President Has the Wit and Mettle to Survive
Byline: GENALYN D. KABILING
President Arroyo has the wit and mettle to hurdle the crisis besetting her administration and to push through with reforms necessary to make the country safe and progressive, outgoing US embassy Charge d Affaires Joseph Mussomeli said yesterday.
However, Mussomeli said the President must be ready to reach out a hand of reconciliation to her critics while making sure that nothing about the controversies besetting her administration is swept under the rug.
"On the one hand, she has to reconcile, reach out to various groups and on the other, she has to make sure that justice is done, that things are not swept under the rug, that people who have done things wrong are brought to justice," he said in an interview with state-owned NBN Channel 4 after his farewell call on the President in Malacanang yesterday afternoon.
"It is a daunting task but the President is bright enough and tough enough to do it," he said.
Asked if the President is moving in the right direction in efforts to save her presidency and push the country forward, Mussomeli said: "I think so."
President Arroyo faces an impeachment case in Congress for alleged violation of the Constitution, corruption, bribery, and betrayal of public trust for alleged connivance with poll officials to manipulate election results.
Mrs. Arroyo, who has repeatedly denied the charges, said she is ready to face an impeachment trial where she can clear her name.
The United States earlier said it would oppose another people power revolt to oust Arroyo which would weaken Philippine democratic institutions, a position criticized by several congressman as "meddling in local affairs."
Mussomeli said Washington is concerned the current political noise could derail Manilas momentum on issues such as economic reform, fighting corruption and terrorism.
Still, the US envoy called on the Arroyo government to pursue crucial reforms in the security and economic front. He urged the Arroyo administration to enact an antiterrorism bill to reinforce its legal armory against terrorists here and abroad
Mussomeli particularly encouraged the fine-tuning of Manilas anti-wiretapping laws, which he described as "too rigid," as part of the overall campaign against terrorism.
"When you have laws that are too rigid, it ironically makes it easier for people to violate them because they are so difficult to adhere to that people ignore them," he added.
Mussomeli lauded the Arroyo administration for the passage of key tax measures to improve the countrys fiscal position. But he said the government must now intensify its anti-corruption campaign, particularly in cutting red tape to attract more investments.
"Business is not going to come here if they have pay for bribes, and deal with bureaucrats at every level that are expecting kickbacks. And the red tape is another problem," he said.
Mussomeli, meantime, revealed he and his wife are planning to adopt a Filipino boy before they leave Manila.
"We are in the process of trying to adopt a Filipino boy so we will be bringing a little bit of Philippines with us," he said.
He admitted he would miss the Philippines and its people, citing his "worthwhile" three-year stay since he was served as US charge daffaires in Manila.
"This will be a difficult move for us. We made a lot of friends and a lot of successes between our two countries," he said. He said he plans to come back "reasonably frequently."
"The Philippines is addictive for both my wife and me. Well be back," he added.
Born in New York City on May 26,1952, Mussomeli is a lawyer by profession. He entered the foreign service in September 1980 and began his foreign service career as general service officer in Cairo.
He served as consular officer in Manila from 1984 to 1986.
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