MANILA, JULY 10, 2010
(STAR) By Delon Porcalla  - For veteran journalists covering Malacañang, President Aquino has delightfully turned out to be a man of many words.

“I’m so happy now that we have a president who is transparent. Siya ang pinaka-madaldal (He’s the most talkative). At least we get it straight from the horse’s mouth,” Marie Peña-Ruiz of the government-owned radio dzRB told The STAR. She has been covering the Palace since 1993.

Another radio reporter, Milky Rigonan of dzRH, couldn’t agree more, as she and fellow radio reporter Vic Somintac of dzEC expressed pleasant surprise at Mr. Aquino’s no-holds barred press conference last Wednesday – his first as chief executive.

“He’s a very accommodating President. Wala siyang tinatanggihan na questions. Okay na sana kung dumating lang siya on time (He didn’t evade questions. If only he had come on time),” Rigonan said. He has been covering the Palace for more than 10 years, or since the time of former President Fidel Ramos.

Mr. Aquino arrived an hour late for the briefing, which lasted for about an hour and a half, with the President obliging to many “last questions,” Assistant Press Secretary Rey Marfil joked. AdTech Ad

“For me, he (Mr. Aquino) is the most casual (when he talks to newsmen),” declared Mia Gonzalez of Business Mirror.

“Tingin ko okay siya. He’s very okay. Sumasagot siya sa mga tanong at hindi siya pikon (I think he’s okay, very okay. He answers all the questions and does not get irritated),” related Lilia “Mader” Tolentino of Sunshine Radio Station.

She said Mr. Aquino’s predecessor, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was irritable and wanted questions in advance. Former President Joseph Estrada, on the other hand, preferred ambush interviews.

Mrs. Arroyo, on many occasions, showed impatience and irritation at pesky journalists during press briefings.

Ramos, according to Gonzalez, also wanted questions in advance, and would hold briefings complete with research.

Former President Joseph Estrada, on the other hand, was known for off-the-cuff remarks – good sound bytes for the press but damaging to his administration.

“President Aquino is like Erap minus the screaming fans,” Gina Bengco of Malaya said.

“Nasanay ako sa presidenteng hindi sumasagot, ngayon tuloy parang ako ang sumusuko (I had been used to dealing with a president who didn’t answer questions, but now I feel like giving up),” said Christian Esguerra of the Inquirer.

“Grabe, I miss GMA,” a sarcastic Joyce Panares of the Manila Standard declared, apparently overwhelmed with the number of stories she had to write from that one press briefing.

Before the briefing ended, Mr. Aquino consulted reporters if they would prefer briefings to be held at the briefing room, where the Malacañang seal was displayed.

“Sa buong term ng nanay ko, isang beses lang ako na-ambush pero dito mga tatlong beses yata ako na-a-ambush sa isang araw (During my mother’s term I had been ambushed only once, but now I get ambushed at least thrice a day),” he said, drawing laughter from the journalists. Mr. Aquino was injured in an ambush by rebel soldiers during the 1987 coup attempt against his mother, the late Corazon President Aquino.

He said he still didn’t know if there would be regular weekly briefings, but the soon-to-be formed Communications Group would decide on the matter.

“I still don’t know (regular briefings). I don’t want to be the press secretary also,” he said.

Noy to hold 1st command conference By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) Updated July 10, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines -President Aquino will meet with top military generals at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday to preside over a command conference in his capacity as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“The President will be coming over to the general headquarters, his first formal command conference and command briefing to be attended by the top brass,” Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta, AFP spokesman, said.

Aside from the AFP chief, Lt. Gen. Ricardo David and his staff, three service commanders – Army chief Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena and Navy acting chief Rear Admiral Danilo Cortez – will be attending the briefing.

The President is scheduled to be updated by the AFP top brass about plans and programs with emphasis on modernization of the military.

The AFP is also briefing the commander-in-chief on the new strategy that will be crafted by key military planners to defeat the country’s long-running problem on communist insurgency. AdTech Ad

“That is one of the topics that will be discussed. We will be informing the President that we will be crafting new plans and timelines that would give emphasis on respect for human rights,” Mabanta said.

After assuming command as AFP chief Monday last week, David announced that the military leadership intends to defeat the communist insurgents within three years.

“This time, we envision that we will go down to the specifics and particulars. We also anticipate that the President will be coming up with additional policies and instructions for the conduct of internal security operations as well as internal and external security to include other civil-military activities,” Mabanta said.

Reassignments questioned

Mabanta also defended the first wave of military reassignments amid reports that some officers are dissatisfied with the way promotions were granted.

He said the designation of military posts followed proper procedures and were based on factors such as service reputation.

