JANUARY 15, 2007 (STAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - Retired chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. took his oath yesterday as ambassador to the United Nations before President Arroyo.

He will replace Ambassador Lauro Baja Jr., a career diplomat.

Victoriano Lecaros, ASEAN spokesman, told reporters yesterday Davide took his oath after the ASEAN-Korea Summit at the Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort.

Diplomatic sources said Malacañang is determined to push Davide’s nomination, which has not yet been approved by the Commission on Appointments.

Malacañang expressed optimism that Senators Loi Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada would no longer block Davide’s appointment.

The 71-year-old Davide’s nomination was deemed bypassed by the CA when Congress adjourned last Dec. 22 without taking up his appointment.

Lecaros said there was nothing irregular in Davide’s oath-taking.

"Filipino diplomats actually have the option to take oath before or after their confirmation," he said.

Lecaros said Baja, who served as foreign affairs undersecretary for policy, will be given a special assignment after he is recalled.

As Chief Justice, Davide presided over the unfinished impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada in December 2000 to January 2001.

Baja, who was named ambassador to the UN after he retired from the service, has over 40 years of diplomatic experience.

Malacañang may back Chavit’s Senate bid The Philippine Star 01/15/2007

Malacañang "would likely support" the senatorial bid of Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson after local officials passed a resolution calling on him to run for the Senate, President Arroyo’s political adviser said yesterday.

Gabriel Claudio, presidential adviser for political affairs, said the recommendation of local officials carries much weight and would be "seriously considered" by the pro-administration coalition.

The Governors’ League of the Philippines has endorsed Singson’s senatorial bid to Mrs. Arroyo.

Singson said he would run for senator if he gets the backing of Malacañang.

Another top Palace official said Bukidnon Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Tarlac Rep. Gilbert Teodoro "would also likely" be included in the administration’s senatorial ticket.

The Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, and its affiliate Aksyon Sambayan, would be seeking party-list seats in the House of Representatives, the official said.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said yesterday Singson and presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor, could be the administration’s only bets for senator on May 14.

"Chavit may be the only one with a recognizable name throughout the Philippines," he said. "It would depend on the voters’ appreciation of him."

The administration seems to be having a hard time looking for candidates for senator, he added.

On the other hand, Claudio said senatorial candidates under the majority coalition must make a commitment to consistently support the administration’s programs if they want to obtain the crucial support of local officials in the coming elections.

"They will serve notice that they don’t want that (switching political alliances) to happen again," he said.

"I’m talking about governors, mayors and congressmen who told us that if they help these senatorial candidates, it should be clear that they would remain with the administration and be supportive of the political and economic reforms of the President.

"These governors, mayors and even congressmen are the ones who deliver the votes so they want to have a dialogue with the senatorial candidates to make sure they remember their commitment to the administration and the party and to the President."

Claudio spoke during recent meetings of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), the League of Provinces, League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) and the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP).

Meanwhile, Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. denied yesterday a brewing rift within the opposition’s senatorial slate for the May 14 elections.

Speaking over radio station dzBB, Villar said ousted President Joseph Estrada would decide who should be included in the senatorial ticket of the opposition.

Villar said the Nacionalista Party, which he heads, and the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino of Estrada are discussing who among the NP members would run for senator under the opposition banner. — Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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