GMA VOWS TO DO ALL TO RID MENACE OF ILLEGAL DRUGS

MANILA, November 8, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo vowed yesterday to do her best to rid the menace of illegal drugs in the country to protect the future of Filipino youth as exemplified by her first granddaughter and namesake Gloria Mikaela, who is turning a year old tomorrow.

Nicknamed Mika, little Gloria is the daughter of Pampanga Vice Gov. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo and Angela Montenegro. She will be the celebrator at the children’s party at Malacañang this Sunday afternoon.

In the name of her apo, the President declared anew her administration’s "all-out war" on illegal drugs in the country through the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

The President’s latest anti-drug pitch was endorsed by no less than her chief impersonator, Ate Glow, the gay comedian Rene Facunla who was among the local entertainment personalities promoting the anti-drug campaign.

"The fight against illegal drugs remains the top priority of my administration because most of the crimes are related to drugs. If we can stop drugs, we can stop robberies, stop rapes, stop murders," Mrs. Arroyo said.

"We are at war with illegal drugs and in this war, we need the collective efforts of families, communities, youths and various sectors of our society, including the media and the showbiz industry," she added.

The President made these extemporaneous remarks at Malacañang during the launching of "Sagip Kabataan sa Droga," an anti-drug campaign led by young Filipino entertainment personalities Jolina Magdangal and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., chairman of the Videogram Regulatory Board.

Also yesterday, Mrs. Arroyo officially formed a 52-man composite team of military and police personnel who will be the nucleus of the government’s elite, sea-based anti-narcotics and anti-terrorism squad.

The new crack anti-terrorism and anti-narcotics squad is composed of military and police personnel who have finished the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) training course.

The President made this announcement during her address yesterday at the graduation of the trainees from the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) at Sangley Point in Cavite.

"To you, the group of 52, I expect your contributions to anti-terrorism, our anti-narcotics (campaigns) and to our positive peace efforts to be special, in line with your special training," the President said after she handed them their certificates of completion.

"You are 52 specially chosen trainees and I expect you to echo what you have learned to your fellow law enforcers, so that we can form a larger body of efficient and effective anti-narcotics and anti-terrorism experts specializing in sea operations," the President said.

"Whenever I meet youngsters like you and the less privileged children that you are, I remember my granddaughter Mikaela," she said, noting that she doesn’t want to see her apo grow up to be a teenager in a country still steeped in illegal drugs.

"If that’s how I love my granddaughter, I think all... parents also love their children as much and they are all against illegal drugs," she said.

The President said she too is a mother of three, one of them an actor — Mika’s dad.

"And I know the feeling of parents of those children who lost their way, and I see many parents, their feelings when the future of their children are lost," she added.

"You are role models to the youth. Once you say that you stay away from drugs, your fans will follow you. That’s how great your influence is to the youth. So I’m grateful (for) your coming here and I am glad you will help in this campaign against illegal drugs," she told the young entertainment idols.

At the launching program at the Palace, Mrs. Arroyo’s alter-ego Ate Glow was there dressed in red floral Filipina terno, glistening with sequins. The lookalikes posed for some shots.

Facunla was relieved to find out directly from his comedic inspiration that the President had not banned any spoofs on her.

Facunla appears regularly as Ate Glow in ABS-CBN shows "The Sharon Cuneta Show" and "Okay Fine Whatever," and recently played Heart Evangelista’s yaya in an episode of "My First Romance."

Mrs. Arroyo told her virtual mirror image that she finds him amusing, to which Facunla, with that trademark mole on left cheek, remarked in a familiar voice, "I always see you on television!"

Ate Glow later told reporters that he or she would gladly endorse the President in next May’s elections "even for free."

Other stars at the launching were brothers Leandro and Carlo Muñoz, Antonette Taus. Luis Alandi, singer Sarah Geronimo, Andrea del Rosario, Anne Curtis, Tootsie Guevarra and rapper JR, most of them Viva talents.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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