Thursday, 6 August 2009

GMA makes brief stop at Cory’s wake

Recto Mercene
Business Mirror

THE estimates vary, but it took about 10 minutes for President Arroyo to stay at the wake of former President Corazon Aquino at the Manila Cathedral. She cut short her planned 30-minute stay so as not to provoke a long line of mourners waiting for their turn to see the late President.

From the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, where she flew in at 2:50 a.m. from San Francisco, Mrs. Arroyo went straight to the cathedral followed by a convoy of Palace reporters who were not allowed to come into the church as a request of the Aquino family.

Since Monday, however, television crews, reporters and photographers from several networks were already stationed at the cathedral.

Mrs. Arroyo entered the rear entrance reserved for priests, where she was met by Sen. Benigno Aquino III, only son of the former President. Also present were Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara, Mrs. Aquino’s sister-in-law and Arroyo’s image builder.

President Arroyo could not enter through the main entrance as a 10-wheeler truck to be used for Mrs. Aquino’s funeral procession was already positioned there and the road was closed.

Wearing black pants and blouse underneath a beige suit, the President glanced at the coffin and was ushered to the first row to join Senator Aquino; Kashiwahara; Jackie Aquino, daughter of Butz Aquino; the President’s son and Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Ignacio Jose Maria “Dato” Arroyo; Marikina City Mayor Maria Lourdes Fernando; and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando.

At 3:49 a.m., Arroyo approached Mrs. Aquino’s coffin for the second and last time and made the sign of the cross. She left the cathedral at 3:50 a.m. and motored back to Malacañang.

Before Mrs. Arroyo arrived at the cathedral, there was an advance party composed of presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. and Philippine National Railways chairman Michael Defensor.

Presidential Management Staff head Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Metro Manila police director Chief Supt. Roberto Rosales were also present.

Arroyo took with her to the Manila Cathedral many members of her delegation to the US, including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, Acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, and the Fernando couple.

Remonde, in a press briefing later in Malacañang, said Mrs. Arroyo appreciated Senator Aquino’s civility toward her and her entourage.

Remonde said the President was supposed to stay for 30 minutes but she learned that the long line of people waiting to view the former President’s body had to be stopped due to her presence.

He admitted that while Mrs. Arroyo was in the US, there was a debate among her Cabinet secretaries and supporters on whether she should attend the wake and risk being embarrassed or treated badly by Mrs. Aquino’s sympathizers.

“The President was willing to take the risk.... In the end, the President said we would just do what is right.... She made a lot of sacrifices during her term as president and she’s willing to endure one more. She did what was proper,” he said.

He said First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was not around because he was left behind in New York for a scheduled medical checkup. He said Malacañang coordinated the President’s visit with the Aquino family through Claudio and Lourdes “Deedee” Siytangco, the Aquino family’s spokesperson.

Asked why Palace reporters were not allowed to join the convoy to the Manila Cathedral, he said: “There was an agreement that we will not bring any media because some people felt it might aggravate the situation...But I knew that was not possible because there were many media members who were on stake out at the Manila Cathedral.”

He said Ermita and Romulo would be Mrs. Arroyo’s representatives in the funeral rites.

He said President Arroyo canceled all her engagements for the day, except for the 8 a.m. Mass for Mrs. Aquino at Malacañang’s Heroes’ Hall.

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