July 2, 2004  (STAR) INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila  -  The die has been cast. Despite the rains brought forth by typhoon "Igme," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Vice President Noli de Castro took their oaths of office at 12 noon the other day and so too with the rest of all the elective officials, both national and local. Yes, early Wednesday morning, while the President was making her inaugural speech at the Quirino Grandstand, it was raining cats and dogs in Cebu, bringing people to think that a stormy weather is a bad omen, signifying a very stormy presidency up ahead.

But I have reason to believe that God was on the side of President Arroyo (after all, she must have prayed for sunshine and had help from her friends, the Carmelite Sisters) when just around 10:30 a.m., the rains suddenly stopped and the sun appeared from behind dark clouds. I was one of the fortunate ones to have been invited to this historic affair at the Provincial Capitol of Cebu and I didn’t want to miss it for the world… after all, it’s not everyday that we are given a ringside seat to witness a historic event.

Indeed, it was a who’s who event… anyone who was of some political, socio or economic importance to Cebu and Region 7 was there to be a witness to this historic event. And when the presidential entourage arrived in four tourist buses, Manila’s glitterati mingled and mixed with the Cebuanos. Yes, it was a proud day for Cebu and those who did not want a high school dropout to take his oath as President.

While waiting for the President, the point of conversation was the interview on Strictly Politics by Pia Hontiveros with Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña who bluntly answered the question why Cebu went for GMA and his quip, "Because Cebuanos are smarter than the people in Manila!" I don’t blame Mayor Osmeña for making that remark… after all, Cebuanos are entitled to "bragging rights" for the next six years! I’m sure his remark touched a few raw nerves… but then if Cebu didn’t deliver the votes for GMA, it would be FPJ taking his oath of office in this Enchanted Kingdom that is the Philippines and the exodus of Filipinos leaving for foreign lands would have began because by then, happy days would have been here again for Erap and his pals.

I’m sure that a lot of our readers saw the inaugural ceremonies on nationwide television. If we had any disappointments, it was that there were no more speeches after the President and the Vice President took their respective oaths of office before Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. The affair at the Provincial Capitol took all of 15 minutes, then the party broke up and the dignitaries headed for Mactan Shangri-la Resort.

Later in the evening, after Holy Mass at the Cebu Cathedral, she swore in Mayor Tomas Osmeña and his entire councilorial slate from the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan at the Fuente Osmeña grounds, where a barbecue party was also held for the people of Cebu City.

I went home to catch the late evening news and see the President’s inaugural address at the Quirino Grandstand earlier during the day and I guess the President’s message to everyone is: our work is cut out for us… it is time to roll up our sleeves and work for a better country for there’s a ton of work to be done to right the wrongs that are ailing this nation. Indeed, a new day has dawned for this nation and we can only wish them Godspeed… and good luck!

At the Quirino Grandstand we learned about GMA’s 10-point program… a legacy she would aim for. Instead of just one million jobs, she’d look for 10 million jobs and produce more entrepreneurs for the business sector, making them good managers through government loans. She would produce a million or two hectares of arable land. Her government will push an education-for-all policy, in classrooms that are not crowded, with a computer in each classroom.

She pledged to check the budget deficit and government spending. Power and water will be given to all barangays. Metro Manila will be decongested and development spread throughout the country… an issue we’ve always espoused. Elections will be completely computerized to remove any more doubts in the counting; no more "mano-mano" counting.

The President stressed that peace will be achieved in Mindanao and the nation’s peace and order problems will be addressed. She called for "a new government of political reform and economic change." Perhaps this was in reference to her call for a Constitutional Convention to shift this nation from a centralized government to a federal form and from a presidential form to a parliamentary one. I would have wanted her to mention federalism, but I guess she was being cautious… after all, the debates for this haven’t begun.

She pledged to bring forth a pro-poor government and reform the bureaucracy and that her government would live within its means. More importantly, President Arroyo challenged herself to live up to the highest standards of honesty and competence as President. The President said, "I shall make good and do good, not just for the cameras!"

Well, in a way, to sum up what she meant in her inaugural speech, let me repeat what is written in many GMA posters splattered in all government offices, "As we begin to tear down the walls that divide, let us build an edifice of peace, progress and economic stability." No doubt, the President who spoke plainly, gave many pledges, but she asked the help of the Filipino because she cannot do this alone. Indeed, like what we said many times before, for Gloria to succeed, we must work together in unison, and at this point, all I can say is, "It’s about time that the Filipino people help each other fix what’s wrong with this country." But can we do it? I really can’t tell, but I do know that we’ll try.

Let me point out that I have heard all the presidential inaugural speeches, though I didn’t memorize them. All of them were great speeches if you ask me. Perhaps Erap’s speech was the best of all, but like everything else in the Philippines, we’re great in talking and lousy in turning great words into reality. When GMA arrived, she was accorded a 21-gun salute and another 21-gun salute was fired after she took her oath. Apparently, the first 21-gun salute was for the President’s previous term and the latter for her new term. It was then I realized that Erap’s term was finally over! Now we have GMA!

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For e-mail responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com. Bobit Avila’s columns can also be accessed through www.thefreeman.com. He also hosts a weekly talk show, "Straight from the Sky," shown every Monday, at 8 p.m., only in Metro Cebu on Channel 15 of SkyCable.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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