APRIL 29, 2006 (STAR) (AFP) More than half of Filipinos want the country to move forward from the political crisis hounding President Arroyo since last year over accusations of electoral fraud, according to a commissioned opinion poll.

Fifty-eight percent said they agreed that the opposition "should start helping the country and stop too much politics," according to a survey by pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Fifteen percent of the 1,200 people questioned said they disagreed, 24 percent were undecided and three percent were unaware of the issues or refused to answer.

Fifty-one percent said it was time to forgo bitterness over the May 2004 presidential elections, in which Mrs. Arroyo allegedly cheated her way to victory, and let her "focus on the real problems of the nation."

Twenty-three percent disagreed, 24 percent were undecided and two percent had no answer.

Forty-two percent agreed that Mrs. Arroyo "has the right plan for the nation and the economy but it is not moving fast enough as expected by the average citizen."

Twenty-six percent disagreed and 29 percent were undecided. Three percent were unaware of the issues or refused to answer.

SWS said the poll was conducted from March 8 to 14, but that the survey questions involved were commissioned by a private citizen, one Pedro Laylo, and could not be released without the sponsor’s prior consent.

It said the opinion poll, which has an error margin of three percent, was commissioned to test public reactions to political messages.

SWS said its practices on disclosure follow the standards observed by pollsters around the world.

The administration has been urging the opposition to end its campaign for Mrs. Arroyo’s ouster, saying that Filipinos are tired of politics and want to move on with their lives.

Officials also point to warnings from economists that the lingering political crisis poses a risk to the Philippines’ economic recovery efforts.

Previous SWS surveys had found that Mrs. Arroyo’s popularity had fallen to new lows due to the vote fraud allegations, and that more than half of Filipinos wanted her to cut short her term before it ends in 2010.

Mrs. Arroyo fought off an impeachment complaint in the House of Representatives last September mainly over allegations that she robbed movie star Fernando Poe Jr.

But the opposition refused to accept defeat and pressed on with near-daily street protests.

Last year, when the end seemed near for Mrs. Arroyo and some of her closest allies had abandoned her, the Roman Catholic Church refused to back opposition calls to oust her.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the church’s local policy-making body, issued a pastoral letter urging Filipinos to move on. A criticism could have dealt a stinging blow to the administration.

But the church maintained that the truth behind the election cheating accusations be pursued through peaceful and legal means, saying efforts to uncover them were obstructed by "acts of evasion and obstruction of truth."

In February, Mrs. Arroyo issued Proclamation 1017 declaring a state of national emergency to counter a reported takeover attempt by an alliance of disgruntled military officers, communist rebels and some elements of the opposition.

She launched a purge on the military and police as well as a crackdown on street protests, leftist legislators and media organizations critical of her administration.

Mrs. Arroyo drew criticism, however, that she was emulating draconian measures used by late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Last month, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s decision to resign sparked fresh calls by opposition groups for Mrs. Arroyo to quit.

Thaksin, in a stunning turnabout following his recent election victory, announced he will step down in the face of a mounting opposition campaign seeking his ouster over allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Malacañang officials brushed aside the opposition call, saying conditions in Thailand and the Philippines were different.

While street protests against Mrs. Arroyo have been persistent, they have been just a fraction of the size of the massive crowds in the military-backed people power revolts that ousted the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Malacañang also rejected the opposition’s call for an early or "snap" presidential election as "political prattle and propaganda."

The political crisis has sparked fears of a military intervention to resolve the political crisis. One opposition lawmaker, Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, even warned of a possible civil war.

Administration congressmen rejected the warning as "far-fetched."

"Protests against the President will not reach the boiling point of civil war because the majority of our people refused to be influenced by negative politics," said House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles.

Nograles called against making sweeping statements that might hurt the economy in the long run. "Politicians should be more circumspect because it is not just their interest that is at stake but the national interest." — AFP, Delon Porcalla

GMA commends police for foiling May 1 terror plot 04/28 4:56:01 PM

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commended Friday the Philippine National Police (PNP) for foiling a plot by the Abu Sayyaf to sow terror during the nationwide observance of Labor Day on Monday.

In a statement, the President said the raid on a residence in Marikina City yesterday underscored the steadfast vigilance of the government in protecting the people.

The raid yielded bombs, grenades, blasting caps and other explosive materials.

"We will never be cowed by the disciples of anarchy as we uphold Constitutional order and the rule of law at all times," the President said.

She said that terrorist cells will not be "allowed to creep into the metropolis and we shall flush them out from their lairs in the urban centers and far-flung jungles."

Police said the Marikina bungalow was being used as a hideout by the Abu Sayyaf. The building was unoccupied when it was raided.

The Al Queda-linked terrorist group in Marikina had been under surveillance by the police for months.

Stressing that the terrorist threat "does not sleep," the President called on the people to be constantly alert and unremitting.

"Even as we must not step back from our daily chores, communities must undertake extra precautions for the collective safety of its members – working closely with police officers and soldiers standing guard to keep the jobs and livelihood of the people unsullied against terror," she said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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