MANILA, December 25, 2005
 (STAR) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo enjoined the people Saturday to find space in their hearts for the true spirit of Christmas – peace on earth and goodwill to men.

In her Yuletide message to Filipinos, the President said the season would only be complete if people find ways to help others, particularly the less fortunate.

"We have so many reasons to celebrate and thank the Lord," she said in the vernacular, citing the strong peso, which, she said, springs from the confidence of the world in the Philippines and the winning excellence of the Filipino.

"Our strong peso shows that we have the capability to reach our dreams, but to fully reach our potentials, we need to change our rotten political system," she said.

She urged the people to pray for the success of the government’s efforts to attain a "One Philippines" in the coming year for the prosperity of all Filipinos.

"Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon sa inyong lahat (A Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to all," she said.

‘Ang tunay na diwa ng Pasko’ The Philippine Star 12/25/2005

(The following is the Christmas message of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.)

Sa dakilang araw ng pagsilang ni Hesus, bigyang puwang natin sa ating mga puso ang tunay na diwa nito — kapayapaan sa sanlibutan at pagmamahal sa kapwa.

Magiging ganap lamang ang ating pagdiriwang ng Pasko kung tayo ay magiging mapagbigay sa pagdamay at pagtulong sa iba, lalo na sa mga kapus-palad nating kababayan.

Marami rin tayong dahilan upang magdiwang at magpasalamat sa Diyos. We praise the lord for our strong peso, which comes from the confidence of the world in the Philippines and the winning excellence of the Filipino.

Pinatutunayan ng ating malakas sa piso na may kakayahan tayong maabot ng ating mga pangarap, ngunit upang lubusan nating makamit ang ating kakayahan, kailangang magamot ang maysakit nating sistema ng pulitika.

Kaya, sa pagpasok ng bagong taon, ipanalangin natin na nawa’y magtagumpay tayo sa pagbabagong magkakamit ng isang Pilipinas sa halip ng hating Pilipinas. Pagbabagong makakadulot sa higit na maginhawang pamumuhay.

Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon sa inyong lahat!

Mike A expects wonderful Christmas with family By Aurea Calica The Star 12/25/2005

‘Tis the season of cheer.

First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is expecting a wonderful Christmas today with his family after tumultuous events earlier this year forced him to go on foreign self-exile. After a long silence, Arroyo appeared upbeat when he spoke with reporters yesterday. He said he was sharing his wife’s happiness about the peso’s recent strong performance in the financial market, lowering oil prices and the Philippines’ overall victory in the recent 23rd Southeast Asian Games. Asked if he believes that the worst is over for him, Arroyo replied: "Palagay ko naman (I believe so)."

He brushed aside criticism for bringing some of the Filipino SEA Games athletes to Disneyland Hong Kong recently, saying he only wanted to give them a treat. "The athletes said it was a dream come true for them, a lifelong dream. You just ask them how they feel, they are very happy. They deserve it because they are the heroes," he said. "And I am very grateful because there is now an upsurge of patriotism and national pride after we won (the Games). So I am really very, very happy. I think Filipinos feel the same, everyone is smiling nowadays."

President Arroyo’s husband has periodically been a lightning rod for opposition attacks against her and has been repeatedly accused of influence-peddling behind the scenes under his wife’s protection. He was alleged to have influenced several government transactions and appointments. In June, President Arroyo announced on television that her husband had volunteered to go abroad on "exile" to avoid drawing more criticism that could eventually hurt her presidency. Her husband left the following month with their eldest son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, and his family. He returned in late October.

When her husband left for self-exile, President Arroyo was beginning her battle against fresh allegations that she cheated in last year’s presidential election after she owned up to improperly calling an election official during the 2004 vote count. The accusations were compounded by allegations that her husband, son and brother-in-law, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, took payoffs from illegal gambling syndicates.

There were also the lingering accusations of money laundering hurled in 2003 by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who accused the First Gentleman of keeping secret local bank accounts under the alias Jose Pidal. President Arroyo told a June 29 business conference that her husband had opted to go into exile to avoid controversies that could further undermine her presidency. But Mrs. Arroyo vowed to tough it out against opposition moves to oust her over allegations that she cheated in last year’s presidential election.

"My husband has volunteered to go abroad... to remove himself from any situation which will cast doubts on my presidency," she said. "For my children and granddaughters, missing their doting father and grandfather is their small contribution to rebuilding our society. As a wife, I’m grateful to my husband for his sacrifice. My family will miss him terribly, and I ask for you to help pray that we remain strong as a family."

Yesterday, the First Couple handed out bags of groceries donated by San Miguel Corporation to residents living in neighborhoods near Malacañang. Earlier in the day, they met with several senior citizens from Golden Acres Home for the Aged, a nursing home for the elderly. Wheelchair-bound, Mercedes de Leon, at 105, was the picture of happiness. She said she had always wanted to meet the President.

Seventy-five-year-year-old Braulio Sevilla dyed his hair purple to be "more fashionable" for the special occasion. Orphans from the Children’s Joy Foundation sang Christmas carols for the First Couple. At present, Golden Acres is home to 253 people, most of whom are over 70 years of age. About half of them are bedridden.

Ester Linda Tantiado, a 52-year-old mother of three, was luckier than most in the group. Aside from the Christmas package of canned goods, soft drinks, and quezo de bola that she received, her jobless son was told he would soon find employment courtesy of the President.

Mrs. Arroyo ordered the Presidential Action Center to help Tantiado’s son find a job through the Department of Labor and Employment program.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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