Arroyo to ‘reconcile’ with foes

MANILA, Nov 17:  Philippine President Gloria Arroyo may seek an out-of-court settlement of cases filed by the Government against her political rivals in a reconciliation bid ahead of May 2004 polls, an aide said today.

Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said a potential truce with the Arroyo foes could prove useful in avoiding another possible military mutiny "and other such things that diminish confidence" in the Philippine economy. Her reconciliation bid comes after a violent demonstration by about 10,000 supporters of deposed president Joseph Estrada in the heart of Manila's financial district last week.

Her aides described the protest as part of a plot to destabilise the Government. A military revolt against Arroyo's rule in July had dampened investor confidence in the Philippines.

Arroyo has asked influential Roman Catholic Bishop Fernando Capalla to discuss the reconciliation efforts with aides of Estrada as well as ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos's family and powerful businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, Saludo said.

He told local ABS-CBN television that reconciliation efforts were also being worked out with opposition Senators Panfilo Lacson and Gregorio Honasan, who like San Miguel Corp chairman Cojuangco are all potential Arroyo rivals in the May 2004 presidential vote.

Saludo said Estrada's camp, the heirs of the late Marcos, as well as Cojuangco would be encouraged to table proposals on how to resolve outstanding corruption and civil cases filed against them by the Government.

He did not elaborate on the modalities of the possible out-of-court settlements.

Estrada, who was deposed by Arroyo in a military-led popular uprising, is currently being detained in a hospital pending his massive corruption case involving about US$80 million (RM304 million).

Both the Marcos estate as well as Cojuangco face civil as well as criminal suits over wealth allegedly embezzled from state coffers during the rule of the ex-dictator.

Marcos died in US exile in 1989 three years after a popular revolt ended his 20-year rule.

Honasan is facing the prospect of criminal charges for allegedly masterminding a July 27 military revolt.

Lacson, a former national police chief, was let off the hook by a court last week for the alleged murder of a gang of bank robbers in the early 1990s but government lawyers have said they would appeal the ruling.

Saludo said that technically, the Government could settle the civil cases against the Marcos family and Cojuangco out of court. — AFP

18/11/2003

Bron : New Straits Times Online

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