[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Arroyo delivers a speech during the ceremonial launch of the Makban Geothermal Power Plant at the NBC Tent, Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City. MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, JULY 25, 2009 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - Business tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan expressed confidence yesterday that history would be kinder to President Arroyo, who should be given some credit for her accomplishments, particularly on the economy.

“History should be kinder, gentler to her,” Pangilinan added.

In a statement, Pangilinan said that he agreed with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who said that Mrs. Arroyo was better than her predecessors.

“I agree, especially with respect to the economy and business,” said Pangilinan, who is chairman of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.

Enrile had stated that Mrs. Arroyo could be the best president yet because of what she has done in keeping the economy stable and for the various infrastructure projects that she has implemented during her term.

Enrile said if not for allegations of corruption, the President could be the best ever.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar was elated about the praise coming from Enrile.

“Obviously the Senate President’s political memory goes back a long, long, long way, even before many of us here were born,” Olivar said.

“So this kind of appraisal would be appreciated by the Palace and it’s obviously correct. Manong Johnny knows what he talks about when he talks about things like that,” he added.

Mrs. Arroyo, an economist, has always taken pride in her accomplishments on the economy particularly during the height of the global financial crisis.

The President noted that her administration managed to register more than 30 consecutive quarters of growth.

Speaking at the launching of Aboitiz Power Corp.’s Cleanergy brand last Wednesday night, Mrs. Arroyo noted that the past 12 months have been rough on all economies in the world.

“It has affected us already. But the headline story of the Philippines in 2008 is that the country decently survived a succession of global crises in fuel, then food, then financial and finally economic while still keeping our economic fundamentals intact and without losing focus,” the President said.

“My job is to work and to lead, to protect and to preserve our country and our people, especially during these difficult global times,” she added.

The President reiterated her vision of having the Philippines among the First World countries in 20 years.

The real estate sector also cited the accomplishment of the Arroyo administration in keeping the economy stable amid the global financial crisis.

Rosemarie Basa, executive vice president of the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations Inc., said that the strong economy has kept the real estate industry strong amid the global economic slowdown.

Puno hits SONA boycott

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said government officials who will boycott the State of the Nation Address of President Arroyo on July 27 will miss a great speech.

“Number one, they’re going to miss a great speech. Number two, they should stop being worried about ghosts. Walang mangyayari lahat dun sa pinangangambahan nila kasi kami lahat (Nothing of what they fear will happen because) we are looking forward to a great speech by the President where all the accomplishments of this administration will be brought to the people,” Puno said in an ambush interview at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Several senators and congressmen said they would boycott the President’s SONA since they don’t believe in the present administration. Some of them were apprehensive that the Chief Executive might use the SONA in pushing for Charter change.

“I think as is necessary, the President will have to give an account of everything she has done. The really great accomplishments of this administration get lost in the politics,” he added. “All of us in the administration look at the performance record of the administration and we must bring to the people the record of performance, not just of the office of the President but the entire GMA team.”

Speaker Prospero Nograles lamented yesterday that critics of Mrs. Arroyo have always been looking for defects in the administration instead of the performance of officials.

Nograles said detractors have always been looking at the “hole of the donut, and never the donut itself,” which is why they have always painted a gloomy picture of the Philippine economy.

“Let’s stop looking at the hole, and start looking at the donut. They (critics) prefer to look at the hole rather than the donut, and I don’t know why,” he told reporters in the weekly Usaping Balita news forum at Serye Restaurant in Quezon City.

Nograles urged the President’s detractors, including those who intend to boycott the SONA on July 27, to “listen even just for one day,” because they have always been attacking Mrs. Arroyo the whole year. “What is one day? Can’t they just listen?”

“It seems to me that the defects are highlighted, but the performance is downplayed. As far as performance/infrastructure is concerned, the performance (of GMA) is good. I have worked closely with several presidents and I can say this,” he said.

House Majority Leader Art Defensor, for his part, also gave a passing mark to Mrs. Arroyo.

“It’s not excellent, but fairly good. She handled the economy very well. We didn’t suffer the consequences that developed countries did. She was fairly good in handling the major problems of the economy of the country as result of the global recession,” he said.

Enrile, in a roundtable discussion with STAR editors, earlier said that the President has “done better” than her predecessors, amid the scandals that rocked her administration since she took over the government in January 2001.

He made the assessment of the Arroyo administration barely a week before the President delivers her final SONA at the joint opening of the third session of the 14th Congress on Monday at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

Sitting for the first time as Senate President since his installation after a leadership coup of senators in November last year, Enrile acknowledged the accomplishments of Mrs. Arroyo for the past eight years.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said it’s too early for the people to judge the President regarding her performance in the past eight years.

He said that even US President Abraham Lincoln was not popular during his time. He later became the most popular president in US history.

“I think it is too soon today to say how she will be remembered in history. Abraham Lincoln was the most hated person at that time. He was shot by one of his own countrymen. Let history judge on how the president was able to deliver,” Zubiri said.

Opposition Sen. Francis Escudero released a video yesterday that revealed his candid evaluation of the Arroyo presidency.

Escudero said the President has failed to provide an accurate assessment of the real SONA in the past seven years.

In the video, which he would circulate over the Internet, Escudero reported how the President failed to meet the very standards she set when she took over the presidency in 2001.

Escudero painted a somber state of the nation vis-à-vis unemployment, education, poverty and housing, foreign trips, agriculture and irrigation, and corruption.

Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. asked Mrs. Arroyo to tell the public how she will cover the growing deficit, which has ballooned to P154 billion in the first six months of the year.

In a five-page open letter to Arroyo entitled “I Ask – The People Have the Right to Know,” Guingona said aside from the growing deficit Arroyo should also answer five more vital questions on the real State of the Nation.

In a press conference at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan, Guingona said Arroyo’s claims in her past SONAs were contrary to what was happening in the country. With Delon Porcalla, Cecile Suerte Felipe, Christina Mendez, Jose Rodel Clapano

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved