, JULY 18, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday will be a “substantial report card” detailing her administration’s promises vis-a-vis its actual accomplishments.

The SONA will also spell out the direction the government intends to take toward national development and security, Malacañang officials said yesterday.

“This will be a report card and we’ll have to check some of the items here against the promises that she made in 2006 and I believe at least the perception or the appreciation of the public would be positive,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in an ambush interview after the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

“The SONA is going to be straightforward, very descriptive of what’s going on and I think the public would get full appreciation of the efforts that this administration has put into the different vital projects that we need to make the country competitive,” Bunye said.

Mrs. Arroyo rehearsed her SONA before members of the Cabinet at Malacañang yesterday. But other Palace officials said the President also practiced her SONA from 8 p.m. Monday to 1 a.m.

“The President described her vision, of course, what steps would be taken to move the country closer attainment of that vision which is making the Philippines a first world country by 2010,” he said.

He said that in her SONA, which will be delivered at the opening of the joint session of the 14th Congress, Mrs. Arroyo will also announce investment in human capital, physical infrastructure education, social services, and “in peace in Mindanao.”

Bunye said the Arroyo administration has accomplished so much that “I don’t think 45 minutes would be sufficient.”

He said he estimated the 10-page speech to last around 45 minutes but Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said it could go longer because of the pauses for applauses and the ad-libs.

When asked to rate the performance of the Arroyo administration in the last 12 months, he said: “I prefer that third parties gauge the performance but personally I believe that the President made a good accounting of the progress that we’ve made and so far as the projects in so far as the programs that she mentioned in the 2006 SONA.”

Security tight

A total of 9,000 policemen – including contingents from the provinces – will secure vital landmarks and facilities in Metro Manila during President Arroyo’s 7th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23.

Metro police chief Deputy Director General Reynaldo Varilla said the policemen will exercise maximum tolerance but will strictly enforce the “no permit, no rally” policy.

The military’s National Capital Region Command will help the Philippine National Police maintain peace and order.

“We will strictly implement Batasang Pambansa 880, so those who want to stage protest rallies on Monday should secure a permit from local government units (LGUs),” Varilla said.

Militant groups from nearby provinces are also expected to join the protest rallies in Metro Manila. He said the police would allow them in “as long as they can show us rally permits.”

He assured the protesters’ of unhampered use of freedom parks in Metro Manila.

Varilla heads the Super Task Force Kapayapaan, which is tasked to keep peace and order in Metro Manila during Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA before the 14th Congress on July 23.

Senior Superintendent Jun Marquez, intelligence chief of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO), said left-leaning groups plan to mobilize 5,000 to 6,000 protesters on July 23. He said he is pushing for a dialog with rally leaders regarding “ground rules” for peaceful and orderly protest actions during SONA.

Varilla said the NCRPO alone would deploy some 6,000 anti-riot policemen at the usual rally sites in Metro Manila like the EDSA Shrine, Don Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge and outside the US Embassy.

Varilla said they would also secure the Pandacan oil depot, Light Railway Transit (LRT) line, Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and major commercial centers and shopping malls.

The top three party-list groups may not be able to attend the SONA as “pending disputes” over nominees has kept the Commission on Elections from proclaiming them.

Comelec law department director Alioden Dalaig, in a letter to House secretary-general Roberto Nazareno, said the poll body deferred the proclamation of Buhay and Alagad because they “have two sets of nominees” while ARC’s “first nominee is being withdrawn by the party.” – With Non Alquitran, Delon Porcalla

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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