Manuel Villar is elected Senate President (the first person to have held leadership of both chambers since Manuel Roxas). At the opening of the House, the Speaker made a pitch for amendments, saying the House is 12 votes short of the needed votes for a Constituent Assembly, and that only Makati City stands in the way of the “people’s initiative”. Not-so-subtly, he said the eyes of the country are now on the Supreme Court for its guidance on the question of amendments. Another impeachment complaint is filed. The rain is a bit of a damper on protests but also might affect attendance.
Let me say that some senators and congressmen being a no-show, to my mind, is wrong. Just as the chief executive is required to report to Congress in person, I believe Congress is required to attend and listen (respect for the office, whether or not legitimately held by a person).
See also Inq7.net State of the Nation Address coverage.
Ricky Carandang compares security at the Batasan to the security during George W. Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress in 2003. Pia Hintiveros reads snippets from an advance copy of the speech. The galleries in the Batasan are filling up.
2: 30 pm
Much buzz on the PowerPoint presentation the President is widely expected to use, and other potential bells and whistles. President to chopper in to Batasan complex.
Protesters undaunted by rain. Oddly enough, Cerge Remonde and Ricardo Saludo shown huddled in a Quezon City restaurant with some local government leaders, apparently having given up on trying to show up at the Batasan. Government propagandists say the President’s speech will probably run 35 minutes -or longer, depending on the “expected applause.”
Video clip of Rep. Baraquel extremely elegant in a terno (someone asked me, “but what is that scarf? So Imeldific!” Couldn’t resist texting back, “it’s a Good Morning towel, but of silk.”). Baraquel’s sister, Pia Hontiveros, also striking in a terno, getting Mike Defensor’s bubbly burbling on how “interactive” the President’s speech will be. Defensor President will materialize about quarter to four.
Ricky Carandang burbles over Fidel V. Ramos who snaps, “So what’s new? Everything that’s going to be taken up today… has already been announced…” Asked his view on Mike Defensor’s saying the President will not focus on amendments, and whether this suggested the President was backpedaling on the issue, Ramos snaps some more and says it seems so, and “the people are disappointed.” He reminds everyone he’s been working to help the country since he was a 2nd Lieutenant. Gives trademark thumbs-up and wink at camera.
Manny Pacquiao makes an appearance on the session floor.
Adel Tamano: I give her a C, she’s hard working.
Twink Macaraig: But don’t hard working students get more than a C?
Adel Tamano: Well, of course there’s the question of whether she even enrolled at all in the school…
Palace announces the color of the President’s gown: coral. (via Inq7.net, but each update isn’t linkable, sorry).
Downpour strong again with strong winds. I’ve heard there is also a pro-administration rally going on, but no news as to its size (or staying power).
The President has arrived at the House of Representatives.
First Gentleman waddles to his seat in the gallery.
Ricky Carandang reports two choppers landed, Congressional delegation thought it was her. A few minutes later, the President arrived in a car (choppers were a decoy). Says President in a very good mood.
Sec. Arthur Yap denies it was a decoy.
President emerges from Presidential Legislative Liaison’s office and makes her way to House session hall.
Once again, President is announced (incorrectly) as “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines” (it should be, simply, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the Philippines”). Oddly enough, the band doesn’t seem to be playing “Mabuhay,” the presidential anthem (perhaps it’s the newfangled Ramos-era one, “Bathala Bless the President”).
Another odd thing is that the President came in first, before the Senate President and the Speaker of the House gaveled the joint session open. Tradition is, Congress convenes, and then invites the President to address it. Speaker once more incorrectly introduces the President.
Speaker interrupts (to cackling), before you speak… the entire nation is waiting for the singing of the national anthem. Hooting and cheering.
National anthem. Then, invocation (thank God they got the order right: Catholic schools are particularly notorious for insisting on the -wrong- innovation that invocations should precede the national anthem).
Speaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies, now the real moment has come, for the President to deliver her state of the nation address…”
More cheering and clapping from the adoring throng.
President says “thank you” five times.
She congratulates the Senate President. Acknowledges VP, Ramos, Chief Justice, Senators (who are booed).
Says she is attending to the Filipinos fleeing Lebanon. Says 500 more will come home in the next few days (applause).
To our OFW’s: You are truly new heroes. Thank you for your sacrifices.
To our countrymen: a journey of a 1,000 miles does not begin with the first step; it begins prior to that. To our allies in Congress who passed essential fiscal reforms, many thanks. You are the true friends of the Filipino.
(Congress applauds itself).
The true challenge is not to affix blame but to fix what’s wrong… to give our people jobs… Now we have the money to pay down our debt and build up our country.
To the Civil Servants.. tasked with building.. a Strong Republic.. through increased tax collection, many thanks…
We are lining up corrupt officials to face the consequences of their misdeeds…. We are embarking on being respected abroad for fiscal discipline…
To our men and women in the armed services: the huge and deep.. loyalty… has earned the nation’s gratitude… the mutineers… their funders… and cohorts are being brought to justice (she repeats the thank you in Filipino)…
At a time when we must… take greater responsibility… our local officials man the front line of change…
(Local government lustily cheers itself)
Most of all, thank you to the Filipino nation for your sacrifice… for sticking to the course… You, who have resisted persistent if not pathetic calls for despair… anarchy… thank you, from the bottom of my heart, deepest thanks!
So I stand before you today, to deliver a state of the nation focused on what you want… I’m not here to talk about politics… I’m here to talk about what the people want… And what government is doing… every single day.
Together we will push forward the country towards a twinkling future…
(she begins her PowerPoint presentation)
Too many are hungry. I will not stop until our fight against poverty triumphs.
We now have funds to stamp out terrorism and lawless violence (repeats it in Filipino)…
We have earned 1 billion pesos from US Millenium Challenge Fund to fight corruption… We’re matching it with another billion from savings.
(no applause; President seemed slightly puzzled at this)
We now have the funds for constitutional and electoral changes.
(cheering and applause).
Change is slow… We have the means to take power away from Imperial Manila… and bring power to the people and the provinces.
(tremendous applause and unbridled happy hooting -in two waves of increasing volume)
For surely there must be a better way to do politics without those who lose elections causing problems…
(president cackles -ahee hee hee hee hee- as adoring audience cheers her)
Repeats it again.
Discusses how fiscal reform has been achieved. The second step is to increase social expenditures (accompanied by PPT slides of her sitting with her cabinet). Phase three: invest in national resources and advantages of major sections of the nation.
We will advance natural advances of three mega regions: North Luzon; agriculture Metro Luzon urban beltway; Central Philippines; (cheering) Mindanao ( cheering); and the cybercorridor.
North Luzon: prioritize agribusiness investments; agriculture and fisheries of Ilocandia, Cagayan valley, Benguet can feed Metro Manila; and export to region; says daddy built Halsema Hiway to Rice Terraces (and says Unesco praised Philippine handling of terraces). Says she’s rebuilt most of it; will rebuilt the rest. Will upgrade Bahaba airport; will build new airport in Cagayan; upgrade Tabuc-Tuguegarao road.
Discusses other goodies: such as land titles for landless in fulfillment of accords ending rebellion in Cordilleras. Points to gentleman who was benificiary and who handed his title to his grandson.
(gentleman and grandson take a bow)
Mentions La Trinidad, Benguet harvest facilities she undertook.
I want affordable vegetables!
Pays tribute to how Ifugao has cut poverty in half in the first three years of her administration.
Points to Domogan and Brawner in Session Hall…
Says they are an example as we prepare for Federalism, in accordance with the changes in the Consitution (there you have it folks, it’s on track!)
Says ladderized education to be pursued. Says Ramos’s baby, the San Roque dam, will be expanded.
(audience hoots in favor of FVR who loves it)
Points to irrigation projects in Region II (such as the one headed by Bishop Ramon Billena); funds for farm-to-market roads. International airport in Poro, La Union.
(more happy hooting)
Improvement of airports in Batanes as recommended by the governor.
Ilocos Sur airport in Salamague. Port Irene to be improved.
To save dollars, windmills in Batanes and Ilocos Norte, turning megawinds into megawatts. Points to a general who became a “soldier-farmer” planting alternative fuel.
