Applause, standing ovation for shortest SONA
() - July 26, 2005 - 12:00am
President Arroyo delivered a short State of the Nation Address yesterday, lasting a brisk 23 minutes even as 34 rounds of applause interrupted her speech. It was the shortest SONA in recent history.

But no applause came from Senate President Franklin Drilon, who remained glued to his seat.

In sharp contrast, Speaker Jose de Venecia twice joined lawmakers and the gallery in giving Mrs. Arroyo a standing ovation as she pushed for amendments to the Constitution.

Mrs. Arroyo’s speech centered mainly on Charter change, pushing for a shift in the system of government from presidential to parliamentary, which she and fellow proponents say would end legislative gridlock and speed up the country’s economic recovery efforts.

Presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio explained there was no need to belabor the political crisis hounding Mrs. Arroyo because she had addressed the issues before and an impeachment complaint had already been filed in Congress.

The withholding of applause by Drilon, who together with his Liberal Party bloc had withdrawn his support from Mrs. Arroyo earlier because of the poll fraud allegations against her, did not escape the notice of news cameras, which focused from time to time on the Senate president’s seat on the rostrum.

He smiled and shook Mrs. Arroyo’s hand to welcome her when she arrived and when she left the legislature as he had done in the past but the lack of warmth was visible.

Drilon sat quietly during the speech, nodding on occasion. He stood quietly after the address but kept his hands clasped together while the whole House gave a standing ovation and chanted "GMA! GMA!"

It was earlier speculated that Drilon would snub Mrs. Arroyo, if not skip the address altogether.

Claudio said the important thing for the Palace now is the response of the lawmakers.

"Judging from the way the audience reacted, I think it was a very appropriate speech and fitting tribute to the legislators, the local government officials and to all other Filipinos who are looking forward to the reforms that will bring about (progress to the country)," Claudio said.

Some senators allied with the administration, however, found the speech lacking in substance.

Sen. Pia Cayetano said she could not see how the "great debate" on Charter change could answer the country’s needs any better than reforms or other urgent measures.

Claudio said changing the country’s political system must prevail over other interests. "She is calling for a united front to push for lasting reforms. (Change in the form of government) will remove the political obstacles to attain unity, progress and stability."

Last year, Drilon led the Senate in blocking a House move to amend the country’s Charter via a constituent assembly. Yesterday, it was already clear the issue would again face rough sailing in the Senate — the look on Drilon’s face spoke volumes. Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz

ARROYO AUREA CALICA CHRISTINA MENDEZ CLAUDIO DRILON GABRIEL CLAUDIO JESS DIAZ LIBERAL PARTY MRS. ARROYO PIA CAYETANO
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