Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Fresh from US, Arroyo visits Cory wake

AR Sabangan and Robert Basilio

She shortened her working trip to the US only to cut short again her supposed half-hour visit at the wake of former president Corazon Aquino, a political supporter who later sought her resignation.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo paid a brief seven-minute visit early Wednesday morning at the Manila Cathedral where the body of Mrs. Aquino lay in state. The President arrived at 3:42 a.m. and left at 3:49 a.m. She headed straight to the wake after her arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. She gave no statement to the media both at the airport and at the church.

Mrs. Aquino’s only son, Senator Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III, who welcomed President Arroyo at the church, was informed by his aunt and an Arroyo adviser, Lupita Aquino Kashiwara, that the chief executive was supposed to stay for 30 minutes, but left the church earlier than expected.

According to Kashiwara, President Arroyo wanted more people to view the remains of Mrs. Aquino. Public viewing of Mrs. Aquino’s remains was stopped for President Arroyo’s visit. Kashiwara, Mrs. Aquino’s sister-in-law, accompanied Mrs. Arroyo during her visit.

Pero nung nalaman nga raw nila na hihinto yung pila ng tao, minabuti nang tumuloy (But when they learned that the lines were stopped, they decided to proceed)," said the senator, who was at an arm’s length from the President while both were sitting on a church pew. Mrs. Arroyo, who wore an offwhite white blazer and black slacks, twice viewed Mrs. Aquino's remains.

Nonoy earlier said he would be polite to the chief executive but was not looking forward to the visit. Noynoy was the only child of Mrs. Aquino to meet with the President. The senator has been one of Mrs. Arroyo’s persistent critics in the Senate.

“We managed to treat each other civilly," Sen. Aquino told reporters who witnessed the encounter. “Wala naman kaming masyadong pinag-usapan, inaccompany ko lang siya... Ako’y masaya dahil natupad ko ang mga pangako ko sa aking mga magulang, yung tamang asal. Siguro naman di ako nagkulang sa tagubilin."

His sister Kris Aquino had left the cathedral hours earlier.

Three days ago, during the wake in La Salle Greenhills in Mandaluyong City, the youngest child of the democracy icon created a furor when she claimed that the Arroyo administration had pulled out the state security personnel assigned by the government to guard her mother when she was still alive.

The military claimed that it was only for “accounting" purposes and later restored the security.

In 2005, during the "Hello Garci" controversy, Mrs. Aquino called on President Arroyo to resign for allegedly rigging the results of the 2004 presidential elections. In December 2008, Mrs. Aquino also expressed regret for her participation in the 2001 uprising that catapulted Mrs. Arroyo to power.

When the President arrived at Mrs. Aquino’s wake, lines still snaked around the cathedral, with crowds soaked by the rain still hoping to catch a last glimpse of Cory Aquino.

She will be laid to rest later today after a funeral procession that many expect will rival her husband’s in the size of the crowd and intensity of the emotion.

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