June 17, 2008 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, one of the longest-serving Cabinet officials in the Arroyo administration, bid farewell yesterday to his staff and reporters covering Malacañang, saying, “The record shows I took the blows when you did it your way.”

In his message prior to turning over his post to former presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza, Bunye thanked President Arroyo for her trust and confidence and the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) for the fond memories during his almost six years of challenging service to develop public understanding and support for government policies and programs.

Bunye will be assuming his new post as a member of the Monetary Board on July 3. Until then, he would remain as presidential spokesman and presidential adviser for political affairs.

By July 3, he would have served almost six years at the Palace.

“Today, I say farewell to my position as press secretary and soon as presidential spokesperson and presidential adviser on political affairs as well. To all of you I say, I leave with a heavy heart but not without a treasure chest full of fond memories,” Bunye said.

Bunye sang his version of the song “My Way” and took a good-humored dig at the MPC, whose “banter and laughter” he will miss.

“For what’s a Spokesman, what has he got? If not the news, then he has naught. To say the things, the Palace feels, announcements people need to hear. The record shows I took the blows – when you did it your way,” he sang.

He said he was grateful beyond words for the “remarkable work” of the staff of the Office of the Press Secretary and he was confident that they would continue to do the same efficient job.

Bunye said he will miss the text messages coming from the MPC, “all urgent, of course, as the deadline approaches.”

“I will miss the banter and the laughter that come with being friends, and the press briefings and the ambush interviews that characterize the more professional side of our relationship,” he said.

He said the job of spokesman and press secretary requires one to wake up very early to “greet that news cycle as it begins and having the right information at my fingertips always at the right place and at the right time.”

“It also requires the working knowledge of and profound respect for how the press works,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Bunye gave a despedida or farewell lunch at the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse and raffled off five mobile phones to his staff. He later did the same for MPC members.

In his acceptance speech, Dureza also thanked the President and appealed for the cooperation of the media as he “learns the ropes” and vowed to become a working partner in providing accurate, timely and relevant information to the public.

He gave his first press briefing after the turnover ceremonies.

Like Bunye, Dureza was a journalist before passing the Bar examinations. He also served as congressman, representing the first congressional district of Davao province. He was also chairman of the Mindanao Economic and Development Council (MEDCO).

Known for his active advocacy for peace and development for Mindanao, Dureza was later named chairman of the Mindanao Economic Council (MEC) and the presidential adviser for Mindanao and chairman of the government panel negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Mrs. Arroyo had earlier tapped Dureza as “development champion” for her super regions economic development plan for Mindanao.

In interviews since the announcement last month of his new appointment, Dureza stressed that there would be no major revamp at the Office of the Press Secretary, and that he would bring Malacañang closer to the provincial press and the masses.

He also vowed to enlist media’s support as partners for effective governance.

Lakas-Kampi merger begins in Davao By Jess Diaz Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The planned merger of the country’s two largest pro-administration political parties begins in Davao City tomorrow with the signing of a merger declaration by local allies, party officials announced yesterday.

President Arroyo, who chairs and is the founder of Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), is expected to lead the formal declaration of the merger of the two parties before local government allies, including those who are political rivals in previous elections.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, Lakas president and representative in the House of Davao City’s first district, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Kampi chairman, will join Mrs. Arroyo in declaring the Lakas-Kampi union.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is reportedly staying away from the ceremonies as he is not a member of Lakas or Kampi. He is not expected to meet with Mrs. Arroyo. He and Nograles are political rivals.

Party officials could not say whether Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, Kampi president, would be attending the Davao affair. Villafuerte has expressed misgivings over the planned merger.

Puno and Villafuerte were feuding before the 2004 elections. The two in fact supported separate candidates in many areas.

Lakas national executive director Ray Roquero said the merger arrangement begins in areas where Lakas and Kampi members are not feuding and are ready to support common candidates in the 2010 elections.

He said members of the two parties and their allies in more than half of the 82 provinces nationwide are ready to combine forces.

Roquero said in the Davao provinces, set to merge are the groups of Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas of Lakas and Rep. Franklin Bautista (second district) of Kampi, and Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon of Kampi and Rep. Thelma Almario (second district) of Lakas.

He added that in Davao del Norte, they have no problem with local officials as most of them belong to Lakas.

He pointed out that Lakas dominates the ranks of vice governors, board members, city and town mayors, and councilors in the four Davao provinces and their five cities.

Former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr., Lakas vice president for Mindanao, said the Davao merger would soon be followed by similar unity talks in other regions.

“We need to unite our political forces to avoid the local conflicts that affected the chances of national candidates in past elections,” he said.

Pichay ran for senator under the administration Team Unity ticket in 2007. He and eight other Team Unity candidates lost to their opposition opponents. Only three of their teammates made it.

Some of the losers have blamed the Lakas-Kampi rivalry in many areas for their embarrassing defeat.

Before the elections, the two parties agreed to support common candidates even in the local level but they subsequently quarreled.

In Villafuerte’s own province, Lakas supported the reelection bid of Villafuerte’s governor-son, Luis Raymond, while the Kampi president backed the candidacy of former Rep. Eduardo Pilapil against his own son. The incumbent governor won reelection.

Lakas is expected to be the surviving political party after the completion of unity talks in the local level.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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