GMA to skip SONA, off to Hong Kong with Mike

- Paolo Romero -

MANILA, Philippines -  Former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will leave for Hong Kong on a Philippine Airlines flight at 6 tonight and skip tomorrow’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Aquino, who has promised to bare what he said were shocking details of the misdeeds and misuse of funds of her administration.

Lawyer Raul Lambino, spokesman of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said Mrs. Arroyo will accompany her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo for a medical consultation to prevent the recurrence of his near fatal heart aneurysm in 2007.

He said Mr. Arroyo is scheduled to be examined by top cardio-vascular surgeons in Hong Kong, Dr. Kwok Ching and Dr. Lau Chu Pak, who are colleagues of Dr. Rommel Cariño.

Cariño performed surgery on the former first gentleman earlier this year to repair a new tear in his aorta.

“Attorney Arroyo and his family’s immediate desire to get further presentations of the experiences of recurrences in similar cases came up following last Thursday’s consultation and evaluation with the team of his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mario Ver, one month after his major spine surgery,” Lambino said in a statement.

Lambino also said Mr. Arroyo’s spinal surgery last month was successful and that he was on his way to full recovery. Mr. Arroyo, however, was strongly advised to guard against a recurrence of the aortic aneurysm.

“Dr. Carino, one of the most experienced and most competent experts in the country for this type of disease, believes that although there is no assurance of a non-recurrence, Attorney Arroyo should observe a significant reduction of stress level to avoid the disease’s fatal recurrence,” Lambino said.

Rep. Arroyo attended the workshop for some 20 old and new Lakas-Kampi lawmakers for a bonding and sharing session as well as to set the party’s legislative agenda at the Stotsenberg Hotel in Clark Freeport, Pampanga yesterday.

Her sons, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo and Ang Galing Pinoy Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, however, would be attending the formal opening of the 15th Congress in the House of Representatives and listen to Mr. Aquino’s SONA.

Mikey said he would not be bothered by the possible negative comments that may arise from his mother’s skipping the SONA, saying the trip was “no fault of hers.”

“She is just doing her duty as a wife as she has done so in many occasions in the past where she dropped everything just to be at the bedside of my father,” the younger Arroyo told The STAR.

Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez told reporters yesterday that they earlier strongly advised Rep. Arroyo not to attend the SONA to avoid the possibility of being humiliated by the President on national television.

Suarez said Mr. Aquino might acknowledge the presence of former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Fidel Ramos but not the former leader as she is now a member of the Lower House.

“I think the common consensus is for her not to attend the SONA,” Suarez said, adding it was almost certain that Rep. Arroyo’s successor would criticize her nine-year governance.

“Almost all presidential candidates ganged up against President Arroyo thinking that doing so will win them votes,” he said.

GMA will answer P-Noy SONA

But while she will skip the President’s first SONA, Rep. Arroyo would answer it point by point, her allies said. 

She has also tapped former Presidential Management Staff chief Elena Bautista as her new spokeswoman.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who is likely going to be the next House minority leader, said he will wait for Mr. Aquino’s SONA and deliver his response in a “counter-SONA” the following day at the House.

“Let him (Mr. Aquino) deliver what he wants to say,” Lagman said in a telephone interview.

Suarez said the SONA would be answered “point by point.”

“Enough of this bashing of the President (Rep. Arroyo). He (Mr. Aquino) already won,” Suarez said.

Mikey declined to comment on the President’s threat to bare details of the alleged misdeeds of his mother but suggested that he lessen his attacks.

“He is now the President and no longer the leader of the opposition. He has a mandate and God gave him the opportunity to serve the nation,” he said.

He, however, said the minority bloc would not “be standing in the way of the success of the Aquino administration.”

“We want to support his programs or enhance his legislative agenda. After all, we all have our sworn duty to work for the betterment of lives of our fellow Filipinos,” he said. “We will not be oppositionist just for the sake of opposing but at the same time we will not give up our duties as fiscalizer.”

Leftists eager to attend SONA

Militant lawmakers for the first time in five years will attend the SONA, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño said.

Casiño said in the past they boycotted the SONAs of Arroyo after the “Hello, Garci” scandal stripped her of any legitimacy as president.

He said Mr. Aquino has a “real mandate” and would therefore be given the benefit of the doubt.

“It’s important that we listen to his speech and give him due respect,” he said. “We’ll have to hear his SONA as we are holding him to his promises to the people during his campaign.”

“We’re ready to work with the Aquino administration if it’s about genuine and lasting reforms,” Casiño said.

Lakas reorganizes

Meanwhile, with its numbers and power in the House of Representatives having significantly dwindled and weakened, the Lakas-Kampi-CMD began yesterday its reorganization with no less than Rep. Arroyo giving up the chairmanship of the erstwhile ruling party.

Some 20 Lakas-Kampi-CMD leaders and members met at the Stotsenberg Hotel in Clark yesterday for a bonding and sharing session as well as to set the party’s legislative agenda for the 15th Congress.

Rep. Arroyo plans to keep a low profile in the chamber and has endorsed Suarez, who is likely going to be the House deputy minority leader, to be her successor in the party.

Rep. Arroyo will likely assume the position of chair emeritus, the post offered last year to Ramos, who rejected it in protest over the merger of Lakas-CMD and Kampi.

Bohol Rep. Erico Aumentado, a former governor and head of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, is expected to replace Raymundo Roquero as Lakas-Kampi-CMD secretary general.

Roquero will go back to his old post as executive director.

Lambino, who was a member of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD senatorial slate in the May 2010 elections, and neophyte Lanao del Norte Rep. Aliah Dimaporo were designated as spokesmen of the party.

Roquero admitted that the party was forced to reorganize as many of their members switched loyalties to the Liberal Party of President Aquino.

Suarez said Lakas lawmakers would focus on supporting tax reform measures instead of opposing the programs of the Aquino administration.









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