Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Arroyo goes on attack, doles out goodies

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:31:00 02/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Monday dug into her arsenal to fight her enemies.

Her weapons: Cash cards, grocery bags, promises of a mass transport system, schools, among other things.

As her political foes called on Filipinos to mount yet another popular uprising against her on the 22nd anniversary of EDSA I, Ms Arroyo urged her supporters to use people power in fighting for the rule of law and democratic principles.

“Political stability is in your hands,” the President said at a peace rally organized by her supporters in Trece Martires City in Cavite province, one of three places she visited during the day.

Before flying by helicopter to Trece Martires, she stopped at Silanganan Elementary School in Bagong Silang, also in Cavite, to lead in the laying of hollow blocks at a school being constructed there.

Earlier, the President went to Caloocan City, where she distributed “Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino” cash cards -- P15,000 worth of medical and education assistance -- to 12 families as well as grocery packs.

She said that the “true spirit of people power” was for the country, especially the rich, to help the poor.

Thousands of Arroyo supporters, some carrying placards saying “GMA all the way,” massed Monday at Liwasang Bonifacio in a show of support for the President. Organizers said the crowd there numbered 35,000, but police said no more than 6,000 were present, including House Speaker Prospero Nograles and the President’s two sons.

The Pampanga Mayors League sent 100 people from each of the 20 towns and cities in the province to the rally.

Lawmakers go to Palace

Later Monday, 100 lawmakers, led by Nograles, trooped to Malacañang to express support for the President.

In Trece Martires, Ms Arroyo told some 4,000 cheering supporters led by Cavite Gov. Ayong Maliksi that she had been asked by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales to attend their rally so she could “talk about people power or talk about our freedom.”
The President noted that the birth of the country’s freedom happened in Cavite.

Ms Arroyo said just as the freedom that the country gained on June 12, 1896, was a significant event, so was the first people power uprising of 1986.

But she reiterated again her line that while the world celebrated EDSA 1, which drove the dictator Ferdinand Marcos into exile, and tolerated EDSA 2, which ousted President Joseph Estrada for corruption, it would not forgive an EDSA 3.

“We are shooting ourselves and we are not stable,” she said. She asked under this condition, how will investors come to the country.

The government, she said, was doing its part to entice investors to invest in the country but she stressed the country’s political stability lie with the people.

Ms Arroyo told the Cavite residents that the success of a mass transport project that would connect the province to Manila’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines lay with them. She said the project was being delayed by a threat of a Congressional investigation.

People power for LRT

Just as people of Cavite rose to gain freedom in the 19th century, the President said they now had a big role to play in the country’s development.

“Let your voice reach the Senate,” she said.

Like the people, Ms Arroyo said she was against corruption. But she reminded Caviteños that their province mate and the country’s first president, Emilio Aguinaldo, fought for the rule of law and democratic principles.

“Let us fight for these,” she said.

Countering allegations that people close to her, including her husband, were involved in the bribery and overpricing of the now scuttled national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp., Ms Arroyo asked that the controversy be brought to the courts. Courts decide cases on the basis of evidence, not rumors, she said.

“If we are to talk about freedom, if we are to talk about democracy, let’s talk of the rule of law,” the President said. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon