, FEBRUARY 18, 2007 (STAR) Local officials across the country have converged in Metro Manila over the weekend to express their full support to President Arroyo amid calls for her resignation.

Candaba, Pampanga Mayor Gerry Pelayo, who led a delegation of Pampanga local officials, told The STAR the officials will lead pro-administration rallies in their localities.

Pelayo was among local officials who showed up at a news conference in a hotel in Quezon City over the weekend.

Also present were Governors Douglas Cagas (Davao del Sur), Natalio Beltran (Romblon), Dakila Cua (Quirino), Vicente Pimentel (Surigao del Norte), Rogelio Espina (Biliran), Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar), Raffy Nantes (Quezon), Tet Garcia (Bataan), Junjun Ynares (Rizal), Sally Zaldivar Perez (Antique) and Alvaro Antonio (Cagayan).

Pelayo said local officials are also concerned over the reported assassination threat against Mrs. Arroyo.

“We are here to show our support to the President,” he said.

Pelayo said the political enemies of Mrs. Arroyo are employing Machiavellian strategies as a prelude to the 2010 presidential elections.

“But Filipinos are intelligent voters,” he said.

“They know when the government is doing well as proven by the growing strength of the peso against the dollar. Simple economics lang yan.”

“The strength of the peso has prevented the skyrocketing of oil and fuel prices which also stemmed the increase in the costs of prime commodities. Besides, this development will serve as a magnet to foreign investors. I can imagine, in the long term, more business will come pouring in.”

Pelayo cited the strong leadership of Mrs. Arroyo when she withdrew the Filipino contingent in Iraq in exchange for the life of one hostage, Angelo de la Cruz, held by the Iraqi rebels.

“President Arroyo despite strong protest from the US pulled out the Filipino troops to save a single life. We need her strong leadership to guide us,” he said.

In a statement, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Trenas, League of Cities of the Philippines chairman, said the country is now experiencing an unprecedented economic growth that should be sustained.

Mayors from Luzon like Rey Catacutan (Capas, Tarlac), Guillermo Acero (Siniloan, Laguna), Mario Reyes (Coron, Palawan), Antonio Raymundo (Orion, Bataan), Boking Morales (Mabalacat, Pampanga), Efren Cruz (Hermosa, Bataan), and Pedro Cuerpo (Rodriguez, Rizal) all expressed optimism that the administration will move forward because the global community continues to recognize the growing Philippine economy evidenced by the positive upgrading of the Philippines by international creditors, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. – Perseus Echeminada

JDV ready to mediate between Erap, FVR Monday, February 18, 2008

Ousted House speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. vowed yesterday to mediate between pardoned former President Joseph Estrada and former President Fidel V. Ramos who have been “at odds” since Estrada left Malacañang on Jan. 20, 2001.

De Venecia and his wife, Gina, were given a lunch treat by Estrada in his residence on Polk Street in North Greenhills, San Juan. The lunch was also attended by party-list representatives and congressmen who either voted no or abstained declaring the House speakership position vacant that led to De Venecia’s ouster.

“I can move in that direction quietly,” De Venecia, Pangasinan congressman, said when asked if he would act as a go-between for the two former presidents to fix their differences.

De Venecia said his lunch with Estrada was more of a casual meeting.

“It was a get-together. I invited them (Estrada and his wife, ex-senator Loi Ejercito) to my house about last week. President Estrada invited us to exchange notes. I just came from (former) President Corazon Aquino’s Mass in De La Salle University,” De Venecia said.

De Venecia said that he will remain in the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party, where Ramos is the titular head.

“The name of my party is Lakas-CMD (Christian Muslim Democrats). It is a centrist political party. I was recently elected as chairman of the Christian Democrat International-Asia Pacific, an international political (group of) centrist democrats. I replaced former Thailand leader Thaksin Sinawatra. I can mediate with leftist and rightist,” De Venecia said.

He added that he was reelected for third time as vice president of the CDI-International.

“They (CDI-Asia and CDI-International) are the mother party of Lakas. I want to bring the leftist and rightist to the center and create a middle force and work to expand the country’s middle forces. We will negotiate with the rightists and the leftists group,” De Venecia said. – Jose Rodel Clapano

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved