*State of the Philippine Nation Address"
"Give 'em Hell, Glo!"
The Pay Back Sona JoJo Robles, July 28, 2009 today 5pm, Manila Standard
Manny Pacquiao, looking unusually stiff in a barong tagalog, must have enjoyed the ringside view. The little lady came out swinging—and she picked an especially appropriate time to hit back.
In what is probably the most watched speech of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in recent years, the Chief Executive did not disappoint. She let fly at her critics, showing some of the steely determination that has kept her in power for the better part of the decade amidst repeated and sustained attempts to demonize her, her family and her administration.
There will be those who will focus on the President’s supposed declaration that she has never attempted to stay in office beyond her mandated term and read into that a promise that she will no longer seek to remain at Malacañang after it expires next year. But that seems only equally as important—and definitely less entertaining—as the counter-attack Mrs. Arroyo launched during her ninth and last State-of-the-Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa yesterday afternoon.
Probably because she knew that her speech would be watched and analyzed by anyone with the tiniest inclination for political involvement in this country, the President gleefully ripped into the people who would replace her. From the “sweet-talkers” and the cuss-word users, the ex-jailbirds and the born-again anti-Charter Change advocates, to the self-serving grafters and those now scared to death of the political shadows that they had conjured up, Mrs. Arroyo let everyone have it, showing that she was still at peak fighting form even as she was actually delivering her final major speech as President.
Looking back, one wonders if the President would have fared better in the people’s overall perception of her as an unfeeling automaton had she engaged her critics earlier. Would the popularity needle have moved in her favor a bit more, had Gloria Arroyo given back as good as she took, instead of letting her long procession of various and mostly inept spokesmen do the job of fighting her battles for her in the media and the other arenas where public opinion is formed?
But Mrs. Arroyo said she did not become President to become popular— nor was she really popular to begin with when she took over the highest office in the land. She has definitely paid the price, over the years, for adopting this unflinching attitude towards her critics, as popularity poll after popularity poll reported the success that they have had in portraying her as probably the worst President to have ever assumed that exalted position.
It’s not as if the President doesn’t enjoy political mud-wrestling like any other Filipino politico: Mrs. Arroyo’s face positively glowed with happiness every time she slammed a perceived opponent, unlike when she was doing the obligatory reading off the Teleprompter of her administration’s various accomplishments in the past year.
Because beyond the fighting words put in her mouth by any payback-hungry speechwriter, it was the President’s sheer enjoyment in retaliating that showed through in the speech. And those who had gotten accustomed over the years to getting away with the equivalent of murder in the political mudslinging game had no choice but to take their lumps from their usual victim this time around.
Come to think of it, perhaps the offense-oriented Manny Pacquiao would have made a better adviser than all those political geniuses who convinced the President over the years to just keep her head down and stay the course. Manny would probably have told Mrs. Arroyo that you have to take the fight to the opponent, instead of just relying— Mayweather-like—on your defense to stay on your feet while you wear your enemies out.
SONA State of the Nation Address
Arroyo: No ‘expressed desire’ to extend term
By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:07:00 07/27/2009
Filed Under: Charter change, Eleksyon 2010, Politics, State of the Nation Address (SONA)
MANILA, Philippines--(UPDATE 3) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she “never expressed desire” to extend her term beyond 2010, but still kept the nation guessing on her political plans as she delivered her ninth and final State of the Nation Address (Sona).
“I have never expressed desire to extend myself beyond my term, many of those who accuse me of it try to cling like nails to their posts,” said Arroyo, who was wearing a bright purple terno.
“At the end of this speech, I shall step down from this stage but not from the presidency. My term does not end until next year. Until then, I will fight for the ordinary Filipino. The nation comes first. There is much to do as head of state to the very last day,” she said.
“A year is a long time. We will continue to invest in the economy, the environment, and education,” she said, adding that after her ninth and supposedly last Sona, it would be “more work” not “all politics.”
In fighting form, Arroyo turned the tables on her critics and urged aspirants in next year’s elections to “give the electorate real choices, not just sweet talk.”
While she did not say whether or not she supported her allies’ push to convene a constituent assembly, Arroyo blasted critics of Charter change, whom she said, opposed it when they could no longer benefit from it.
The President’s annual report to the nation started and ended with a standing ovation. At the start of her speech, she asked for prayers for former President Corazon Aquino, who is battling colon cancer.
Taking on her critics, the President said: “I have not flinched. I have not faltered. Hindi ako umatras sa hamon [I never back out from a challenge].”
“And I have never done any of the things that sacred my critics so much. They are frightened by their own shadows,” she said.
Arroyo said she was accused of corruption by those “with lifestyles and spending habits that make them living proofs of that crime.”
Apparently referring to former President Joseph Estrada, Arroyo said: “Those who live in glass houses should cast no stones. Those who should be in jail should not threaten it especially if they have been there.”
Estrada was freed from house arrest in late 2007, after Arroyo granted him pardon, a month after an anti-graft court convicted him of plunder.
