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Estrada to return to Malacañang Tuesday

Former President Joseph Estrada will be returning to Malacanang Tuesday, not to regain the country's highest seat – not yet – but to attend a National Security Council, his spokesperson confirmed Monday. In a press statement, Margaux Salcedo said Estrada was invited by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to attend the NSC meeting, which will focus on "the national security situation, measures to address private armed groups and loose firearms, and preparations for the national elections." 'Politics can take backseat' "President Estrada will attend the National Security Council meeting tomorrow to show that politics can take a backseat to the higher interests of national security and orderly elections in 2010," she said. The meeting is set for 10 a.m. at Malacañang’s Heroes Hall. This will be Estrada’s first visit to the Palace since he left it on Jan. 20, 2001, at the climactic end of the people’s uprising, also known as EDSA 2 or People Power II, that led to his ouster and to his then vice president Gloria Arroyo to assume the presidency. Estrada is now taking another shot at the presidency as Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard bearer, with Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay as his vice presidential candidate. Salcedo said the former president sees the need for credible elections that will reflect the sovereign will of the Filipino people, "just as he had the real mandate of the Filipino people in 1998." She said the “Hello Garci" scandal of 2005 – an expose of wiretapped conversations wherein President Arroyo was implicated in an alleged systematic scheme to rig the 2004 national elections – has kept the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration in question. Estrada is concerned that the 2010 elections’ credibility is being threatened by the lack of awareness, education and preparation for the automated system, Salcedo said. "He also believes that peace and order must be at the top of the agenda of any administration, just as he made peace and order a top priority during his administration," she added. By attending the NSC meeting, according to his spokesperson, Estrada hopes to contribute, as a former president and as a concerned citizen, in resolving the said issues. List of invited gov't officials National Security Adviser and acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said former president Fidel Ramos has also been invited to the NSC meeting, although Ramos would not be able to attend, according to his spokesman Ed Malay. Also invited in the NSC are the following: • Vice-President Manuel “Noli" De Castro; • Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and his Senate President Pro-Tempore; • Speaker Prospero Nograles and his Deputy Speakers for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; • Majority and Minority Floor Leaders of both the Senate and House; • the Chairpersons of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, National Defense and Security, and Public Order and Illegal Drugs; and • the Chairpersons of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, National Defense, and Public Order and Security. Also expected to be present are the following: • Executive Secretary; • National Security Adviser; • Secretary of Foreign Affairs; • Secretary of Justice; • Secretary of National Defense; • Secretary of the Interior and Local Government; • Secretary of Labor and Employment; • Chief Presidential Legal Counsel; • Presidential Spokesperson; • the head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office; • the Director-General of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency; • the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; • the Chief of the Philippine National Police; • the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation; and • the Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The last NSC meeting was convened in 2007 to discuss the security situation in Basilan and Sulu following the beheading of several members of the military. – JV, GMANews.TV