[Photo at left - President Arroyo and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim shake hands as they grace the inauguration of the Sentro ng Karunungan livelihood training center in Tondo, Manila yesterday. - Photo By WILLY PEREZ]

MANILA, JULY 9, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy and Evelyn Macairan - He might not be on her side of the political fence, but no angry mob will ever force President Arroyo out of Malacañang as long as Alfredo Lim is mayor of Manila.

Malacañang Palace, the seat of government and residence of the Chief Executive, lies in the heart of Manila.

The controversial opposition mayor and former senator, known for his tough and sometimes unorthodox approach to fighting crime, promised to keep Mrs. Arroyo safe from a people power-style uprising, saying it is his “official responsibility to maintain peace and order.”

The President was guest of honor at the inauguration of the Sentro ng Karunungan in Tondo, where Lim was also present. The Sentro ng Karunungan will provide livelihood courses to the city’s unemployed youth.

The project is in cooperation with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

It was Lim’s first meeting with the President since winning the mayoral race in Manila. The Manila mayor is a staunch supporter of former President Joseph Estrada, whom Mrs. Arroyo succeeded after a people power uprising in 2001.

Lim has been pushing for the release of the former president. Recently, he asked the Sandiganbayan to allow Estrada to attend his June 30 oath-taking, a request that was denied.

During a tour of the facility, Lim was observed keeping a distance from the President. But he made the vow to protect the President as he paused later for a “photo op” with her after she praised him for his contribution to peace and order.

“We will make sure the President will stay until 2010,” a flattered Lim said.

The mayor said he repeated his promise during a closed-door meeting with the President, Speaker Jose De Venecia Jr. and second district Rep. Jaime Lopez.

“I guarantee there will be no disorder, most especially in Malacañang. That is my responsibility,” Lim said.

“I assured her that there would be no trouble in Malacañang for as long as I am mayor,” Lim said.

A former officer of the Philippine National Police, Lim served as mayor of Manila for one term before joining the Senate as a member of the political opposition.

One of Lim’s campaign promises was to open Mendiola to rallyists. But last week, Lim announced that he would open only part of Mendiola but only on weekends and holidays and only after the rallyists have secured the necessary permits.

Lim said he had to make some adjustments so as not to inconvenience the public or disrupt the flow of traffic. Mendiola is the scene of many violent rallies.

When asked if he talked to Mrs. Arroyo about Estrada, Lim said he did not raise the topic.

Presidential Security Group chief Air Force Brig. Gen. Romeo Prestoza said they would coordinate with Lim regarding the rules for rallies since it is his unit’s duty to protect the country’s seat of power.

Prestoza said he wants to see clear-cut guidelines on rallies from Lim as so that all parties concerned would be guided accordingly.

Senior Superintendent Danilo Abarzosa, officer-in-charge of the Manila Police Department, said the mayor met with representatives from the MPD and the PSG yesterday to discuss rally guidelines.

It was initially agreed that demonstrators could only occupy the portion of Mendiola near Legarda street and Recto Avenue, while police would have the other side from San Beda College and Centro Escolar University.

Some militant groups said Lim’s formula was still restrictive. Anakbayan members clashed with police during a “test rally” last Friday.

“That’s the problem. They (demonstrators) used to be banned on Mendiola, and now I’m allowing them to use half and they’re still complaining,” Lim said.

“I’m just trying to avoid clashes between the police and the demonstrators,” he added.

He stressed that he is willing to have more dialogues with cause-oriented groups on the Mendiola issue.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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