, November 24, 2005
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo made an effort yesterday to mend fences with the media, which she had earlier criticized for sensationalist reporting and for allowing reporters to be used by her political critics.

The President met more than 50 executives, station managers and reporters of the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN), one of the country’s largest news radio stations, for lunch at Malacañang’s Rizal Room.

Ely Saludar, RMN-Manila station manager, said there was mostly light banter and talk between Mrs. Arroyo and the media executives but she also asked how people in the countryside were reacting to issues being discussed in Metro Manila.

"There was just light talk but she did ask how the people in the provinces were taking the news here in Metro Manila," Saludar said. "We told her that the people are concerned but they are going on with their lives."

The President, he said, has indicated that she might also be meeting with other media outfits in the coming days.

The last time Mrs. Arroyo faced the media in a press conference was last July 27 in Malacañang.

The meeting with RMN executives came after Mrs. Arroyo slammed the media twice this month for allowing itself to be used in destabilization moves against her.

She also tagged a television journalist as instrumental in bailing out a suspected terrorist based on military intelligence reports, which officials later admitted were based on circumstantial evidence.

Last Nov. 10, the President told a gathering of top radio and television executives that the media should shed its "bad boy" image and refuse to be used in "power games and destabilization schemes."

She complained before foreign and local business groups that the media had been focusing too much time and space on negative issues while overlooking all the positive developments in the economy.

She warned the media not to become part of the "national malaise and a hindrance to development rather than an important solution to our problems."

Trumpeting her administration’s achievements in investigating the slayings of crusading journalists, Mrs. Arroyo stressed that many of the cases are now going to trial.

However, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) president Jose Torres pointed out that Mrs. Arroyo cannot instruct the media to report only good news.

Torres also noted that 35 journalists had been killed in the country since Mrs. Arroyo assumed office in 2001.

Put up halfway village in Pasay — GMA By Paolo Romero The Philippine Star 11/24/2005

Street families rounded up by local authorities in Metro Manila in pursuit of their "beautification campaign" will be homeless no longer as President Arroyo ordered yesterday the construction of a "halfway village" in Pasay City to accommodate them.

The President issued the directive during a pre-Christmas visit to Boys’ Town in Marikina City at around 10 a.m. where she distributed gifts to the residents of the orphanage and met with street families rounded up by Manila authorities in the run-up to the 23rd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) which the country is hosting starting on Sunday.

Mrs. Arroyo, accompanied by Social Welfare Secretary Lualhati Pablo and Boys’ Town administrator Daniel Cabangangan, distributed slippers, candies and food items to 159 street children.

The children were among those rounded up by the police and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) this month in Manila.

Dr. Jose Baranda, head of the social welfare department of the Manila City government, said Mrs. Arroyo ordered the release of an initial P15 million from the President’s Social Fund (PSF).

"The Halfway Village, as it is called, will help give to families who don’t have provinces to go home to or who really grew up and lived in the streets, better opportunities in life through livelihood programs and skills training under the Sagip-Ahon program of the President when she was still DSWD Secretary," Baranda said.

He clarified that the gathering of street families had long been a program of Mayor Lito Atienza but the effort had been intensified because of the SEA Games. He said those who have provinces to go home to or actually reside in other cities are turned over to authorities in their origins.

Since the campaign started last week, Manila authorities were able to round up more than 40 street families, he said.

While at Boys’ Town, Mrs. Arroyo also held a meeting with Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco and top police officials, getting updates on the preparations for the SEA Games.

Baranda said the village would be located in the former "Nayon ng Kabataan" in Pasay City that would be converted for the purpose. It is owned by the national government and other Metro Manila governments can avail of its facilities.

He said the plan is for the street families to be given skills training or have them participate in livelihood programs to enable them to find decent jobs or even start small businesses.

Cabangangan said the street kids are given temporary shelter and basic necessities as well as being taught moral values. The children are then released once it is determined by Boys’ Town authorities that they are ready to be reunited with their families or relatives.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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