, July 21, 2005
(STAR) President Arroyo is expected to lay out her position on the issue of Charter change during her State of the Nation of Address (SONA) and could spring a few surprises, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday.

Ermita also said the threatened absence of some opposition lawmakers who planned to boycott the affair did not matter, since these legislators would face the consequences of their actions in due time.

"The opposition can do what they want to do," he said. "What else have they not done?"

He said it was not mandatory for opposition lawmakers to attend the SONA on July 25, but added such actions could be remembered by their constituents, who might get the impression that their elected legislators are not mature enough to perform their constitutional duties.

Ermita said resigned Palace Communications Director Silvestre Afable still heads the team that will draft the President’s SONA.

He added that five highly competent staff members were tasked by the President to work on her speech, two of them members of the House of Representatives.

He admitted the Palace would trumpet the accomplishments of the Arroyo administration rather than dwell on its troubles, since the public is already too focused on the country’s political problems.

Besides constitutional amendments, the President is likely to talk about general issues — such as how she has been managing the economy, her 10-point program and the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Ermita said.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said other details regarding the truth commission ordered by the President might also be announced during the SONA, as well as other emerging policies.

Ermita said the President has not begun practicing her delivery of the SONA, but said she was likely to do so in front of Cabinet members.

Last year, Ermita said the Chief Executive rehearsed her state of the nation speech six to seven times.

He also said the government was ready for expected protest actions from the opposition, leftist and militant groups during the SONA.

According to Ermita, these groups have been trying to stir up unrest through rallies as far back as June in an effort to ruin not just Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA, but her entire administration as well.

"We know all these things," he said, adding that protesters must follow the law during their actions, as authorities will be present to maintain peace and order. — Aurea Calica

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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