MANILA, Philippines - “Serving the people all over the country” is what President Arroyo said she will miss most once she steps down on June 30.
“I will miss serving the people all over the country. I’m also excited to serve my constituents,” Mrs. Arroyo told reporters at a farewell dinner she organized for members of the Malacañang Press Corps at the Red Crab restaurant in Clark Freeport Monday night.
Mrs. Arroyo said her new role as congresswoman would somehow limit her to serving her constituents in the second district of Pampanga.
She declined to answer other questions but readily replied to inquiries regarding First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo’s spinal surgery.
She said he has had a “remarkable recovery.”
She also said Mr. Arroyo was hoping to return to his favorite hobby of photography.
After dinner, she went around the tables and posed for pictures with reporters and other staff.
Some reporters tried the karaoke while deputy presidential spokesman Rogelio Peyuan sang Rico J. Puno’s “May Bukas Pa (There’s still tomorrow)” that he jokingly said is apt for those leaving their posts on June 30.
Yesterday, the President attended a testimonial event with Most Rev. Bishop Ramon Villena at the Cagayan provincial capitol, and launched two books on her accomplishments as chief executive.
She also attended the military honors at Camp Aguinaldo for Armed Forces chief Gen. Delfin Bangit, who retired yesterday.
Meanwhile, in Pangasinan last Monday, Rep. Mark Cojuangco and other local leaders heaped praises on Mrs. Arroyo as she reopened a bridge to regular traffic.
Cojuangco, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition and son of industrialist Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. called her “a very good president.”
“We owe the President a lot,” Cojuangco said.
What her book says
President Arroyo said she is proud of her achievements even if they had cost her popularity.
In the foreword of her book “Beat the Odds: Another Stone for the Edifice,” the President said that during her administration, the economy was “far stronger than when we found it.”
“The basis for sustained growth – world-class infrastructure, a stable fiscal order and stronger public institutions – has been set. The gains we made on my watch will continue to yield benefits for many generations,” she said.
“Aspiring to lead one of the world’s 15 largest countries to the threshold of first-world status is a soaring ambition I set at the beginning of my tenure in 2001 even though I was still surrounded by the debris from the prior failed administration -fiscal disarray, economic stagnancy and the bitter divisions of EDSA II,” the President added.
“Many a time during those years, I was faced with overwhelming temptation to slow down, take it easy, choose the road more traveled, take the path of least resistance, just to win a bit more popularity or create fewer enemies or placate fierce opposition that was often ideological as well as politically driven,” Mrs. Arroyo said.
The President said that she was able to stand up during those moments of weakness and stayed focus on what she needed to do for the good of the country.
“It has always been a core conviction of mine that a leader must do what is right even if it might initially be unpopular. Very often, the right policies demand sacrifice, most of all from those in leadership, in order to secure a better future for the many. Democratic leadership is never an easy task,” she said.
“Whenever a leader yields to what is momentarily popular but ultimately destructive to the country, he or she does a disservice to the nation. The hallmark of good leadership is to stand firm when the gales are strongest,” she pointed out.
The President said that her decision to undertake economic and fiscal reforms was met with resistance from vested interests and from those who benefited from the status quo.
“We stood our ground, we prevailed and the nation is better for it as a result,” she said. – With Marvin Sy