incision."

"Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts in the Cabinet and Congress should instead face the realities of massive electoral fraud, widespread and endemic corruption in government and mis-governance founded on the unscrupulous use of government resources," he said. – Regina Bengco and Ashzel Hachero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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