MANILA, JULY 25, 2005
(STAR) It’s make or break today for President Arroyo as she delivers her State of the Nation Address (SONA), and journalists from all over the world have come to cover it.

Over a thousand Filipino and foreign journalists will flock to the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City this afternoon for Mrs. Arroyo’s second SONA since her now disputed victory in the polls last year. It is her fifth since ascending to power in 2001 through a popular revolt.

"This is the biggest since 1987, unlike in the past SONAs of the President when only members of the House (of Representatives) media, a few contingents from the Senate and the Malacañang Press Corps cover the event," Noel Albano, House of Representatives Public Relations and Information Department deputy secretary general told The STAR in an interview.

Jose Garcia, Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau director, agrees with Albano that this year’s media coverage of Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA is "unprecedented."

Albano said his office has issued accreditation to about 1,300 members of the media, 551 of whom are reporters and correspondents, while others are technical and working staff of Philippine and foreign television and radio networks.

"This is the biggest contingent (of media) so far," he said, prompting Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. to further call for a stricter and intensified security coverage for lawmakers and guests.

Albano said 18 members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, which is comprised of major wire agencies like Reuters, The Associated Press, Kyodo news agency, and ITN had also applied for accreditation.

CBS and Channel News Asia are also covering the event, he added.

Albano said GMA-7, ABC-5 and the ANC cable TV are airing Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA live nationwide.

"They will also air live news broadcast from different points in and outside the Batasan complex," he said.

Albano said the media coverage of Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA in the past two years was "normally not well attended, " with only about 200 Philippine-based reporters covering it.

Traditionally, Mrs. Arroyo is welcomed by the Senate president and House speaker after the presidential helicopter lands at the rear entrance of the Batasang Pambansa.

She is then escorted to a holding area as lawmakers wait for her to deliver her SONA.

The President will stand between the Senate president and the Speaker at the rostrum before and after the speech, with the Philippine flag as backdrop.

Mrs. Arroyo is fending off allegations that she cheated in last year’s elections to ensure her victory, and that some members of the First Family have pocketed millions in payoffs from the jueteng protection racket.

This year’s SONA is expected to be key to the incumbent’s political survival, more than economic reform, job creation and the war on terror.

The President is also seen to undertake further damage control amid plummeting trust and approval ratings. — Christina Mendez

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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