Guingona named VP

- Marichu A. Villanueva1, Efren Danao -
From "I Accuse" to "I Accept."

The senator who led the call for impeachment of former President Joseph Estrada is the country’s new vice president.

President Arroyo nominated yesterday Senate Minority Leader Teofisto Guingona as her vice president, ending weeks of speculations on who would hold the country’s second highest position.

In a televised speech, Mrs. Arroyo said she picked Guin-gona from among six contenders to be her No. 2.

The 73-year-old senator, whose privilege speech titled "I Accuse" triggered a Se-nate investigation of Estrada on corruption charges last November, said he felt "exultation" on hearing the announcement.

"I accept this job with humility and courage," he said.

Guingona’s appointment is believed to be the decision of the Lakas-NUCD party, to which he and Mrs. Arroyo belong. The party’s leaders had a closed-door meeting yesterday in Quezon City before the President made her announcement.

Mrs. Arroyo, however, said she picked Guingona for being a "son of Mindanao" and for being the first legislator to openly accuse Estrada of corruption.

She said Guingona, a native of Misamis Oriental, was among the principal leaders behind the Jan. 20 ouster of Estrada and her ascent to power.

"Let us not forget that it was his ‘I Accuse’ privilege speech that helped trigger the events that led to EDSA Dos," said the President.

In a nationwide telecast, Mrs. Arroyo mentioned all six contenders for the vice presidential post: Guingona, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Sen. Franklin Drilon, Sen. Raul Roco, Sen. Loren Legarda and Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. – complete with all their outstanding qualities. She made mention, however, that she was appointing someone from Mindanao, narrowing the choices between Guingona and Pimentel.

She kept the audience hanging until the end when finally she announced her choice of Guingona whom she described as a "freedom fighter second to none."
Guingona simply grinned broadly when he heard that he had been appointed. He had been watching the President on television near the Senate gallery and his appointment was greeted with cheers by his staff.

Guingona expressed gratitude to Mrs. Arroyo for giving priority to Mindanao, the country’s second largest island which had been neglected by previous administrations. He said that high on his list as vice president would be the pursuit of economic diplomacy.

Pimentel immediately congratulated Guingona and declared that he would not have any problem getting confirmed by the chamber.

Under the Constitution, the President’s appointment would have to be confirmed by the House of Representatives and the Senate voting separately.

Drilon, for his part, said the appointment is well-deserved.

"Senator Guingona has a long and distinguished career as public servant and advocate of good government. His wisdom and experience will greatly boost President Arroyo’s effort to steer our country towards political stability and economic progress," he said.

Guingona had previously contested the vice presidential nomination of the Lakas-NUCD but he eventually gave way to Mrs. Arroyo who, in 1998, was personally picked by the party’s standard bearer, then Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

Born in San Juan when it was still part of Rizal province, Guingona grew up in Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao where he finished high school before going to Manila to study. He worked his way through law school by teaching history and political science, before becoming a successful businessman and heading the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

His political career began in 1971 as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, but it was derailed when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law the following year.

When Marcos was finally ousted in 1986, Guingona briefly joined the administration of President Corazon Aquino as chief state auditor before winning a Senate seat a year later.

When Fidel Ramos succeeded Aquino, Guingona left the Senate to serve as executive secretary then later justice secretary. He was elected back to the Senate in 1998.

Already a grandfather of two, Guingona serves as president of the Lakas-NUCD.
Meanwhile, Guingona said he would "accept with humility" the position of secretary of foreign affairs if the President offers it to him.

However, officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said they would urge Mrs. Arroyo not to appoint Guingona as their head.

In a manifesto, some 50 DFA officers said they would want to see a "career person" or someone from the ranks become secretary and not just another political appointee.

"A transition period is not a luxury we can afford, especially at this time of economic disarray," the officers said. They added that being the President’s "alter ego" abroad, the DFA secretary has to be well-versed on dealing with various cultures and in the workings of various nations.

"These are requirements which only our career foreign service officers can sufficiently respond to," they said.

In another development, a known backer of the deposed president vowed yesterday to block Guingona’s confirmation in Congress.

Rep. Didagen Dilangalen of Maguindanao said Estrada remains the country’s president and Mrs. Arroyo the vice president. Thus, he said there is no vacancy for Guingona to fill. With Jess Diaz











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