“There is no favoritism. The most important thing is the ability to produce results and attain the missions given the command he will be handling,” he said.

“In any promotion and designation of position, seniority is just one criterion. Also important is the past accomplishments (of an officer),” Mabanta added, reacting to reports that a two-star general and some junior officers are griping over the recent military reassignments approved by Mr. Aquino. – Alexis Romero

Presidential sisters refuse VIP assistance at NAIA By Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) Updated July 09, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Taking their cue from their brother, presidential sisters Ballsy Cruz and Pinky Abellada, along with other relatives, eschewed VIP treatment and insisted on being treated as ordinary passengers at the airport.

Cruz and Abellada, sisters of President Aquino, fell in line at the departure area even after airport and immigration officials recognized them and offered their assistance.

The two Aquino sisters and their cousins were passengers on a flight for Hong Kong at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 on Wednesday.

They were spotted by immigration officers Tonji Maceda, Carlo Salazar and duty supervisor Ynn Pelia falling in line at the departure immigration counter.

Maceda and Salazar approached Cruz and Abellada introduced themselves as duty immigration officers. AdTech Ad

They offered to help with immediate stamping of their passports but the Aquino sisters refused to be treated as VIPs.

Nonetheless, they thanked Maceda and Salazar and told them that they would just fall in line, like the rest of the passengers.

According to Maceda, the two sisters also insisted on removing their shoes at the final security check even though police security personnel manning the X-ray machine told them it was not necessary for them to do so.

“We created the rules and we must obey the rules,” Cruz told the policemen.

Sources said the sisters even prevented airport policemen from assisting them as they alighted from their vehicles.

The Aquino sisters and their two cousins arrived at NAIA more than two hours before their 4:30 p.m. flight without any security detail, airport sources said.

Kris Aquino-Yap, on the other hand, is reportedly scheduled to fly to the US on a Philippine Airlines flight tonight with youngest son Baby James.

After President Aquino’s campaign against indiscriminate use of sirens and blinkers, policemen detailed at the airport said it has been relatively quiet and peaceful.

“The streets leading to the airport seemed quieter, with no sirens from the vehicles of VIPs,” one police officer said.

He said that they had been used to hearing sirens wailing and seeing the counter flow of VIP vehicles in a mad scramble to the airport.

“Now those are things of the past. We are now all equal,” the police officer said.

President Aquino, on the other hand, called on airport officials to fast-track the repair of the facilities at the NAIA.

Mr. Aquino said he would leave it up to the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to come up with ways and means to implement immediate repairs on the country’s premiere international gateway that bore the name of his martyred father.

Mr. Aquino noted the deteriorating conditions of the facilities at the NAIA that led to its ratings downgrade for failing to meet international airport safety standards.

The President appointed Jose Angel Honrado to head the MIAA on the expectation that the retired Air Force general would be able to do something about the navigational equipment problems at the NAIA.

Honrado was sworn in by Mr. Aquino yesterday along with 10 other appointees.

“The CAAP was given powers to bring back the state of our airports to the right level so that we can fly to other countries and we won’t be downgraded,” he said.

Mr. Aquino lamented the dismal state of the NAIA, saying these problems could have been prevented had the previous administration acted judiciously.

The NAIA’s Doppler Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Radio Range (DVOR), which helps pilots take off or land during nighttime, low visibility and bad weather, broke down last July 4.

This caused the disruption and delay in the departure and arrival of international and domestic flights.

The President claimed he had received a report two years ago on the possibility of the NAIA’s age-old navigational equipment conking out anytime because of wear and tear.

He lamented the previous administration neglected the report and only began looking for suppliers at the last minute when it became apparent that the facility was about to break down.

“I’m not happy, obviously, with what they have done... why did they allow the problem to worsen before they acted?” he asked.

In November 2007, the Philippine aviation sector was accorded a Category 2 rating by the US Federal Aviation Authority, resulting in the suspension of flights by Philippine carriers into the United States.

As a result of the ratings downgrade, the European Union’s air safety committee in April banned Philippine flag carriers from flying to Europe and even discouraged Europeans from traveling on Philippine airlines.

Mr. Aquino said he is still awaiting the complete report on how to improve the airport and its facilities.

“They are discussing four types of navigation equipment, (Transportation and Communications) Secretary (Jose) de Jesus (and) I were told that the equipment bogging down now has a life span of 15 years, this is supposed to be the 14th year and they’re just starting to find out which country can supply us,” Mr. Aquino said.

He said it was unfortunate that after the downgrade, several safety issues also came up.

“We might suffer more downgrade. This is an area of particular concern,” the President said. – With Aurea Calica

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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