Aquino told to stop attacking Arroyo in Sona

MANILA -- A Visayan prelate on Friday urged President Benigno Aquino III to stop attacking his predecessor, Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 25.

Capiz Archbishop Onesimo Gordoncillo said the government should instead file cases in court if it is really committed in resolving alleged anomalies committed by the former President Arroyo.

After assuming office last year, President Aquino immediately launched tirades against Arroyo, whose administration was linked to various shady deals, including the provision of fat bonuses of officials in state-owned corporations.

"That is not the real meaning of Sona," Gordoncillo said in an article posted at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.

What the country needs is the government's concrete steps in solving poverty and unemployment, according to the prelate.

"He should also report his achievements and how he is going to address hunger and the growing rate of unemployment," Gordoncillo said.

Malacañang, meanwhile, is not expecting Arroyo to attend the second Sona of President Aquino at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday.

"She didn't attend the first time. So there was precedent. Most likely, she will not attend the second time. So we were not surprised," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

Maria Teresa Defensor, acting spokesperson of Arroyo, confirmed that the Pampanga congresswoman will again skip Aquino's Sona.

Arroyo's legal counsel Raul Lambino also advised her not to attend the Sona to avoid criticisms as Aquino is expected to mention Arroyo on his speech again.

In Aquino's Sona last year, Arroyo accompanied husband Jose Miguel Arroyo to Hong Kong for a medical check-up for the latter's aneurysm.

Her decision to skip the Sona also came following reports that Aquino will center his speech on alleged anomalies in the Arroyo administration.

Arroyo's intuition proved correct as Aquino disclosed several alleged irregularities during his predecessor's nine-year rule, including the alleged over-importation of rice that resulted in wastage and purported fat bonuses of officials in government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs).

Lacierda said delivering Sona is a President's constitutional mandate and Aquino will continue to address the people on Monday regardless of the presence of Arroyo.

"The President has been preparing for the Sona, with total indifference to whether Representative Arroyo is attending or not," he said.

Asked whether the Aquino's speech will once again center to the past administration, the Palace official said: "I don't want to preempt the President. Let us wait for his Sona."

He also refused to give even the slightest details about the President's speech.

The Aquino administration's alleged suppression of the workers' right to unionize the ecozones has been, meanwhile, the center of a militant protest at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) in Pasay City.

"After one year of President Benigno Aquino III, there is no new program to generate jobs, no new guideline to increase workers wages and no change in the no-union policy in the ecozones," Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda said.

To highlight its case, PM pointed out to Peza's supposed collusion in stifling workers efforts to unionize at the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) in Lapu-Lapu City.

A Japanese-owned company in MEZ, Blaze Manufacturing Corp., closed operations on the day that a certification election was held last June. The union won the elections for the first time in the history of that ecozone.

The PM chapter in Cebu already picketed the Peza office in Lapu-Lapu City last Monday.

Authorities have announced the suspension of classes in Quezon City on Monday for the second Sona of Aquino. (AH/Sunnex)

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