GMA urges Liberal Party to start ‘new politics’

After recovering from a severe sore throat, President Arroyo spoke yesterday about the "ups and downs" of the Liberal Party (LP), which brought her father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, to power in 1961.

Speaking at the LP’s induction rites at the refurbished Rajah Sulaiman Park in Malate, Manila, Mrs. Arroyo said she asked party leaders and members to help her bring about "new politics" in the country.

Mrs. Arroyo said the LP and other political parties must shift to a "new politics" and abandon the old "politics of patronage and personality" for the country to end a century of mass poverty among the majority of Filipinos.

"The politics of patronage and personality were part of the status quo," she said.

"This is part of the structure of problems. We need new politics, politics of platform, consultation and dialogue with the people. This is politics of true reforms. This is part of the structure for solutions (to poverty problems).

"We will not win the battle against poverty if we do not change the character of our politics. So I came here to greet the Liberal Party because I see LP trying to install new politics."

Mrs. Arroyo said it was President Manuel Roxas, grandfather of Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who recruited her father to join the LP, which during pre-martial law years dominated Philippine politics along with the Nacionalista Party.

"(President Macapagal) was LP since his student days at the University of the Philippines until his death in 1997," she said.

"And his legacy was making us allies in history and family. Because LP is family to me. You’re a family here because of my beloved father. You were family because we were together in EDSA II.... In EDSA II, we were allies in reforms of our society."

Mrs. Arroyo said the daughter of LP president and Batanes Rep. Florencio "Butch" Abad held the Bible on which she placed her hand when she took her oath as president at EDSA on Jan. 20 last year.

"Our association together is making us allies to build a strong Republic for the Philippines for all, the decent and the right thing to do for our people," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said three LP stalwarts became president of the Philippines – Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, and her father, Diosdado Macapagal.

However, Mrs. Arroyo said second- and third-generation LP leaders like her have faced the century-old problem of mass poverty in the country.

"(Poverty) was the problem during the time of Diosdado Macapagal and still is the problem during the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," she said.

"Several centuries of politics, it has remained our problem. Politics and political power which have been used in the Philippines are part of the roots of the problem why we have not defeated poverty," she said.

During the same forum, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, LP executive vice president, said the party should be strengthened so it can play a major role in the national effort to strengthen democracy in the country.

"Let us refrain from engaging in petty political bickering and unite behind the administration of President Arroyo," he said.

"We can strengthen the party without sacrificing the economy and the security of the country," he said.

"The Filipino people are tired of shortsighted political partisanship. What we need to do right now is throw our support behind the current administration and work with it to uplift the economy. This is what the people want right now, and they deserve no less," the Manila mayor added.

Atienza said the LP, one of the oldest political institutions in the country, has always been committed to strengthening democracy.

"(LP) members have always been faithful to the democratic principle enshrined in the Constitution," he said. "Strengthening democracy in our country would not only be beneficial to the people, it would also be a positive factor for our party which has always thrived in a genuine democratic system."

Atienza has been active in the LP since his youth.

His father, Jose "Don Pepe" Atienza Sr., and his uncle, Hermenegildo Atienza, who was the military mayor of Manila after World War II, are founding members of the LP.

As LP honorary chairwoman, Mrs. Arroyo administered the oath of office to newly elected LP officials headed by its new president, Congressman Abad.

The gathering turned into an impromptu endorsement of Mrs. Arroyo as the LP’s standard-bearer in the 2004 presidential elections after Secretary Michael Defensor of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council led partymates in chanting "GMA! GMA! GMA!"

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