Arroyo skips SONA, visits districtBy Tonette Orejas
Inquirer Central Luzon
PORAC, Pampanga, Philippines—An hour before President Benigno Aquino III delivered his State of the Nation Address on Monday, his predecessor, Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, arrived here and inspected infrastructure projects that her administration had implemented in her district.
Arroyo attended the opening of the House of Representatives’ session in the morning but left for Pampanga before noon.
But she continued fending off the media and declined to be interviewed during her working visit, where she inspected roads and school buildings.
“No interviews, please. Closed-door meeting, please,” Arroyo told reporters as soon as she arrived here at 2:30 p.m. She arrived 30 minutes ahead of her 3 p.m. schedule and stayed for an hour.
At the Manibaug Libutad barangay hall, she met with local and village officials. After 15 minutes, she walked to a day care center behind the hall, mingling with children and their mothers.
She then went to Purok 1 where she inspected an unpaved road. She proceeded to the Eastern Porac National High School where she greeted a principal who was surprised by her visit. Arroyo paced fast back and forth at the school ground as if looking for someone. She then talked to a man who apparently took instructions for repair work.
She later went to the Manibaug Elementary School where she inspected classrooms. Unlike during her presidency, there were no big banners, musical bands or children waving flags this time. But some 30 policemen and soldiers secured the areas she visited.
Arroyo has also found loyal allies in her town mates in Lubao, many of whom resented Mr. Aquino’s persistent criticism of the Arroyo administration.
“I hope [Mr. Aquino] stops attacking Gloria. She has done many projects in our district and we see these like roads, irrigation canals. Every president has his or her weaknesses and strengths that’s why there is no point digging about the past,” Manny Morales, 35, a driver and construction worker, said in Kapampangan.
Records of the Department of Public Works and Highways showed Pampanga’s second district, especially Arroyo’s hometown of Lubao, got most of the projects allotted to the province in the last two years of the Arroyo administration. Two projects are funded by loans from the Japanese and Korean governments.
Mr. Aquino, Morales said, will be better viewed “if he just works.”
In Porac town, which is also a part of the second district, Arroyo found support in Teresita Dizon, who runs an eatery in front of the town hall. She used to operate a rice store subsidized by the National Food Authority.
“He (Mr. Aquino) better stop criticizing her … He should focus on improving his administration,” Dizon said.
Mr. Aquino, she said, should work to bring down the prices of food and gasoline.
At the Porac town hall’s ground floor where people transacting with the local government are received, there is not one photograph of President Aquino. In contrast, there are three calendars showing the photographs of Arroyo and her son, Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, beside a map of Pampanga.
Elmira Basilio, 41, said she wants Mr. Aquino to fulfill his promise to bring down the prices of food. “Life is so hard these days. My earnings are down to only P300 a day although I sell food for 10 hours daily,” said Basilio, who sells chicken nuggets in the streets of the City of San Fernando.
Bryan Carlos, president of the Bulaon-San Fernando Drivers Association, said only 85 of 132 members of his group received last week government’s Pantawid Pasada aid of P1, 500.
“We tried using the card but there’s zero funds. We don’t know when the subsidy is coming,” Carlos said.