[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Gloria Arroto courtesy of Malacanang at: ]

WASHNGTON, AUGUST 3, 2009 (STAR) By Jose Katigbak STAR Washington bureau - President Arroyo may cut short her US trip with former President Corazon Aquino’s death, after wrapping up her visit to Washington on Friday with a flurry of meetings with senior American officials and a US agreement to help train Filipino Navy SEALS battle piracy in Southeast Asia.

But Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who is with the presidential entourage, said they have yet to decide whether to leave New York Saturday night or Sunday morning. A final announcement is scheduled at 2 a.m. today.

Meanwhile, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the memorandum of understanding on cooperation on maritime counter-piracy training and education was a significant agreement for the Philippines, a major seafaring nation many of whose seamen have been abducted in the high seas and held for ransom particularly in the Gulf of Aden.

He said Mrs. Arroyo and US Secretary of Transportation Raymond LaHood signed the MOU to send a message to international pirates that the US is solidly behind the Philippines and its seafarers.

But there was no discussion over the fate of a number of Filipino sailors still held by Somali pirates.

In addition to LaHood, the President also met with Attorney General Eric Holder and Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

The meetings held at her Willard hotel suite took place in the morning and lasted about 30 minutes each.

In the afternoon she held meetings with Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka to thank them for their efforts in the payment of benefits to Filipino World War II veterans.

She also met Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Filipino veterans wrote to Mrs. Arroyo earlier to complain about “the slow approval process and unacceptable delays” in payments to surviving veterans and to intercede on their behalf.

In her meeting with Holder they discussed intelligence sharing and agreed to work together against human trafficking and drug trafficking and be more active in exchange of personnel training between and among NBI and FBI and other law enforcement agencies, Remonde said. – With Marvin Sy

Philippines president remembers Aquino <>

 WASHINGTON -- Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (uh-ROY'-oh) is remembering former President Corazon Aquino as a "national treasure" who led the country at a time of great peril.

Arroyo, on an official visit to Washington, says the Philippines will observe 10 days of official mourning following Aquino's death early Saturday in Manila.

She says Aquino "picked up the standard" after her husband, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., was assassinated on the tarmac of Manila's international airport in 1983 as he returned from exile in the United States to challenge longtime leader Ferdinand Marcos.

Arroyo says Aquino "helped lead a revolution to restore democracy and the rule of law to our nation at a time of great peril."


Clinton praises Aquino's 'extradordinary courage'
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says former Philippines President Corazon Aquino "helped bring democracy back" to her country after years of authoritarian rule. Clinton says Aquino showed "extraordinary courage" following the assassination of her husband, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., in 1983 when he returned to the Philippines to challenge the rule of Ferdinand Marcos. Aquino died early Saturday in Manila.

Clinton says Aquino's "quiet strength and her unshakable commitment to justice and freedom" inspired her and former President Bill Clinton. Clinton is sending her condolences to the Philippines and the Aquino family.

Philippines mourns democracy icon Corazon Aquino
Corazon Aquino Thousands of Filipinos lined up for hours Sunday to see the body of former President Corazon Aquino - the beloved democracy icon who swept away a dictator and inspired nonviolent resistance to autocratic rule. Aquino, 76, died early Saturday in a Manila hospital after a yearlong battle with colon cancer.

Thousands trooped to a suburban Manila university stadium where Aquino's coffin, teeming with yellow roses and orchids, was displayed on a platform.

Aquino mourned at wake by thousands of Filipinos
Thousands of Filipinos Mourners wept as they paid their respects at the wake of former President Corazon Aquino on Sunday, with some pledging to carry on her legacy by protecting the democracy she helped install 23 years ago.

Filipinos have been sensitive to any slide back toward autocratic rule since Aquino and Roman Catholic leader Cardinal Jaime Sin led the 1986 "people power" revolt that ousted longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Jose Olazo brought his 1-year-old grandson to Aquino's wake with a yellow band tied around the child's head. The color was a symbol of the nonviolent mass uprising that forced Marcos from power and into exile in the United States.

White House praises Aquino's 'crucial role'
The White House said Friday that former Philippines President Corazon Aquino will be remembered for her "crucial role" in moving the country to democratic rule through non-violent protest. Aquino died early Saturday in Manila (Friday in Washington).

Aquino's "people power" movement took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands in the wake of the disputed presidential election in 1986 in which longtime ruler Ferdinand Marcos claimed victory amid allegations of massive fraud. Marcos eventually accepted an offer of exile in the United States and Aquino became president.

Filipinos set aside divisions to honor Aquino
Thousands of Filipinos lined up in monsoon rains Saturday to pay their last respects to former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, putting aside deep divisions to honor the icon who ousted a dictator and sustained democracy against great odds.

Aquino's death at age 76 led Filipinos from all walks of life to reflect on the legacy of the accidental opposition leader - whose rise to prominence began only after the 1983 assassination of her politician husband, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.

"Unity is a rare thing in our country; we have it now, and adding to the feelings of grief is the wistful realization that it took the passing of Cory to reunite a divided nation," the Philippine Daily Inquirer said in its Sunday editorial. The Associated Press


PGMA to cut short US trip, declares Aug. 5 special non-working holiday

NEW YORK (via PLDT) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has decided to cut short her trip in the United States and declared Wednesday, August 5, as a special non-working holiday nationwide to give the entire Filipino nation proper time and opportunity to grieve and honor the late former President Corazon Aquino.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said former President Aquino, who succumbed to colon cancer early Saturday in Manila will be laid to rest on August 5.

Remonde read the proclamation which the President signed Saturday (Sunday in Manila) during a media interaction with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel here.

“I, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo do hereby declare August 5, 2009, Wednesday, to be a special non-working holiday nationwide in honor of the late former President Corazon C. Aquino,” Remonde quoted the President in her proclamation.

Under the Proclamation, the President said it is but proper to give the entire nation “the opportunity to honor and show their respect, appreciation and gratitude to the beloved former President in their own respective ways.”

Before leaving Washington, D.C. the other night, the President also issued Presidential Proclamation No. 1850 declaring a 10-day period of national mourning from August 1-10.

During the period, Ermita said the Philippine flag in all government offices nationwide will be flown at half mast.

In due respect to the death of former President Aquino, Ermita said President Arroyo also decided to cut short her itinerary to meet with investors and overseas Filipinos in Chicago and Guam.

“The President made the decision to cut short her trip so that we will be there in time for the day of interment of former President Aquino,” he said.

Ermita said the President and her official party will leave here tomorrow, Sunday (Monday in Manila), and will arrive early morning of August 5 in time for a chance to visit the remains of former President Aquino.

Upon their arrival, Ermita said a mass would be held in Malacanang in honor of former President Aquino.

The Aquino family, according to Ermita, has decided to forego the offer of state honors in Malacañang and “politely wished that the interment of President Aquino be as simple as much as possible.”

At the start of her speech during the meeting with the Filipino community at the Sheraton Hotel in Newark on Saturday night, the President also offered a minute of silence in honor of former President Aquino.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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