FLAVIER: GMA'S "STRONG REPUBLIC" FAR FROM REALITY

Manila, July 26, 2003 By Jess Diaz (Star) President Arroyo’s concept of a "strong Republic" is still far from reality, administration Sen. Juan Flavier said yesterday.

"I think it will take more time to achieve that. There are some gains but there is a lot to do," he told reporters.

Flavier said Mrs. Arroyo should tell the people in her State of the Nation Address before a joint session of Congress on Monday "where we are strong so we can build on that and where we are weak so we can begin corrective measures."

He said the President should make an "objective and a straightforward assessment" of the "status of the country."

By and large, Flavier said he expected the SONA to be "SOS — same old stuff."

"Ganun talaga yan, it is a report card made by her," he added.

He pointed out that Mrs. Arroyo would most likely speak about her achievements in the areas of peace and order, the fight against illegal drugs, the campaign against graft and corruption, her visits abroad, and the economy.

Flavier, who was former President Fidel Ramos’ health secretary before running for senator in 1995, also urged heath authorities and the public in general not to let their guard down in combating the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) menace.

He made the appeal a day after a Filipina maid who came home from Hong Kong three weeks ago, whom the authorities initially suspected to be a SARS case, died reportedly due to heart failure.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Philippines and a few other countries in the region as SARS-free.

But the former health secretary said "we should be forever vigilant because we are surrounded by countries that have it like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and China. We should always be on alert."

He said the problem with Filipinos is that they tend to let their guard down even in the face of danger.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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