MANILA, Philippines — Three days before she delivers her seventh State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, a church official reminded President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday that she still has to fulfill the promises she made in her first report six years ago.
“All that needs to be done is to implement [what was promised] in her first Sona, just to fulfill what has been said before, starting with the ‘bangkang papel’ [paper boat]. Implement those and that will be substantial,” said Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III, director of the media office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
In that first SONA in 2001, the President, in a dramatic gesture, invited as special guests three boys from the Payatas dumpsite who had written their wishes for a better life on paper boats which they symbolically floated down the Pasig River in the direction of Malacañang.
Malacañang later released a statement saying the “bangkang papel boys” now had a fighting chance for a better life as the government had given their parents and guardians P10,000 in livelihood assistance.
“I am hoping that all the programs promised would be fulfilled. In housing alone and poverty alleviation, nothing has happened. There were programs that the government was able to start but has not fully implemented,” claimed Quitorio, who said he was not speaking for the Catholic bishops.
Quitorio said the bishops have yet to issue a statement on Monday’s SONA but added that from “reading between the lines” of the CBCP’s statements since last year, he could guess the “bishops’ sentiments”.
“Since last year, the bishops have called for a closure on the electoral fraud issue of 2004 and [the] search for the truth. In January, the bishops issued a statement on housing and environment. Now, they raised their concerns about the Human Security Act amid the backdrop of a militarized Cabinet, which is terrifying,” said Quitorio in Filipino.
He said the CBCP view is that the Human Security Act, the anti-terror law, should not yet be implemented until it is thoroughly restudied and certain provisions are clarified.
He added that while the CBCP would not join the petition against the HSA before the Supreme Court filed by 28 groups, the bishops’ “moral support” can be counted on.