FEDERICO D. PASCUAL, JR: BUSH WAS DELIVERING MESSAGE URBI ET ORBI

MANILA, OCTOBER 19, 2003  (STAR) POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual, Jr.  - PUMPING ADRENALIN: The speech yesterday of US President George W. Bush before a joint session of Congress struck us somewhat like a papal message urbi et orbi (Latin for "for the city and for the world") that the Holy Father delivered on some major feast days.

As the Pope sometimes used St. Peter’s basilica as his pulpit to the Catholic world, so did the Great White Father use the Batasan as his stage for rallying support for American policy in the Philippines, in Asia and the world at large.

At a time when we need it most, Mr. Bush also pumped adrenalin into this faltering nation, reminding us that we have so much to be proud of. At the same time, he gave assurance that the US stands with the Philippines in facing the future.

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LIGHT TO THE WORLD: After a buildup recalling the two countries’ shared history and Filipinos’ capacity for greatness, Mr. Bush harked back to 1995 when Pope John Paul II came to Manila and delivered a message that has been almost forgotten.

He recalled that in the homilies of the Holy Father, he spoke of the goodness of the Filipinos people, the strength of our democracy and the example that the Philippines has set for others.

Mr. Bush recalled to his Filipino audience (sorry if our note-taking was not fast enough): "Let the light shine from Manila to the rest of the worldlike the star of Bethlehem. Let Philippines shine as a light to Asia and beyond."

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GMA STOCK BOOSTED: Such leadership, he said, was demonstrated by President Arroyo’s being among the first world leaders to declare support for the US after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror bombing of New York and the Pentagon.

"She rose to the moment," Bush said of Mrs. Arroyo. "The American people recognize and praise your principled stand."

In an earlier press briefing in Malacañang after their one-on-one, Mr. Bush also lavished praise for Mrs. Arroyo’s understanding America’s predicament and promptly deciding to stand against terrorism.

Intended or not, Mr. Bush’s kind words for his hostess are expected to boost Mrs. Arroyo’s stock. Both of them, incidentally, are running for president in 2004.

Also, for better or for worse, the Philippines appears to have moved closer to the embrace of Uncle Sam with the visit of Bush.

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CHOICE HAS BEEN MADE: Carrying his anti-terrorism gospel that has seen American troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush said that every nation in Asia and the rest of the world now faces the choice of supporting terror or fighting it.

"The Philippines and the US have seen the enemy in our own soil," he said.

America has witnessed the murder of thousands in a single day, he said, and Filipinos have known brutal murder and kidnapping.

Faced with the enemy’s strategy of spreading fear and chaos, he said the two nations have made a choice: We will defend ourselves, we will defend civilization and the peace of the world.

"We will not be intimidated by terrorists," he said to the applause of the congregation.

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WELCOME MEDDLING: Bush did what is not normally done, which is to comment on, in effect meddle, in domestic affairs. But what the heck – it is high time local hoodlums heard some tough talk from someone wielding a big stick.

Bush pinpointed the Abu Sayyaf band in the South as one face of terrorism, saying "they kill and torture, behead their victims, while proclaiming to act in the name of god. He said the Abu Sayyaf must be brought to justice.

He called on the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front to reject terrorism and move to the negotiation table. Raising a carrot after that stick, he said the US was ready to give development assistance for Mindanao once the fighting stops.

In an unmistakable reference to the aborted coup attempt last July by junior officers operating with power-hungry politicians, Bush reminded the putschists that they are commissioned to defend freedom, not to grab state power.

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POSTSCRIPT: E-mail us at manilamail@pacific.net.ph. We respond to as many readers as possible, but the sheer volume of our mail prevents our replying to all. Strictly a one-man team, we have no staff assisting us.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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