GMA MARKS 3RD YEAR IN OFFICE

MANILA, January 20, 2004
(STAR) Three years into a presidency she inherited from a graft-tainted administration, President Arroyo celebrates today the anniversary of the EDSA II people power revolt that saw the nation at another crossroads.

Mrs. Arroyo, who is now seeking a full six-year term in the May 10 elections, has cited her on-the-job experience in the presidency and her accomplishments since January 2001 as her distinct advantages over her five other rivals for the highest post in the land.

One of the closest presidential rivals of Mrs. Arroyo is actor Fernando Poe Jr., bosom buddy of former President Joseph Estrada, whom Mrs. Arroyo replaced.

To celebrate the third anniversary of EDSA II, the President, along with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and members of the First Family, Cabinet and other government officials, will attend the 6:30 a.m. Mass at the Our Lady of EDSA Shrine on Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City.

After flag-raising rites and oath to the Philippine flag at the EDSA Shrine, Mrs. Arroyo will proceed to the barangay hall on Posadas street in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila for her pet project, "Patubig ni Gloria," with Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.

From there, the President heads back to the Palace to lead the formal welcome rites at 10 a.m. for visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who recently succeeded Mohamad Mahathir.

After the bilateral talks, Mrs. Arroyo hosts a state luncheon for Badawi and his official delegation at the Palace.

"It just so happens that tomorrow coincides with the second day of the official visit of Prime Minister Badawi. So she (the President) will be very preoccupied with this particular state visit," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

"But the President would like to pursue her goals of really bringing progress to the people. She would like to address by way of celebrating this occasion, she would like really to address the basic needs of the people on ‘patubig’, more food on the table, scholarships and similar projects that would uplift he average Filipino families," Bunye cited.

As she did last year, Mrs. Arroyo will observe a 40-day celebration linking two people power revolutions, beginning Jan. 20 marking EDSA II in 2001, to Feb. 25 marking EDSA I in 1986 that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Bunye noted.

During this 40-day period of the twin anniversaries last year, Bunye recalled that Mrs. Arroyo highlighted the spirit and importance of people power through consultation dialogues she conducted with the so-called silent majority, as she met with various groups to celebrate the power of the people.

Key figures in both EDSAs, like retired Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, are expected to attend the anniversary Mass at the EDSA Shrine.

Meanwhile, militant groups are wondering where the EDSA II forces have gone. "Why the eerie silence from our former comrades in the struggle," the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said in a statement.

"We are not expecting President Arroyo to be there. She had shunned EDSA II in exchange for a shot at the presidency in the coming elections," Bayan secretary general Theodore Casino said.

Casino invited members of Compel 2 and the disbanded Changing Brigade and People Power Coalition, who are "disgusted with Arroyo’s betrayal of EDSA" to join the march to the Shrine at 11 a.m.

On the other hand, Fr. Joe Dijon of the watchdog group PlunderWatch decried the "concessions and political compromises" that Mrs. Arroyo and her administration have made in relation to the P4-billion plunder case against Estrada.

For its part, the party-list group Gabriela and other women’s organizations marched to the Senate yesterday to lobby for the passage of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Bill.

"I hope that senators’ individual agenda, politicking and electioneering will not stand in the way of the passage of this pro-women legislation," said Liza Maza, Gabriela president.

"The passage of the law will not only criminalize violence against women, to include physical, psychological, emotional and economic abuse.

"Moreover, its passage implies the government’s recognition of gender-based violence rooted from the unequal status of women and men in the country today. This will also help ensure the appropriation of government resources to address violence against women," she said. — Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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