President seeks peace with Estrada, Cojuangco, Marcoses

By Juliet Javellana


COME together.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday sought anew to unite the nation, by launching an ambitious program of "total reconciliation" with all anti-government or opposition forces in the country.

The President said she wanted, by 2004 and "beyond," to mend fences with the Marcos family, deposed President Joseph Estrada, business tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, putschist elements of the military, and opposition personalities.

Her plan, which she introduced at the 22nd National Prayer Breakfast at the Manila Hotel, includes the setting up of a Truth Commission to bring closure to the Marcos human rights and ill-gotten wealth cases.

She asked Archbishop Fernando Capalla, incoming president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and Jesuit provincial superior Romeo Intengan to serve as her "negotiators" with the various groups. Capalla accepted the invitation, but Intengan declined.

"I think the President's vision is for total reconciliation and unqualified healing [of the nation]. This will be her greatest legacy to the nation," Housing Secretary Mike Defensor, a close political ally of the President, said.

Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said the reconciliation effort had nothing to do with the President's bid for a fresh term in the May 2004 presidential elections.

Quiet down

"The effort is very genuine and very sincere," Bunye said.

Ms Macapagal said that for the country to move forward after the controversy surrounding the impeachment of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., "we must have reconciliation and new-found unity. For the peace of mind of the people, we must quiet down this controversy after it has already been constitutionally resolved."

"I have opened earnest back channels to all the groups involved and I hope they will heed the call for principled reconciliation," she said.

Addressing the Bulacan Peace and Development Summit later in the day, the President said reconciliation was the only way the country could attain peace. These efforts must continue "to strengthen the democratic institutions in our country."

"Our country needs to be healed through the patriotism brought about by the reconciliation of opposing groups," she said.

Cabinet meeting

The President said she called the Cabinet to a special meeting on Tuesday to "reflect" on principled reconciliation, with Capalla and Intengan providing the "theology" for the reflection.

Bunye told reporters that the "details" of the reconciliation plan "were not very clear to us as of Wednesday," but pointed out that it would be "based on certain principles" and the rule of law.

He said that at the Cabinet's "special meeting," the "guidelines" for the all-embracing reconciliation program were "approved in principle."

"No time frame was discussed but the urgency was stressed. It's very important for us to really move forward that we have reconciliation within our country and our society," he said.

"I believe in general this government would be reaching out to all the sectors to whom we have to reach out," he said.


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