June 24, 2004  (STAR) Time for peace and to forgive and forget, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Thursday in her statement after Congress proclaimed her president-elect.

"This is the time for forgiveness and letting-go-of-the-past. I thank Congress for its faith in, and, adherence to democracy. The national interest demands solidarity. And I’m prepared to lead the nation as a servant of a people united behind the Constitution," Pres. Arroyo said. She acknowledged her proclamation, which came in time before the expiration of her term on June 30, "with a sense of national triumph and personal humility."

"I thank the Lord and the people for indeed, the voice of the people is the voice of God," she said at the Batasang Pambansa in the wee hours of the morning after she and vice president-elect Noli de Castro were proclaimed.

The marathon but well-ordered proceedings of Congress in plenary session went minus the heated, partisan debates that characterized the 17 days of canvassing by the joint 22-man committee. "I have kept my peace in the face of recriminations and controversy. And it is time to share peace with the people regardless of their vote," the President said. "To my detractors, I appeal for unity. To my supporters, I appeal for an open mind," she added.

Congress confirmed and approved the recommendation of the joint 22-man canvassing committee whose tabulation of the Certificates of Canvass gave the President a 1,123,576 vote margin over nearest rival Fernando Poe, Jr. Her running mate, Senator de Castro won over Sen Loren Legarda by 881,722 votes. The majority and the minority agreed to conduct a marathon session Wednesday until they are able to proclaim the winners. Malacañang has yet to announce details of her oath-taking although it said previously it would be held as tradition dictates at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta. However, Pres. Arroyo is also expected to go to Cebu City for a planned street festival and to thank the Cebuanos who gave her a margin of more than a million votes in the province.

Gloria Arroyo: brainy economist, president's daughter (STAR) 06/24 12:13:02 PM

MANILA (AFP) - The daughter of a former president and a product of the country's wealthy elite, President Gloria Arroyo is no-nonsense economist who speaks six languages. The petite 57-year-old grandmother, who dresses in chic trouser-suits, has a reputation as an intelligent and hard-working technocrat who is also a deft player in the dirty game of Philippine politics.

Critics say she is cold and detached from the Southeast Asian nation's impoverished masses, an image not helped by her clipped speaking style and bossy demeanour. A former classmate of ex-US president Bill Clinton at Washington's Georgetown University, Arroyo is a key Asian ally of the United States and has provided a small contingent of troops for the US occupation of Iraq.

Arroyo, born in 1947, spent four of her teenage years living in Manila's presidential palace while her father, Diosdado Macapagal, ruled the country between 1961-1965. She gained a degree in foreign service from Georgetown before heading home to complete a masters and doctorate in economics, and starting a career as a lecturer and policy analyst. Arroyo is married to Jose Miguel Arroyo, who also comes from a wealthy and influential family, and the couple have three children and two grandchildren.

Miguel has not escaped corruption allegations and was told to lower his profile during the bitter election campaign for the May 10 presidential election, which gave Arroyo another six years in office. She is due to take the oath of office on June 30. As an academic she was involved in drafting around 40 economic-related laws to open up the country to foreign investment and first entered government as a junior trade minister in 1987 in the administration of Corazon Aquino.

She had a gilded path to power on the back of her father's old network of political friends, helped by an uncanny resemblance to popular actress Nora Aunor. Arroyo first won a Senate seat in 1992, finishing top of the list with a massive 16 million votes. She was elected vice president in 1998 in a landslide vote.

She inherited the presidency and a tattered economy from movie-star president Joseph Estrada, who was deposed in 2001 after a military-backed popular uprising. After taking over from Estrada, she moved to stabilise the economy, and her re-election campaign focused on presenting herself as the only candidate with the experience to manage the economy responsibly. But her rule has been shaky and in 2003 Arroyo was forced to quell an uprising by 300 junior military officers accusing her of corruption. She also had a falling out with key allies, among them her vice president Teofisto Guingona, over her support to the US anti-terror campaign.

Arroyo was also criticised during the election campaign for handing out "pork barrel" projects for political gain and for using the machinery of government to boost her chances. She has a reputation for being strict and has more than once publicly reprimanded cabinet colleagues. But she has also been trying to keep a lid on her notoriously short fuse and present a gentler side of her character, once boasting to reporters about her healthy sex life.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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