Arroyo hosts unity lunch at Palace
She urges collective patriotism,service to nation
By Genalyn Kabiling
Reaching out to both allies and critics, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hosted last Friday's "unity lunch" in Malacaņang, stressing that various sectors of the government "must see even in the widest divide the opportunity for collective patriotism and the will to serve the common good."
"We shall have reconciliation with justice, reconciliation with democracy, and reconciliation with prosperity for all," the President told her guests. "We shall seek peace with honor and dignity among former foes."
Indeed, it was an occasion to mend broken fences and reach out with warm, sincere handshakes.
Mrs. Arroyo's gesture drew praises from guests who included Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Senate President Franklin Drilon, and Speaker Jose de Venecia.
Davide noted that the President's initiative was a step towards unity because "we should really move forward for national progress."
Davide was the central figure in an impeachment impasse initiated by congressmen belonging to the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC).
Among those who attended was Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. who has had a falling out with the Cabinet and the ruling Lakas-CMD. He later told reporters that "any reconciliation must be based on something that would be good for the people, for the poor especially."
Also present at the two-hour luncheon were prominent leaders of the opposition including Makati Rep. Agapito "Butz" Aquino, a staunch supporter of former President Joseph Estrada, and NPC Rep. Marcelino Libanan, chairman of the House committee on justice, where the impeachment complaint against Davide was filed.
Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Gabriel Claudio said 35 congressmen, including six from the NPC, attended the affair.
From the Supreme Court, Associate Justices Adolf Azcuna, Dante Tinga, Josue Bellosillo, and Leonardo Quisumbing were present.
Accompanying Drilon from the Senate were opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Lakas Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr.
From the religious sector came Archbishop Fernando Capalla, who was designated peace negotiator to the Marcos, Estrada, and Cojuangco camps; Jesuit priest Fr. Romeo Intengan and Iglesia ni Cristo spokesperson Bienvenido Santiago and liaison officer Lowell Menorca.
"This is a historic time in our nation, and we are glad to have leaders with a keen sense of history. Our gathering here is not only in celebration of the triumph of national unity and solidarity in the aftermath of a threatened crisis. It is a reaffirmation of our collective faith in the Filipino and the future of the Republic," Arroyo said in her welcome remarks.
The President urged her guests "to rise above our partisan, sectoral, and personal interests and pledge to serve what is common to us all - the nation and our people."
Davide expresssed hopes that "something more positive would come out of this initiative of the President."
He noted that while those who initiated the impeachment complaint against him did not attend the affair, "the call (to unity) has already been made by the President."
Civil society groups
Taking another step in her national reconciliation initiative, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday enlisted the support of civil society groups to help her government unite the country in the face of political and economic problems.
A day after hosting a "unity lunch" for Supreme Court and Congress leaders in Malacaņang, the President attended a dialogue called "Isang Tanong, Isang Sagot" with over 100 leaders of various civil society groups at the Ateneo Professional School in Makati City.
The President said it was imperative to heal the deep divisions between the EDSA 2 and EDSA 3 forces, among other national conflicts, for the country to move forward.
"If we must survive, national unity and reconciliation are the resolution that is non-negotiable. We must be relentless in its pursuit, no matter how impossible it looks," she said in her speech.
She admitted that reconciling the forces of EDSA 2, composed mostly of civil society groups, and the EDSA 3, composed of the followers of former President Joseph Estrada, would be the "most difficult" in her proposed national reconciliation and healing plan.
"I believe, for civil society, we must find a closure to the deep divisions between Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (EDSA) 2 and EDSA 3," she added.
After the swift resolution of the Davide impeachment controversy, President Arroyo also extended her hand of reconciliation to anti-government forces, including the communist-led New People's Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"To be able to unite a divided country, I need the help of the people like civil society to understand what I'm doing. And maybe, one of my weaknesses is that we haven't been able to understand each other enough," she said.
Mrs. Arroyo also asked the civil society group members who attended the affair to influence Filipinos towards unity and change of values.
"This is a country of intelligent people, but why are we miserable? I believe it's because we delight in the things that divide us, more than the things that unite us," she said.
In her speech, the President listed her government's impressive accomplishments in governance, economy, and peace and order, giving credit to some members of civil society who joined her administration.
But the President acknowledged that long-term political and economic reforms and reconciliation must be pursued "to bring our country to real political and social stability and real economic development."
Among the vital reforms needed are in the sectors of fiscal policies, governance, infrastructure development, agricultural modernization, and "reforms in our confrontational selves," Arroyo said. (GDK)
Bron : The Manila Bulletin Online
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