(UPDATE) Arroyo address draws mixed reactions

By Maila Ager, Veronica Uy
Last updated 11:35pm (Mla time) 07/23/2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address Monday left some of her audience impressed while others thought it “lacked vision” as she fell short on some of her pronouncements, especially on the issue of extrajudicial killings.


Chief Justice Reynato Puno said he was “impressed” with the President’s statements on extrajudicial killings.


“Very impressive. I’m glad that our suggestions in the summit will be implemented by the President,” Puno said.


But Puno said this did not mean that the Supreme Court would not pursue its initiatives.


“We have our own rules to promulgate and we are meeting this Friday to discuss it,” Puno said.


Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the European Union was not as hyped about Arroyo’s statements on the issue of political killings.


“They’re very positive when implemented,” he said, adding that “as always” the challenge is in the implementation.


Senator Manuel Roxas II and Bayan Muna (People First) representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casino, and Gabriela’s Liza Maza thought that the President’s pronouncements fell short of actually ordering the police and the military to stop the killings.


“Maganda na natukoy ng Presidente ang tungkol sa extrajudicial killings pero bukod sa batas mas maganda kung may direktang utos mula sa commander-in-chief. Hindi made-deny na mga nakauniporme ang may kagagawan ng mga ito [It’s good that the President mentioned it. But aside from laws, it would be better if there was a direct command from the commander-in-chief]. [Her pronouncements] are a good first step, but discipline can be improved from within,” Roxas said.


Maza said President Arroyo did not mention anything new about the killings, except that it was made after the elections.


“We want her to declare a stop in the killings. Kulang na kulang ang sinabi nya [What she said lacked force],” Maza said.


Ocampo said he would have preferred the President make a direct order as commander-in-chief.


Instead of presenting her visions for the country, newly-elected Minority LeaderRonaldo Zamora said Arroyo simply laid down her “laundry list of projects.”


“What we were expecting was a vision. It’s important to have a vision. Where are we going?” Zamora said in a phone interview with INQUIRER.net.


He saidthey also expected the President to address the issues on the recently concluded summit on political killings and the concernsby various sectors on the implementation ofthe anti-terror law.


“What we got was a laundry listof projects,” the San Juan lawmaker lamented.


“Are we going to let go of the recommendation of the United Nations? Aren’t we supposed to talk about that?” Zamora said.


Zamora said the President also made no mention of her legislative agenda whenshe was supposedto be talking to senators and congressmen.


Arroyoonly asked Congress to support several measures like the cheaper medicines bill and anamendmenttothe
EPIRA law to lower the cost of electricity.


At the same time, Zamora was unfazed by Arroyo’s warning that shewould not allow anyone to get in her way in protecting national interest, saying she remains a strong leader of the country.


“There’s no problem there. She said it quite consistently over the past years…There’s a slight threat but we understand,” Zamora said.


While willing to cooperate with the administration, Zamora urged the President and her people to show some leadership.


CIBAC Representative Joel Villanuevaand neophyte Taguig –Pateros Representative Laarni Cayetano also expressed dismay over the President’s speech.


Villanueva said he was specifically disappointedby Arroyo’s failure to address the issue of graft and corruption and even claimedthat the country was doing well.


“I would have commended her [Arroyo] humility if she admitted our problems on corruption,” he said.


Cayetano said she had expected more fromthe President.


“There are a lot of beautifull projects but in reality, a lot of people are in need of jobs,” Cayetano said in Filipino.


As a newcomer, Cayetano admitted thatshe was also shocked bythe proceedings at theopening of Congress where her colleagues in the majority group supposedly railroadedthe rules just to elect a Speaker.


But Speaker Jose de Venecia and Deputy Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales defended the President.


De VeneciasaidArroyo’s speech was “very comprehensive, practical, and a continuation and expansion of the economic gains, especially the modernization of our economy through themodernization of our infrastructures.”


All the measuresthat the President has asked Congressto act on were doable, De Venecia said.


“It’s a multipartisan, bipartisan effort. It shows that she’s mother to all Filipinos…not just of the majority coalition. Also , she’s willing and she’s happy to work with the opposition,” De Venecia said.


Gonzales agreed, saying that 90 percent of the projects mentioned by the President were already being implemented by the government.


“The projects for which she seeks funding are only a few. In fact, I don’t remember her asking for funding for a future project,” said Gonzales in Filipino.


“It is just a report ofongoing projectsthat will herald the development of someregions that are being taken for granted,” he added.


But of the measures mentioned by the President, Gonzalessaid Congress should prioritize more the approval of the cheaper medicinesbill and the loweringof the cost of power.


Meanwhile, Japanese Ambassador Ryuichiro Yamazaki called the speech “wonderful” as the chief executive talked about “vision” and “legacy.”


Former First Lady Imelda Marcos said, “The fact that she’s there proves that she’s strong”


Aside from the senators and congressmen, Puno and members of the Diplomatic Corps, others present were First Gentleman Jose Mguel Arroyo and other members of the First Family, her Cabinet — Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, Foreign Affairs Secretary Roberto Romulo, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, MMDA chairmanBayani Fernando and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.


Former presidentFidel Ramos, Vice PresidentNoli de Castro, andQuezon City MayorFeliciano Belmote also attended.

Originally posted at 06:50 pm


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