, FEBRUARY 19, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Declaring, “We stand together,” the Cabinet rejected yesterday the call of former Cabinet officials for them to resign and abandon President Arroyo, Malacañang said.

At a press conference, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita read a joint statement declaring the Cabinet’s support for Mrs. Arroyo. Joining Ermita were Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye and Commission on Higher Education Chairman Romulo Neri.

“Amid calls for us to resign, all members of the Cabinet are solidly behind President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Ermita said. “We in the Cabinet firmly believe that the President is doing much for our country, especially for the economy, and she deserves to finish her mandated term until 2010.”

The Cabinet said they would stand behind Mrs. Arroyo and continue to focus on their work.

“We will not allow ourselves to be distracted by political noises,” read the statement. “The Cabinet members take pride in working with the President in uplifting the lives or our people.”

The Cabinet said the allegations of Senate star witness Rodolfo Lozada Jr. should be discussed in court in accordance with due process.

“While the country’s problems are deeply rooted, we firmly believe that political, social and economic reforms are achievable under the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with the support and cooperation of political and social leaders,” read the statement.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro will not quit his post amid calls from different sectors for the Cabinet to resign.

Speaking to reporters following the opening ceremony of Balikatan military exercises at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday, Teodoro said the President has not given him any illegal or immoral order.

“So why should I resign?” he said.

Teodoro said it is remote for soldiers to join mass actions for the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo because the Armed Forces adheres to the chain of command.

“No, I’m not (worried), because I’m convinced of the integrity of the Armed Forces behind the Constitution and the chain of command,” he said.

Teodoro said what is happening is a normal political event or activity on the part of the opposition.

“But in terms of the potential for dividing the armed forces I think that’s remote,” he said.

In a separate interview, AFP chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. doubts that groups plotting to destabilize the government could recruit soldiers for a power grab.

“While we are aware of what is happening, our soldiers remain focused on their mandate,” he said.

“Those in the frontlines are busy meeting the deadline of the President, for us to be able to defeat the CPP-NPA and the Abu Sayyaf. And we know that if soldiers join moves to grab power, that would not be to the benefit of the country.”

Last week, 54 former Cabinet officials called on Mrs. Arroyo’s official family to quit amid the revelations of Lozada that the national broadband network contract was tainted with corruption.

Among signatories to the document were former members of Mrs. Arroyo’s Cabinet who were part of the so-called “Hyatt 10.”

The group called on all government officials who know about “anomalous transactions” to come forward and speak out. — with James Mananghaya

GMA spends day in Bulacan By Dino Balabo Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MALOLOS CITY, Bulacan – Hounded by controversy and calls for her resignation, President Arroyo came here yesterday and led the groundbreaking ceremonies for a school to be built in Barangay Bangkal, this city.

The President then proceeded to Calumpit town where she inaugurated a newly constructed bridge.

Wearing a maroon dress coat, pants, and red shoes, the President waved to well wishers, and although she did not speak to media, Mrs. Arroyo had personal conversations with government officials like Education Undersecretary Ramon Bacani and Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane.

She also briefly shook hands with employees of the local government units.

On MacArthur Highway heading to Calumpit, government employees and students lined up holding placards to show their support for Mrs. Arroyo.

Local officials thanked her for the school and bridge projects which, they said, are her way of serving Bulakenyos.

They noted that the two-story four-classroom building to be built at Northville VII Resettlement Village in Brgy. Bangkal here will benefit children of families relocated from the abandoned Philippine National Railways (PNR) tracks.

The P4-million school project will be finished by June 3, public works officials said.

On the other hand, the inauguration of the Labangan Bridge No. 7 in Calumpit town is part of the improvement of the Manila North Road under the President’s 10-point agenda to decongest Metro Manila.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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