(Officer takes a bow)
Metro Luzon urban beltway: must be globally-competitive services center. Five strategies for competitiveness:
1. food plentiful and affordable to keep labor costs competitive
2. reduce cost of electricity to keep factories regionally competitive (happy hooting)
3. modernize infrastructure at least cost, to improve transport of goods and people
4. technology dissemination for productivity
5. cut red tape in all agencies (happy hooting)
The biggest red tape is in our outmoded constitution. We need constitutional change to bring our rules of investment into the new millenium.
New public bidding process has been reduced to 45 days as of today. Number of Metro Manila businesses paying bribes has declined. Congratulations, Metro Manila.
Human trafficking: USAID has helped us convict human traffickers. We are off the anti-trafficking watch list.
To lower electric costs: let’s give spot market a chance.
We want big power consumers, like exporters, to avail of lower rates from Napocor.
On cocodiesel: we are just waiting for law to be passed (sneering from audience at senators).
Burbles about legacy to her kabalens: jointly with Lito and Mark Lapid, etc., “my son Mikee,” etc. with giant investments in Subic seaport, Clark airport, and expressway.
Will extend highways to Nueva Ecija. Also to port of Real.
On traffic in Metro Manila: we will have continuous highway from Clark, to Metro Manila, to Batangas port.
Clark-Manila expressway finished; 1 hour from Clark to Monumento! We will join North Expressway to C-5.
C-5 connected to South Luzon Expressway; it’s being widened to Calamba; in August, widened all the way to Batangas.
Coastal Road to Bacoor will be built (praises Jesse Castillo).
We will join LRT and MRT from Monumento to North Edsa. (shows map of system)
North Rail to Clark; South Rail to Lucena and on to Bicol. Upgrade link between them.
LRT to be extended to Bacoor, Cavite.
People can afford to live in more spacious and nicer provinces with the extension. The areas along railroad tracks have been cleared; relocated families are happier. Teddyboy Locsin said: couldn’t be done before, and couldn’t be done at all. Well Teddy? (Locsin blushes; crowd hoots happily).
Now, this will be done in Manila. Lito Atienza will take care of it. We thank China for making possible these housing needs. Also, thank you to Iglesia ni Cristo and Gawad Kalinga.
West Zone of Metro Manila needs water. Not only food, energy, health and education but water will be provided. Las Pinas, Paranaque, Muntinlupa will benefit from new pumping station.
New port in Lucena. Through such projects we will end oppression of barangays by rebel terrorists who kill even their own.
Provinces in 7th Division: Jovito Palparan is part of the fight (cheers). He will not retreat (cheers). Until the horrifying darkness is dispelled and the bright light of justice is restored! (cheers).
In the strongest terms: I condemn extrajudicial killings. Together we will stop it; witnesses, come forward!
Central Philippines: happy hospitable people provide tourism advantages -Palawan, Romblon, Visayas, Bicol, Camiguin, Dapitan…
Boracay, Cebu, Palawan: more than half of foreign tourists go here.
Also center of geothermal power in country, which we continue to develop.
Coming soon for superstar Boracay: instrument landing system for airport; investments in Romblon airport; good roads for spill-over destinations all over Panay.
Cebu: Gwen Garcia building world-class convention center for Asean and East Asian summits in December.
Fall in bribery for public sector contracts in Metro Cebu.
Congratulations to Cardinal Vidal for shepherding his flock; congratulations to all the political leaders.
(Cebuano leaders cheer themselves)
Bohol has become distinct tourism destination since insurgency was defeated (pays tribute to military commanders there). Now has its own international airport.
Just as our country deserves a world-class constitution, strongly supported by… League of local governments…
Puerto Princesa, San Vicente (points to Palawan congressman), Balabac poirts; continuous road from El Nido to other points.
Oriental Negros -Valencia could attract semiconductor. Negros can attrack biofuel investment (once law is passed) in San Carlos. Pays tribute to Miguel Zubiri.
(Negrenses cheer lustily)
Silay to Sapalay to be further linked; right of way for international airport in Daraga, Albay.
Upgrades for airports of Siargao, Tacloban, etc. Widen road to Dakak, Dapitan. Ro-ro will connect Siquijor to Cebu, Camiguin, etc.
Eastern Nautical Highway announced -Masbate to Bicol.
