, March 2, 2006, (STAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - Vice President Noli de Castro joined mounting calls yesterday for the lifting of the state of national emergency as he urged Malacañang to revoke Presidential Proclamation No. 1017.

However, De Castro expressed support for President Arroyo’s declaration of a state of emergency and said it is justified for "as long as there is an imminent threat to national security."

He said his position on Proclamation 1017 is his personal observation of the current situation and that "it may no longer be necessary, as the emergency no longer exists."

De Castro noted that security alert levels had been downgraded and whatever emergency the country faced, it had largely subsided over the weekend.

He likened the present situation to a patient who has to remain in a hospital emergency room until his condition improves.

Speaking in Filipino, De Castro said that according to his "personal observations, the emergency had already passed last week. The situation of the country is like that of an emergency room patient. When the patient’s condition stabilizes, then he should be moved out of the emergency room into an ordinary room."

Despite airing his opinion on the matter, De Castro said the final decision must still come from the President, who gets classified information on the security situation of the country that is not available to the public, or even to high-level public officials, for security reasons.

De Castro, who stood by the President despite calls by the opposition and various critics for her ouster, said he continues to respect Mrs. Arroyo’s power and prerogative to take whatever measures are necessary for the best interests of the Filipino people.

He earlier said he supported the declaration of a state of national emergency but cautioned that the government must ensure the best interest of the majority of Filipinos.

He urged Mrs. Arroyo to define and prescribe reasonable terms to guide government agencies and ensure that Proclamation 1017 is not open to abuse.

The government should respect human rights and protect civil liberties, he added, especially freedom of the press.

De Castro — a popular TV broadcaster before entering politics — said the role of media is that of a watchdog that must work at exposing social injustice and abuse of power.

Meanwhile, the Senate has reiterated its opposition to the continued implementation of Proclamation 1017.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said in a privilege speech that Proclamation 1017 is nothing but a mask for martial law.

"Martial law, smiling or not, hides the truth that it is not law, but the gun, that rules," Pimentel said. "It hides the truth from our people and allows a degree of unwarranted immunity to the military and the police as they bash the heads of our people who dare protest the suppression of their rights."

"That is why we must resist it," he added. "That is why we must speak out while we still can. That is why we should help stop it (in) its tracks."

He also said "there is no basis in the Constitution to justify its continued enforcement."

Pimentel recommended that the Senate, as an institution, should take concrete steps to fight the continued implementation of Proclamation 1017.

He called for an end to all budget hearings at the Senate, the continuation of all investigations into government anomalies and for the Senate to act as an institution in seeking the repeal of Proclamation 1017 and Executive Order 464, which bars members of the Cabinet and the police and military from attending congressional hearings without the permission of the President.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the announced lifting of the state of emergency in the next few days was meant to render the cases filed before the Supreme Court against Proclamation 1017 moot and academic. — With Marvin Sy

GMA recycles Limcaoco as new PIA chief The Philippine Star 03/02/2006

President Arroyo has "recycled" Conrado Limcaoco to fill the post of Philippine Information Agency (PIA) director general and replace Renato Velasco who was named chief of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS).

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said one of his undersecretaries, Gamaliel Cordoba, would now take over Limcaoco’s former position as Cabinet Officer for Presidential Engagements.

Velasco has been named PMS chief, replacing Rigoberto Tiglao who was confirmed as the ambassador to Greece.

Ermita stressed the new appointments were part of the ongoing changes in the Cabinet begun by Mrs. Arroyo last month.

Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes was transferred to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which was vacated by Michael Defensor, now presidential chief of staff.

Esperanza Cabral, a cardiologist, was appointed secretary of Social Welfare and Development, replacing Corazon "Dinky" Soliman, one of the controversial former Cabinet officials who called on Mrs. Arroyo last year to step down.

Presidential adviser for external affairs Edgardo Pamintuan was assigned as new chairman of the Subic-Clark Area Development, the agency in charge of the development of the former US air base at Clark Field in Pampanga.

Budget Secretary Romulo Neri went back as director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and was replaced by Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr.

Andaya and Antipolo City Rep. Ronaldo Puno, who had been appointed as interior and local government secretary, are the two lawmakers who have accepted offers to join the Cabinet of Mrs. Arroyo. — Aurea Calica

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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