Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, sons, in-law skip Aquino Sona 2 yrs in a row | Inquirer News
Reporters’ Notebook

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, sons, in-law skip Aquino Sona 2 yrs in a row

PORAC, Pampanga, Philippines—Here, at least, she heard praises, not potshots.

Snubbing her successor’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) for the second time, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spent Monday afternoon inspecting projects in her home district, a friendly turf where one town hall hardly displays a photograph of President Aquino.

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Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, attended the opening session of the House of Representatives in the morning, but skipped Mr. Aquino’s 4 p.m. Sona amid reports it would again heap the blame on her administration for the country’s problems.

She arrived in Porac at around 2:30 p.m. but refused to take questions from the media as she inspected roads and school buildings, projects implemented during her presidency.

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“No interviews, please. Closed-door meeting, please,” she told reporters on her way to meet local officials at Manibaug Libutad barangay hall. Later, she mingled with children and their parents at a day-care center.

At Eastern Porac National High School, she was greeted by the principal who appeared surprised by the visit. At one point, she was seen pacing back and forth on the campus grounds, until she found a man who then took instructions apparently concerning repairs in the school.

Arroyo also inspected classrooms at Manibaug Elementary School, but gone were the big banners, brass bands and flag-waving children that used to mark her previous visits.

No point digging up past

Still, some 30 policemen and soldiers secured the areas she toured.

In her hometown of Lubao, constituents came to her defense. “I hope (President Aquino) stops attacking Gloria. She has done many projects in our district,” said Manny Morales, a 35-year-old driver and construction worker.

“Every President has strengths and weaknesses that’s why there is no point digging up the past,” Morales said.

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In Porac, Arroyo also found a supporter in Teresita Dizon, who runs an eatery in front of the town hall. “(Mr. Aquino) better stop criticizing her (and) should just focus on improving his administration,” she said.

On the ground of Porac’s town hall where most public transactions were done, not one photograph of President Aquino could be seen. Instead, there were three wall calendars bearing the portraits of Arroyo and her son, Ang Galing Pinoy Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo.

Better than walkout

Apart from the former President, also present in the morning session but no-shows at the Sona were the three other Arroyos in the House: her sons Mikey and Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo of Camarines Sur province, and her brother-in-law Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo Jr. of Negros Occidental province.

Dato Arroyo said it would have been “improper” for them to attend the Sona and then walk out in the middle of the speech, the moment Mr. Aquino began attacking his mother.

“It’s funny that one year after my mom stepped down, her administration and her allies continue to hog the limelight,” he said.

“We’re taking (the attacks) quite well considering the circumstances. We’re tired of being always on the defensive; we hope to be on the offensive soon,” Iggy Arroyo told reporters. “I don’t know when will this all end but we will stay put.”

Mikey Arroyo said his family had no choice but to take “the blows” because “we really can’t do anything if they want to use our family as an excuse for this administration’s shortfalls.”

Gloria Arroyo refused to comment when reporters sought her reaction to the revived allegations of election fraud during her presidency and the plunder complaints she faced at the justice department.

Looking radiant in a peach suit and white, low-cut blouse, the Pampanga representative left the Batasan complex at around 1 p.m. in a white Land Cruiser with license plate “100.”

No Gloria Arroyo –bashing

Both allies and critics of President Aquino were relieved that he did not use his Sona to take a swipe at his predecessor.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he found the President’s speech to be “calm and not vengeful” while being simple enough for ordinary people to understand.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said the President apparently heeded the “public pulse” and focused more on the future than on the past.

“I guess Representative Arroyo and her family should have stayed and listened,” Angara said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Benjamin Evardone said the President was apparently “misread” by his detractors who thought the Sona would contain nothing but tirades against Arroyo.

“Our President knows what he is doing, you can’t read him like a book, he is his own man,” Evardone said.

But Arroyo’s lawyer, Raul Lambino, warned that the Sona betrayed the President’s “obsession” with jailing Arroyo.

“His declaration that he is taking this hate campaign against President Arroyo (as something) very personal is deeply worrying. It could mean a lot more as he might persecute the President without any evidence just because it is his personal obsession or fixation,” Lambino said.

‘Captain America’

They came with shields that looked as if they were borrowed from Captain America.

A crowd-control team deployed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) drew curious stares as they came in helmets and brandished wooden truncheons and fiberglass shields shaped like that of the comic book superhero.

But noting how light the gear was, one member conceded that “we haven’t really tested how well this would work in an actual riot.”

“A baseball bat can probably shatter this,” another said of his transparent shield, which bore the words “MMDA Kaayusan (Order).”

He further joked that the shield “could double as a plate” for his next meal.

“Bilao pang pansit (A vessel for noodles) is more like it. But seriously, those shields are a joke!” a Twitter user named Steven Huang said in reaction to a photo of the shields posted by the Inquirer.

Head-turning rides

If “Who are you wearing?” was the most frequently asked question at the House session hall, at the gates the most head-turning query was “What’s your ride?”

As VIPs arrived for the Sona in designer outfits, their luxury sedans and sports cars turned the Batasan complex into one huge parking lot for the rich and famous.

Cruising past awed kibitzers, the parade of Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, Audis and other high-end models—including one Hummer—began early in the morning as lawmakers reported for the opening session.

But not everyone with a flashy ride could easily go in. Some guests, including a group who came in a Benz, were turned back at the main entrance for lacking security passes and were told to take another gate where a police checkpoint awaited them.

Finding a place to park proved to be a big hassle even in a complex that was said to have space for more than 7,000 vehicles.

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TAGS: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Juan Miguel Mikey Arroyo, Pampanga, Porac, Rep. Dato Arroyo, Rep. Iggy Arroyo, SONA 2011
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