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‘Scenes’ At The Obama-Arroyo Summit, July 30, 2009 (2nd Update)

July 17, 2009


So It is that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is going to the White House today to meet with her American counterpart.

And even though it’s not a State Visit (with all the trimmings like an address before the US Senate and House of Representatives and a State Dinner tendered by Pres. Barack Obama and His First Lady Michelle)  Pres. Arroyo’s official working visit should make Filipinos  proud whatever their political stripe.

Mrs. Arroyo is, after all, still our Head  of State and Head of Government until June 30 next year

Setting aside the questions about the ‘summons’, errr ‘invitation’, having come at short notice we can be sure Pres. Arroyo will come home with assurances of continued American support for the Philippines’ fight against terrorists and its efforts to weather the global economic crunch.

Surely Pres. Obama will expect, and receive, firm assurances in return that the Philippines’ constitutionally-mandated presidential elections on May 10, 2010 with Arroyo handing over power to a duly-elected regime committed to positive change: a new government sworn to transparency, integrity, and the rule of law.

She will also have to assure Mr. Obama about efforts to restore faith in the criminal justice system with focus on the protection of human rights now under seige from  extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance, along with serious concerns about corruption in the public service.

Pres. Arroyo would in turn be able to say proudly that her presidency is in good standing at the Obama White House as she winds up her 9-year-long reign by sustained economic growth (even as such growth remained unfelt by the Filipino masses).

After July 30 my photo montage above will be replaced by authentic scenes.


Former Air Force Chief and retired Maj. Gen. Ramon Farolan, who also served as Customs Commissioner is perhaps one if not the most respected ex militsary men in the country.

His calm, fatherly demeanor never fails to impress and inspire, along with his unassailed integrity.

I make this prefatory note in light of Mr. Farolan’s recent column in the Inquirer where he gave a reading of what message CIA chief Leon bore when he met Pres. Arroyo several weeks ago:

After the amenities and briefings were done with, Panetta and Arroyo retired to another room for private talks.
Panetta: President Obama sends his best wishes. He extends an invitation for you to visit Washington. You will be the first leader from Southeast Asia to be so honored. The date has been set for July 30. The President’s schedule is quite full and we hope that you will be able to adjust, considering the short notice. It will be a “no frills” type of visit—an Oval Office meeting and possibly, coffee with Mrs. Obama. Our economy is in bad shape and we are operating under austerity conditions.
Arroyo: I’ll be there.
Panetta: President Obama has also asked me to convey to you his concerns about the future of the Philippines. (Does that sound familiar?) It is important that elections next year push through as scheduled, and we see no need for the imposition of any kind of emergency rule. We are aware of the sudden and unexplained changes in the AFP leadership (a reference to the sacking of Generals Yano and Luna, AFP chief of staff and vice chief of staff, respectively). We hope that the military remains focused on the insurgency and terror threats and not get involved in politics.
Also, Madam President, any changes in the Constitution can wait until after the elections. In the meantime, it is best to observe term limits.
Arroyo: You leave me few options.
Panetta: As someone once said, we should cut, and cut cleanly.
Just as Panetta is about to leave the room, he turns toward Mrs. Arroyo and says: President Obama is concerned about the delicate health of Mr. Arroyo. Perhaps he should stay home.

While Mr. Farolan’s essay is rendered in tongue-in-cheek fashion it certainly is full of insight.

His end reference to First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is full of meaning given persistent rumors that US authorities have been investigating Mr. Arroyo’s financial activities.

In fairness to Atty. Arroyo such scuttlebutt has not been confirmed by US authorities.

As it turns out the First Gentleman is joining the trip, along with 20 members of Congress with the Philippine delegation taking a commercial flight (to save money, Malacanang says).

This should not be seen except in a positive light.

But as GMA flies out she is leaving behind a society potentially even more divided after her supposedly final SONA.

She is leaving Filipinos in greater darkness about her intentions when the time comes for her to step down from her checkered Presidency on June 30, 2010.

I am also shaking my head over why her supposedly ‘valedictory’ SONA  will likely now be remembered more for Mrs. Arroyo’s quite ‘unpresidential’ rebuke ofher critics rather than having served the purpose of forging greater national unity and consensus:

Picking up from where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo left off, her allies Tuesday continued the verbal assault on her political foes amid criticisms over her purported final State of the Nation Address (SONA).

I am asking myself if after the next 10 months the legacy of this President will be that of a nation irreconcilably torn apart in poverty and hopelessness.

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