Philippines cardinal urges Arroyo to stand in 2004 election
 

MANILA, July 4 (AFP) - The influential head of the Philippines' Catholic church, Cardinal Jaime Sin, on Friday urged President Gloria Arroyo to stand in next year's election instead of retiring, the Filipino leader's husband said.

"Please tell Gloria I insist that she runs," presidential husband Jose Miguel Arroyo quoted the influential Manila archbishop as telling him during a visit to the Church leader's suburban Manila home.

"She should start going around the countryside," the statement quoted the cardinal, the spiritual leader of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, as saying.

The archdiocesan press office confirmed that the cardinal indeed uttered those words, but added: "The statement was a lighthearted comment to the First Gentleman, said in the course of an informal conversation over a mid-morning (snack)."

Arroyo has faced rising pressure from political allies and supporters to go back on her announcement six months ago that she would not contest the May 10, 2004 presidential vote. Her current term runs out on June 30, 2004.

Elected vice president in 1998, Arroyo came to power in a military-backed popular revolt that ousted the elected president, Joseph Estrada. Estrada is now detained and on trial for corruption.

The Manila archdiocese said Cardinal Sin's comments were in the spirit of his written statement issued last month that "the essence of democracy is that people are given a wide range of intelligent choices of candidates to electoral positions".

Meanwhile, maverick Philippines Vice President Teofisto Guingona said on his 75th birthday Friday that he was not ruling out a run for the presidency next year.

"It may include that," he told reporters when asked about his political plans. "But I have not said that yet."

Appointed vice president and foreign secretary by Arroyo in February 2001, Guingona left the cabinet last year after publicly disagreeing with her on the deployment of US anti-terror troops in the southern Philippines.

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Philippines-politics

7/07/2003

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