AFTER HURDLING IMPEACHMENT, GMA MORE RELAXED

MANILA, September 9, 2005
(STAR) By Paolo Romero and Aurea Calica - A more relaxed President Arroyo emerged from Malacañang yesterday, ready to revisit her "comfort zones" after the impeachment complaint against her was defeated in the House of Representatives.

Yesterday morning, the President made a spur-of-the-moment decision to attend a relatively minor event, which included blood-letting and other health-care activities at Malacañang’s Mabini Hall, where she chatted briefly with surprised Palace employees.

Instead of immediately getting into her black Mercedes Benz sedan with "Ang Pangulo" license plates, Mrs. Arroyo walked a few hundred meters from the Office of the President, exiting the inner gate of Malacañang and passing the flagpole fronting Kalayaan Hall before boarding her car.

As she walked, the President, clad in a blue business suit, waved at Palace employees, whose reactions indicated that they rarely saw the Chief Executive walking the Palace grounds.

Palace officials said the President saw the invitation from Mabini Hall, which houses the Office of the Executive Secretary and other administrative offices, on her table and decided then and there to make a brief stopover to visit Palace workers there.

At one point during the President’s visit to Mabini Hall, a Palace employee told Mrs. Arroyo about her osteoarthritis, a condition with which the President empathized because the Chief Executive suffers from a similar ailment.

Some of the Palace employees also wished Mrs. Arroyo well on her upcoming trip to New York to attend the United Nations World Summit. Responding to her well-wishers, the President asked them to pray for the success of her trip.

On Tuesday, just hours after the impeachment case filed against her was dismissed by the House for lack of substance, Mrs. Arroyo flew to Cebu, where she made her first public appearance after the burial of the charges against her.

"This moment is significant for me," she said before a national summit of religious leaders for peace. "It is my first public appearance since yesterday."

Yesterday, she explained, "Congress spoke... with the mighty voice of the people they represent." She was referring to Tuesday’s vote by House members dismissing the impeachment complaint. "Their voice is clear. Let us look for peace, not conflict."

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye admitted that the President spent Tuesday glued to her television set, like the rest of the country, watching House members cast their votes on the complaint.

Commenting on the President’s expansive mood yesterday, Bunye said: "The President accepts the results of the impeachment proceedings and she has accepted this in all humility. Her immediate reaction is to offer her hand in reconciliation."

At the height of the public scandals involving Mrs. Arroyo and her family, the President had sharply limited her public engagements and had, on several occasions, canceled appointments at the last minute. Get down to brass tacks The impeachment burden lifted, Mrs. Arroyo also ordered her Cabinet to get down to brass tacks and work on delivering government services as she called on Congress to pass urgent measures.

The President said she wants the people to "feel in their bones, and in their hearts, in their spirits, the power of honest and efficient service."

Secretary to the Cabinet Ricardo Saludo said the President is meeting with her Cabinet regarding pressing economic, security and legislative issues as the administration refocuses its attention on governance.

"We have a full plate," said Saludo, who coordinates and documents Cabinet meetings. Saludo also said that after the impeachment proceedings, the people "now want to see government action on issues affecting them every day."

The agenda for the President’s 10 a.m. meeting today, he said, includes policy discussions on the oil crisis and the anticipated implementation of the new expanded value-added tax (VAT). Also on the President’s agenda for the day are discussions for ensuring an ample food supply as December draws near, political briefings, as well as an updated list of urgent legislation — including the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

"Before her New York trip, the President wants to ensure that key governance initiatives will continue to deliver much-needed reforms and services for national advancements and welfare," Saludo said.

Less talk, more action

Meanwhile, the President has called on the opposition and other critics to engage in "less talk" and more action, as well as responsible fiscalization to address the country’s problems — including rising oil prices and terrorism.

"We must transform the weariness of our people into a fresh dynamism for action, enterprise and reform. What we need is less talk — unless it’s dialogue — and more action," she said in Cebu Wednesday

Mrs. Arroyo also urged her critics to focus on providing jobs and facing high prices — especially coming in the wake of the spike in world oil prices — and combating hunger, ensuring law and order, and fighting corruption.

"Congress spoke with the mighty voice of the people they represent and I thank all of them," she said at the National Summit of Religious Leaders Toward a Culture of Peace in Lapu-Lapu City. "Their voice is clear — let’s work for peace, not conflict."

"Let’s get back to work — not in the streets, but in our offices and industrial centers, in our farms and communities. Let’s bury the conflict of the past and gather around a brighter, peaceful tomorrow," she said.

Bunye cited the importance of quickly consolidating the energies and resources of the nation following the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives, during which the complaint against the President was junked.

Bunye said in a statement that "there is an urgent need to return to the business of the economy soonest in order to bring in the investments and create more jobs."

According to the President, her "personal pain or political triumph is of no moment to the task of building this nation and putting the economy in order."

"I offer the olive branch of peace to all my critics and detractors for a principled partnership for the people, driven by responsible governance and responsible fiscalization," she added.

"I am grateful to you, our religious leaders, and to the many well-meaning Filipinos who have made a clear call for prudence, sobriety, dialogue, understanding and peace in these trying times," she said. "You have called for and conducted dialogues, you have tempered the onslaught of hate and manned the perimeters of prudence, understanding, sobriety and the rule of law."

Mrs. Arroyo said the executive branch must now begin working with the legislators to amend the 1987 Constitution, pass the 2006 national budget, the anti-terrorism bill and the proposed renewable or alternative sources of energy such as ethanol.

"I wish to leave for the United Nations with the clear message that we are working for one Philippines just as we all have one God — whatever we call His name," she said.

The President will be in New York from Sept. 12-15 to attend the UN World Summit and preside over the UN Security Council.

Need for momentum

Bunye said "we need to execute pro-poor programs and get the legislative mill on track to gain the momentum for takeoff."

Bunye said the country should gear up for debates on the budget and on Charter change which the President has been pushing to "exorcise the demons in the country’s political system."

"If there is one great lesson to be learned from the recent impeachment process, it is the fact that we must amend our Constitution so that our nation need not suffer the scars of intense political combat every time there is a bid to change the President," he said.

"We can emulate the style and substance of more developed political systems," he added. "The debate on Charter change must now be done in earnest."

Bunye also cited the need to address the looming energy crisis and the renewed perils of terrorism: "To do all these, we need to quickly consolidate the energies and resources of our nation."

In earlier statements, the Palace underscored the importance of public support in the fulfillment of the government’s task of effectively addressing the nation’s problems.

"That’s the only way to go forward, you have to unite and let’s try to address the basic problems that we face. There are more problems that we should address together instead of separately," an earlier Malacañang statement read.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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