GMA GROUNDED BY DISASTERS, SKIPS CHRISTMAS BREAK IN BAGUIO

MALACANANG, December 26, 2003 (OPS) President Arroyo has skipped her family’s traditional Christmas Eve celebration in Baguio City in deference to the victims of the killer landslides in Southern Leyte and the Caraga Region.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the First Family will instead spend Christmas Eve at Malacañang.

"She’s (President) forgoing the traditional Baguio City Christmas celebration," he said. "Whatever that is normally incurred in moving from one place to another would instead be rechanneled to victims of Leyte and Caraga."

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo, along with her husband, Jose Miguel, and their children, in-laws, and granddaughter Mikaela Gloria would hear Misa de Gallo in a church in Metro Manila tonight.

"The essence of this is very simple," he said. "This is a family affair."

In a special episode of the television program "The Working President" yesterday, Mrs. Arroyo said her Christmas wish is food on the table, jobs, shelter, education, health and water in homes for every Filipino family.

"This is what I’m fighting for, and this is the change that I would like to do to bring the attention of the government to the needs of ordinary Filipinos," she said.

"And this what I want to present to all of you as your president."

Mrs. Arroyo, who is seeking a full six-year term in next May’s elections, thanked the Filipino people for their support since she took over the government on Jan. 20, 2001 after the ouster of President Joseph Estrada in a military-backed civilian uprising.

"The job of the president is really difficult, but that is made more difficult by the deeply divided Filipino society that I had inherited," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said she has to contend with the deep divisions in society, along with the problems of terrorism and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

"But we were able to survive these crises, and these also helped me in my presidency because it added to my experience," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo also thanked the international community for its support and help to her administration in coping with world crises and the alleviation of poverty in the country.

"And I hope we would have a brighter future because we have done a lot of reforms to provide them with jobs, shelter, health and good future for their children, too," she said. — Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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