MANILA, APRIL 29 2007 (STAR) President Arroyo called on the people of Cebu yesterday to "vote for reforms, not revolt," as she rejoined the campaign trail of the pro-administration Team Unity (TU) yesterday.

In a speech read by Vice President Noli de Castro, Mrs. Arroyo hit at the Genuine Opposition’s battlecry, "PLAN Co REVOLT," an acronym of the names of its 12 senatorial bets.

In a GO television ad, ousted President Joseph Estrada is shown calling on the people to revolt against corruption and poverty.

Mrs. Arroyo arrived in Cebu later at 2 p.m. yesterday in time for another program of TU.

Earlier in the morning, De" Castro read Mrs. Arroyo’s speech at the inauguration of the Naga-Toledo Road in Toledo City in Cebu.

In that speech Mrs. Arroyo also asked for the support of Cebu where she got a significant number of votes during her campaign for the presidency in 2004.

"We immediately acted to stem this fiscal problem and put the country back on the growth path," Mrs. Arroyo said in her speech.

"With our determined economic team, friends in Congress and the entire Filipino nation helping out, we resolved the problem in a year’s time."

Mrs. Arroyo cited the gains of her administration, particularly in the economy and the need to sustain this for the future of the country.

"Since then our growth has been unstoppable," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Comparing her administration’s performance to road construction,

Mrs. Arroyo said the country was on the brink of a fiscal crisis when she started her economic recovery program.

"I need you to support leaders who believe in these reforms, leaders who want a progressive Philippines that provides steady and decent income to everyone, sustainable development for the country, and unity for the people," Mrs. Arroyo said in her speech.

With additional revenues and savings from reduction of interest payments in foreign debt, the government was able to spend more on vital infrastructure projects like the road that has just been inaugurated, Mrs. Arroyo added.

Mrs. Arroyo said the TU senatorial candidates are pushing for a progressive nation, livelihood for all and sustained progress.

"The May elections are about the future, not the past. I ask you to support reforms, not revolt, reforms build, revolt destroys," Mrs. Arroyo said in her speech.

"We do not want the positive effects of our growth to be laid to waste. So my dear Cebuanos, I ask for your support again, this time for a team that is unquestionably pro-poor, pro-growth, and pro-modernization, who will all continue the reform. I am hopeful that you will help them just as you have always supported me."

Meanwhile, TU spokesman Ace Durano said political leaders in Cebu prepared separate meetings in Talisay, Danao and Mandaue towns for Mrs. Arroyo and the administration’s senatorial candidates.

The President has not been joining TU’s campaign sorties to focus on governance, Durano added.

Durano said Mrs. Arroyo was not expected to be in the sorties from the beginning.

She has also been busy taking care of First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, who underwent a complicated heart surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, he added.

Durano said the caucuses in Cebu coincided with the inauguration of several infrastructure projects in the province to be graced by the President.

"The President has many other responsibilities," he said. "She joins sorties when there is no conflict with her other engagements."

The TU has disputed a survey showing that "popularity wins over machinery" in Philippine elections.

Mrs. Arroyo’s defeat of Fernando Poe in the 2004 presidential elections is proof that a candidate cannot win by popularity alone, TU said.

Speaking over radio station dzRH, TU senatorial candidate Prospero Pichay cautioned survey firms to be "careful" in publicizing their opinion polls.

"Reading between the lines, this particular survey was obviously intended to favor the opposition in the May 14 midterm elections," he said.

Pichay said Poe was so popular that people believed that no one could beat him and that everybody thought he would win against Mrs. Arroyo

"But he did not because the machinery prevailed over popularity," he said. "I think (survey firms) should be very objective."

Pichay said TU would emerge victorious in the May 14 elections because of the "hate campaign" of GO.

"The negative ads, the hate campaign, the one-dimensional focus on impeaching President Arroyo have all boomeranged on the GO candidates," he said.

Team Unity, a coalition of six major political parties allied with Mrs. Arroyo, is banking on the "command votes," estimated to be 10 percent to 20 percent, which its network of local leaders nationwide is expected to deliver on election day.

GO flops in Cebu

Meanwhile, the Genuine Opposition’s campaign in Cebu City, the bailiwick of campaign manager, outgoing Sen. Sergio Osmeña and senatorial candidate John Osmeña, did not attract as many people as expected.

The GO candidates chose to hold separate campaign sorties in other parts of the country.

Only John Osmeña, Nikki Coseteng and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, who are faring so-so in recent surveys, were present during the supposedly grand rally in the city on Thursday night.

Osmeña, who was interviewed by Manila-based reporters after the rally, was unable to hide his dismay.

He admitted that he himself was not open to the idea of having a proclamation rally in Cebu, even if it is his home province.

"The Osmeña here (Cebu) is not GO. The Osmeña here, Tommy John Osmeña, the mayor, has his own local party," he said. "Don’t be surprised if the crowd is not what you would call as overwhelming."

Confirming reports that every candidate has been campaigning on his own, Osmeña said he has not been in touch with other candidates since the Nueva Ecija sortie last week.

"I have nothing to do with this rally," he said. "I just came here to endorse Atan Guardo. This was organized locally."

John Osmeña said even ousted President Joseph Estrada did not know about the rally in Cebu.

"He did not know that we have a rally here," he said. "When I talked to him this afternoon, he asked me, ‘San ka?’ I replied, Dito sasakyan ko papunta dun sa rally sa Cebu.’ He answered, ‘Ha? May rally ba?’" he said.

GO senatorial candidate Loren Legarda spent Thursday campaigning in Dumaguete City and Bohol provinces before going back to Metro Manila, while Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. opted to attend to some business matters in Metro Manila.

Legarda and Villar decided not to attend the Cebu rally because they separately visited Cebu last weekend when the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines endorsed their candidacies.

Senatorial candidate Francis Escudero was also on another campaign in the same manner as Representatives Noynoy Aquino of Tarlac and Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig-Pateros.

Villar has been vocal since the start of the campaign that he is an independent candidate, although the GO has opted to have him as a guest candidate.

"When our schedules meet, then I can always join them," he said.

The advance party of Sen. Panfilo Lacson has flown to Cebu City, but Lacson failed to catch up with them in time for Thursday’s rally because he was caught up in other appointments in Metro Manila. Lacson proceeded to Cebu yesterday for his second campaign visit.

— Marvin Sy, Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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