MANILA, SEPTEMBER 11, 2007 (Office of the Press Secretary, Malacanang)) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo conferred today the Order of Sikatuna with the Rank of Datu (Gold Distinction) on outgoing Netherlands Ambassador Robert Vornis for rendering exceptional and meritorious services to the Republic of the Philippines.

At a brief conferment rites held at Malacanang’s Music Room this afternoon, the President presented to Vornis the Presidential Sash, Badge, Star and the Presidential Plaque of Citation of the Order of Sikatuna. She was assisted by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales. Ambassador Marciano Paynor read the citation.

The citation reads:

“Ambassador Vornis’ tour of duty is highlighted by his consistent support for the Philippine government’s efforts against extrajudicial killings, for facilitating the country’s listing in 2003 as a priority country for the Dutch official development assistance.”

The outgoing envoy was also cited for promoting the Philippines as an investment destination of Dutch energy companies and for actively supporting peace-building efforts of the country.

The citation also recognizes Vornis’s efforts for securing his government’s support for the training of Filipino judges and justices for seats in the International Court of Justice.

The Order of Sikatuna, established in 1953, is conferred by the President of the Philippines upon individuals, diplomats, officials and nationals of foreign states who have rendered exceptional and meritorious services to the Republic of the Philippines.

The order is usually given to individuals for their outstanding services in fostering, developing and strengthening relations between their country and the Philippines.

Also at the same venue, the President thanked the outgoing Sri Lankan Ambassador Wijekoon Mudiyanselage Senevirathna who had ended his tour of duty in the Philippines.

“Thank you for all you have done for my country, particularly in strengthening the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Sri Lanka,” the President told Ambassador Senevirathna

Palace: National Day of Prayer for Peace, Sandiganbayan verdict mere coincidence

FROM WWW.OPS.GOV.PH - Malacanang said today that it was simple coincidence that the National Day of Prayer for Peace and Reconciliation of our Nation and the Sandiganbayan ruling on the plunder case against former President Joseph Estrada would take place on the same day (Wednesday, Sept. 12).

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Sept. 12, 2007 as a National Day of Prayer for Peace and Reconciliation of our Nation last Aug. 15 yet, or a good three weeks before it was reported in media that the Sandiganbayan would hand down its decision on the Estrada case.

Bunye pointed out that last year, the President also issued Proclamation No. 919 declaring the same date (Sept. 12) as a National Day of Prayer, Conversion, Reparation and Consecration for Our Nation in order to promote peace and unity among Filipinos.

Bunye issued the clarification following speculations that the National Day of Prayer for Peace and Reconciliation was timed to coincide with the proclamation of the Sandiganbayan ruling.

“The President signed Proclamation No. 1362 last August 15 in order to attain the national goals and sustain the gains of the country’s economic reforms,” he added.

In signing Proclamation No. 1362, the President noted that it is time for the Filipinos to make “a reaffirmation of our commitment to this goal through personal reflection, change in attitudes, and solidarity for the public welfare and the development of our country.”

The goal of peace and unity has, all too often, lost its relevance in a nation that is “beset by hostility, bitterness, constant conflict and too much politics,” she pointed out.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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