“We can read they’re frustrated. They had the chance to serve this good country and they blew it by serving themselves,” Arroyo said.
The President minced no words against Senator Manuel Roxas, a presidential aspirant who had been criticizing her over the implementation of the cheaper medicines law.
“To those who want to be President, this advice: If you really want something done, just do it, do it hard, do it well, don’t pussy-foot, don’t say bad words in public,” she said.
Arroyo said her support for the tougher version of the law at the House of Representatives over the weaker version of the Senate, spearheaded by Roxas, resulted in a 50-percent cut in the prices of 16 essential drugs.
On Charter change, the President said: “The noisiest critics of constitutional reform tirelessly and shamelessly attempted Cha-Cha when they thought they could take advantage of a shift in the form of government. Now that they feel they cannot benefit from it, they oppose it.”
Faced with several military uprisings, Arroyo she said she never declared martial law even if her critics were “running scared as if I did.”
“I say to them: do not tell us what we all know, that democracy can be threatened. Tell us what you will do when it is attacked,” she said.
“I know what to do: As I have shown, I will defend democracy with arms when it is threatened by violence; with firmness when it is weakened by division; with law and order where it is subverted by anarchy…” she said.
Arroyo thanked Congress for passing reform measures that prepared the country for the global recession.
“The state of the nation is a strong economy,” she said. “Good news for our people, bad news for critics.”
“I did not become president to be popular [but] to work, to protect… the country, that is why I became president,” she said.
The President also urged Congress to pass more sin taxes, amendments to the central bank charter, and a law extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Legacy owner accused of running a ‘scam’
By Daxim Lucas Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A shareholder of the shuttered Rural Bank of Parañaque has accused the bank’s main stockholder, the Legacy group, of operating a “scam.” Lawyer Ramon Diño also accused officials of the central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), of sleeping on the job, saying they failed to act on complaints that he had been bringing against the group for the past two years.
“This is a P24-billion syndicated scam,” he said in an interview.
Diño said he owned 10,900 shares in Rural Bank of Parañaque, which the BSP closed down last week. The P24 billion is his estimate of the deposits that several banks under the Legacy group have amassed through aggressive marketing.
Banking regulators estimate the amount of deposits held by the Legacy group of rural banks at P15 billion.
Owner of 13 banks
Diño said the amount of deposits held by Legacy was unusually large for a group of rural banks. He said the group under Celso de los Angeles, former chairman of Legacy Consolidated Plans, had 13 banks with 29 branches nationwide.
The BSP has closed down and placed under Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) receivership the following Legacy-affiliated banks: Rural Bank of Parañaque; Rural Bank of Bais (in Negros Oriental province); Pilipino Rural Bank (in Cebu); Rural Bank of San Jose (in Batangas); Philippine Countryside Bank (in Cebu); Dynamic Bank (Rural Bank of Calatagan, in Batangas); San Pablo City Development Bank; Nation Bank (in Bacolod City) and the Bank of East Asia (in Cebu).
Some of these banks had declared bank holidays, or voluntarily suspended operations, before the central bank action.
A central bank official, who requested anonymity because an investigation is underway, said the rural banks were linked by ownership either through Legacy Consolidated or Legacy Motors.
Several were also staffed by employees and officials who used to work with the Rural Bank of Parañaque. Diño said De los Angeles, who was elected mayor of San Jose town in Albay province in 2007, had been taking deposits since 2004.
He said De los Angeles had come up against banking regulators in the 1980s. “He learned from his earlier mistakes,” he said.
‘Double your money’
Diño accused De los Angeles of running a pyramid scheme — a fraudulent investment operation in which money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme collapses.
“The difference between De los Angeles and other pyramid schemes is that ‘walang utak ’yung iba’ [the others have no brains],” he said.
Diño said the banks attracted bit amounts of deposits by promising clients very high returns. “Last year, it became ‘double your money in two years,’ then six months ago it became ‘double your money in 2.5 years’,” he said. Clients’ deposits in excess of the PDIC’s maximum insurable amount of P250,000 per depositor were split up so they would be eligible for deposit insurance protection, he said.
The coup de grace
The closure of the rural banks is “only the first part of the scam,” Diño said. “The second part is when 95 percent of these depositors will go to the PDIC to be reimbursed.
“That will be the coup de grace.”
Diño also accused top BSP officials of conspiring to keep the Legacy-linked rural banks open, despite BSP examiners’ recommendations to close them down as early as 2005. “Instead, they left [the banks] alone ‘dahil malakas’ [they had strong connections],” he said.
The Legacy group’s legal counsel, Victoria Noel, did not reply to messages as of late Friday.
Ed Cordevilla, the public relations consultant of the Rural Bank of Parañaque and Legacy, said he was no longer connected with the group.
Diño said he had been receiving threats on his life and recently spent three weeks behind bars because of an extortion complaint filed by De los Angeles, which he claimed was a “frame-up.”
He said he was involved in a business dispute with De los Angeles over a soured agreement under which De los Angeles would buy out his stake in the Rural Bank of Parañaque.
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