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Arroyo cuts short US trip, sets August 5 holiday for Cory

August 2, 2009 7:49am

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is cutting short her visit to the United States so she can pay her last respects to former president Corazon Aquino, whose funeral is scheduled on Wednesday, a palace spokesperson said Sunday.

Mrs. Arroyo also declared Wednesday, August 5, a non-working special holiday to give Filipinos a chance to take part in the burial rites of Mrs. Aquino. The former Philippine leader passed away early Saturday after battling colon cancer for more than a year.

Deputy presidential spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said Mrs. Arroyo, who met with US president Barack Obama last July 30 and was officially scheduled to return to the country sometime on Aug. 5, expects to be back in Manila before dawn Wednesday.

"Ang gusto ni Pangulo na the moment we arrive magpunta na siya sa wake ni dating Pangulong Cory (The President wants to go to the wake of former president Cory the moment we arrive)," Fajardo said in an interview on dzBB radio.

She made no reference to the statement of Mrs. Aquino's son, who had earlier said he was not keen on having Mrs. Arroyo at the wake. His mother had been calling for the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo, who has been embroiled in election fraud and corruption scandals, since 2005.

In an interview with Jessica Soho of GMA Network during the first night of the wake Saturday, Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said: "Kung pupunta ho dito, kung gusto ho niyang magdasal, siguro ho eh thank you na rin ho. Pero yung point naman na I'm looking forward to it, I'm not."

(If she comes here, if she wants to pray, we'll be thankful. But if the point is, if I'm looking forward to it, I'm not.)

Noynoy said his lack of enthusiasm stemmed from the controversies hounding the Arroyo administration.

"We have all these issues that remain unresolved starting with "Hello, Garci" and NBN-ZTE controversy to the fertilizer scam. I don't want to go through this list, which is quite extensive," he said.

Fajardo said Mrs. Arroyo and the presidential delegation is still in New Jersey for meetings with the Filipino community. However, she will skip business meetings there as well as other scheduled meetings in Chicago and Guam to return to the Philippines.

“Na-cancel nga ang mga lakad na yan kaya sa Lunes ng umaga babalik na kami. Dadaan kami ng San Francisco, kasi nandoon ang eroplano na sasakyan namin (Those visits have been canceled and we will be heading back to Manila on Monday morning via to San Francisco)," she said.

Fajardo said Mrs. Arroyo declared Aug. 5 a special nonworking holiday “para sa mga gusto mag-pay ng last respects at makikipaglibing (for Filipinos who want to pay their last respects and join the funeral procession and burial)." Malacañang earlier announced a 10-day period of national mourning for the death of the country's democracy icon.

Fajardo said Malacañang officials are coordinating with the family of Mrs. Aquino about arrangements for the funeral. Earlier, the Aquino family declined the government’s offer to arrange a state funeral, which would involve bringing the former president's remains to Malacañang.

Instead, the Aquino family opted for a public wake at the La Salle gymnasium in Greenhills and the Manila cathedral. Mrs. Aquino will be buried at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque beside the remains of her husband, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

The assassination of Mr. Aquino in 1983 had sparked widespread protests that culminated in the 1986 EDSA people power revolt that swept Mrs. Aquino the presidency.

“Tayo nire-respeto natin and we defer to wishes of family ano ang gusto nila (We respect their decision and we give in to the wishes of the family)," Fajardo said.

Fajardo said the Filipinos they visited in the United States were “malungkot na malungkot (very sad)."

“Everyone loved Cory ... She is a great woman and very admirable na icon 'di lang ng democracy kundi a person who has a very strong faith, very steadfast at dapat i-emulate natin (Everyone loved Cory ... She is a great woman and a very admirable icon, not only of democracy but also of a person who has a very strong faith. She should be emulated)," Fajardo said. - GMANews.TV
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