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May 25th
Home Columns JGL Eye “A Night with the Philippine President”
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Columns - JGL Eye
Tuesday, 18 November 2008 23:15

C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – Filipinos living in Chicago area should be thankful to American voters for electing Sen. Barack Obama as the new President of the United States.


Because of the historic election of Mr. Obama as the first African-American President, people overseas have suddenly shown renewed interest in the city of Chicago.


The “second city” has become the political capital of the world for a night and will be so during the transition of power and throughout the Obama administration.


Calls from foreign leaders started pouring in earnest as soon as Mr. Obama was declared President-elect during the November 4 Election Night party at Chicago’s Grant Park that was beamed world wide.


Never mind if these leaders called Mr. Obama past midnight in Chicago and kept the answering machine working.


Suddenly, the city, known as the “windy” and cold city of Al Capone and Michael Jordan, has become a popular tourist destination.


Before the U.S. election, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was planning to go to New York to deliver her annual address at the United Nations. There was no mention of Chicago in the itinerary.


Mixing With FilAms

After Mr. Obama became the President-elect, Mrs. Arroyo re-routed her trip to New York by making a stopover in Chicago for a few hours. She did not expect to meet with Mr. Obama, her Press Secretary Jess Dureza told me. But she was happy to meet with the Filipino-American community.


Mr. Dureza said it was unfortunate that when Mrs. Arroyo called to congratulate Mr. Obama, the call was placed at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., which was the wrong place. He told me it would have made more sense if the call was placed among leaders of the Filipino-American community, who helped in the campaign for the election of Mr. Obama.


But on her first visit as President in 2002, Mrs. Arroyo could have established a link to the Filipino-American community. But she passed up the chance by merely speaking before the Economic Club of Chicago and failed to meet with the Filipino-American community and the media.


She was just happy to hold a photo-op with the Philippine Consulate staff.


But this time, she made sure that she delivered her remarks and mixed with the Filipino-American community.


I pity Secretary Dureza because word immediately circulated that there would be no press conference during her second visit to Chicago. This would have been a golden opportunity for President Arroyo and Secretary Dureza to have face time with the media and sum up her accomplishments during the last eight years of her administration.


With her stopover at the Los Angeles, California on Nov. 21 on her way to the Asian-Pacific Economic Conference in Peru, some community journalists led by Bobby Reyes and Romy Marquez are not too thrilled to listen to Mrs. Arroyo’s farewell tour.


It is also unfortunate that Mrs. Arroyo, a well-schooled and articulate Philippine President, would not hold a press conference just to answer a few questions.

It would be another matter if Mrs. Arroyo has the same bearing and reputation as her protégé and kabalen (province mate), Sen. Lito Lapid, who, according to news reports, has yet to speak a word during Senate deliberations.


When Mrs. Arroyo took office as President, I was happy that she could take after the lead of President Fidel V. Ramos, who was holding a press conference every Wednesday!


Not Media-Friendly

Although not as articulate as Mrs. Arroyo, then Vice President Joseph E. Estrada sought out the media in Chicago when he was a guest speaker in 1996 at an Independence Week celebration and held a press conference. I thought if a school dropout like Mr. Estrada could gamely face the media, why can’t Mrs. Arroyo, who pursued a doctorate degree in economics at the University of the Philippines and was a magna cum laude graduate in economics at the Assumption College, do better?


If Mrs. Arroyo could not hold a press conference, I shudder at the thought how Vice President Noli de Castro will fare if Mr. De Castro happens to pay a call on Mr. Obama in Washington, D.C. if he wins the 2010 presidential elections? Will the foreign media be ready with Mr. De Castro, holding a press conference, with a Tagalog-English translator by his side, like Japanese Prime Ministers do? God bless the Philippines!


The arrival and public appearance of Mrs. Arroyo last week was my third meeting with her.


My first meeting with her was on May 12, 2000 when the kumpare (family friend) of then President Joseph E. Estrada, Bubby Dacer, invited me to “A Night with the Vice President” (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) hosted by the Manila Overseas Press Club at the Manila Hotel.


I happened  to be in Manila at that time when Mr. Dacer told me, “Joe, ewanan na natin si Erap (President Estrada’s nickname) bale-wala naman tayo sa kanya. Tulungan na lang natin si Gloria (then, Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo). Pasyal ka mamaya sa event ng Manila Overseas Press Club sa Manila Hotel). I obliged Mr. Dacer’s invitation by showing up at the Manila Hotel.” (Joe, let’s leave Erap by himself, he was just taking us for granted. Let’s support Gloria. Drop by tonight at the Manila Overseas Press Club event at the Manila Hotel.)


Somebody happened to snap my photo with then Vice President Arroyo in the Manila Hotel and I asked Secretary Dureza to have that photo autographed by President Arroyo.

While Mrs. Arroyo was autographing our photo, I told her the photo was taken after I was invited by Mr. Dacer at the Manila Hotel event hosted by the MOPC.


Will She Solve the Dacer-Corbito Murders?

I told President Arroyo if she can help pursue the masterminds of the killer of Mr. Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, it would be a legacy of her administration.


Mrs. Arroyo merely quipped, “Oo, nga” (Oh, yes).  Of course, the assurance of President Arroyo to run after the masterminds of the Dacer-Corbito double murder will be a wistful thinking.


After President Cory Aquino took power for six years, she failed to pinpoint the masterminds behind the assassination of her husband, the late Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr.


Before I parted ways with Secretary Dureza, Ms. Lourdes Ceballos, vice president of the National Press Club of the Philippines in the United States, asked me to introduce her to Mr. Dureza.


Ms. Ceballos asked Mr. Dureza if he received the resolution of the NPC-Phil. U. SA. emailed to her, expressing concerns over the kidnapping and killings of Filipino journalists under the watch of President Arroyo.


Mr. Dureza reminded me to resend to him the copy of the resolution so he can show it to President Arroyo for her response.


If only Mrs. Arroyo can pinpoint the masterminds behind the double murder of Dacer and Corbito and put to stop the killings and kidnapping of Filipino journalists during her last year in office, she will be considered a great leader.


And I will even support her to run as an assemblyperson in her native Pampanga province in the event charter change would be in place after she steps down after the 2010 presidential elections. (


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 23:17

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