More goodies: new generators, more roads, etc.
Pays tribute to reconstruction in Leyte.
(more happy hooting)
Says governor is “our own Rudy Giuliani”.
Says she asked Japanese government to help Southern Leyte implement an integrated ecological management system.
Mindanao: agribusiness is our priority.
(really happy hooting)
Mindanao is fertile; largely typhoon-free; coconuts and high-value crops; more than 40% of fisheries; but also has poorest provinces and regions; we need investments to lower costs.
2003: we introduced Ro-Ro; slashed travel time to Luzon from 36 to 28 hours; cut costs for food shipments. Now we will develop more roots: Cagayan de Oro on to Cebu, etc., the Central Nautical Highway.
Poverty decline in many areas.
We can see the changes in Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi. Jollibee in Basilan!
Balikatan exercises with USA, combined with other projects, have no doubt contributed to this. In Sulu, one day in May, it rained: Bitan-ag was entered by contending groups; they embraced and made peace under the auspices of a Marine general.
(Marine general takes a bow amidst applause)
Arms to farms: Sulu has armies of tractors literally invading rebel areas. Congratulations.
Pays tribute to other Muslim leaders.
(happy cheering over tributes)
If we can harness the forces of good in our nation, the positive force here at home, and abroad such as USA and Malaysia, we will prevail in Mindanao with peace agreements to bring hope and peace in Mindanao. We will have agribusiness, not agression… Peace dividends will be pro-poor projects like roads in Zamboanga del Norte… etc., etc. Enumerates detailed list of roads-to-be-built in Mindanao (and bridges too) plus Surigao-Davao road (to be as nice as the highway built by Zubiris).
Points to 10% per annum growth in coconut industry in Mindanao. Asks Archbishop Capalla to help ensure coconut farmers get their rightful share.
Announces corruption in contracts in Cagayan de Oro has decreased.
Praises Duterte and Nograles for similar drop in contract corruption in Metro Davao. Things are coming together in Mindanao! A prelude to eventual Federalism.
Cybercorridor: all super regions, from Baguio to Cebu to Davao. Points to electronic government accounting systems, praises call centers in provinces. The English and communication technology skills of the youth give them advantages. We hailed ICT as growth sector; we opened up market for international phone calls and brought prices down. Cites coffee with call center agents: points to Lynn (who rises to take a bow). She told me, now I don’t have to leave the country to help my family.
Says she was touched by Lynn.
With these structural reforms, we not only found jobs, but helped keep families intact. Thank God, or someone would have tried to impeach me for violating Const. provision on solidarity of family.
(happy, happy, hooting)
Praises Rep. Villafuerte’s saying research and development funding required. She announces it will be expanded.
In today’s global economy, knowledge is the greatest creator of wealth.,
Your government is working, and working well.
Our economy is growing over the longest period over the last quarter century; 22 quarters of consecutive growth.
In the first three years of my term, the number of the poor has gone down and the income of the poor has increased.
70% of medium size business owners are optimistic. Bickering in politics may delay, but not derail our agenda… Regardless of the fate of national budget, we must automate our election process.
Local governments must get rightful share of revenues.
Asks Congress to pass supplemental budget to make this possible.
We are a great people; honest students and cops; we’ve scaled Mt. Everest.
(Everest team takes a bow)
We have dominated SEA games.
(athletes take a bow)
We have won international beauty titles.
(beauty queen smiles and waves).
And of course, punched our way to triumph in the boxing world!
(Pacquiao waves, crowd cheers).
We win everyday in every imaginable job. Together we must take on the challenge to build a new, competitive and peaceful nation and prevail!
(orgy of cheering, hooting)
For those who want to pick up old fights: we’re game.
(more lusty cheering)
But what a waste of time.
Why not join hands instead?
Join hands in the biggest challenge of all -where we all win, or we all lose- the battle for progress and survival of our one, and only, country.
After three years, 11 months, and 6 days, I shall relinquish the presidency with all that I have outlined, completed.
I do not want it said then, that I defeated my enemies. I want it said all of us, you and I, achieved a country prosperous and united. Thank you and Mabuhay.
(final orgy of cheering)
5: 10 pm
Joint session of Congress gaveled to a close.