Stars did not miss President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III's first State of the Nation Address (SONA). Many were present at the Session Hall, both as guests of politicians or as politicians themselves.
PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) was witness to the historical event yesterday afternoon, July 26, monitoring the events as they happened.
Presidential sisters Pinky Aquino-Abellada, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, and Viel Aquino-Dee were present to support their brother sans Kris Aquino, who is on a vacation in the U.S. with sons Josh and Baby James.
Celebrity couples spotted by the PEP team were Leyte Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez and husband Richard Gomez, Sarangani Representative boxing champ Manny Pacquiao and wife Jinky, and Senator Bong Revilla and his wife, Cavite Representative Lani Mercado.
Also present were Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Quezon City Councilor and former teen star Precious Hipolito-Castelo, Bataan Board Member Teri Onor, Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos, and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos.
Senator Kiko Pangilinan arrived without his wife Sharon Cuneta, but he told the press the Megastar has lent her support. Sen. Pangilinan withdrew his candidacy for the Senate president a day before the voting.
Former President Joseph Estrada arrived with his wife Loi Ejercito-Estrada. Former President Fidel Ramos also came to witness the historic address. Reports said the two former presidents snubbed each other although they were only a seat apart.
Actress Assunta de Rossi, veteran actor Rez Cortez, and Pinoy Idol winner Gretchen Espina came as guests. Assunta is the wife of Negros Occidental Representative Jules Ledesma. Rez accompanied ex-President Estrada. Gretchen is the daughter of Biliran Representative Rogelio Espina.
No-show were former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and husband Mike Arroyo. Reports said the two flew to Hong Kong the previous evening to have Mr. Arroyo's aortic aneurysm treated.
Many attendees dolled up just to attend the SONA—many wore their best jewelry to match the gowns especially made for the occasion. The event had a red carpet that featured guests wearing clothes crafted by the best and the brightest fashion designers in the country today.
Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez, for instance, walked the red carpet wearing a new light blue gown created by Randy Ortiz.
"Of course, this is a historical event, so you have to be properly dressed for the occasion," she told PEP.
Similarly, Assunta de Rossi walked the red carpet in a new yellow gown created by Avel Bacudio. Manny Pacquiao's wife Jinkee wore a pink beaded gown created by Pepsi Herrera.
Other designers with creations at the SONA were Patis Tesoro, Dita Sandico-Ong, Edwin Tan, Edgar San Diego, Uila Cruz, among others.
The guests started arriving at around 1 p.m. President Aquino started his speech at 4 p.m. and ended it at 4:45 p.m.
EXPOSÉS. The topics discussed in his SONA were the fight against corruption and previous instances of fraud in the former administration; poverty alleviation, infrastructure development, abolition of red tape in government, improvement of health care, and the peace talks. (CLICK HERE to read full transcript of the SONA)
President Aquino revealed several exposés in his SONA to stress that his administration will be different from the previous one, which had been fraught with corrupt practices.
"Matagal pong naligaw ang pamahalaan sa daang baluktot. Araw-araw po, lalong lumilinaw sa akin ang lawak ng problemang ating namana. Damang-dama ko ang bigat ng aking responsibilidad," Aquino dclared.
The exposé focused on the budget deficit facing his administration, a result of several budget misappropriations Aquino said had been committed under the rule of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
These misappropriations were disguised in the release of funds for calamity assistance, as unfair "rewards" to officials in several government agencies, "unplanned" infrastructure projects, and others.
"Kasuklam-suklam ang kalakarang ito. Pera na, naging bato pa," Aquino said.
PROMISES. To stamp out corruption, Aquino promised a "zero-based approach," ensuring that the budget is spent wisely.
"Sa susunod na buwan ay maghahain tayo ng budget na kumikilala nang tama sa mga problema, at magtutuon din ng pansin sa tamang solusyon," he announced.
Aquino also maintained that his administration will continue to prosecute tax evaders and corrupt government officials. He also aims to stop extrajudicial killings.
"Pananagutin natin ang mga mamamatay-tao. Pananagutin din natin ang mga corrupt sa gobyerno," he said.
To boost the economy, Aquino hopes to solidify "public-private partnerships." He said this initiative will be positive for all sectors: education, health, peace and order, agriculture, infrastructure and tourism.
"Mula sa mga public-private partnerships na ito, lalago ang ating ekonomiya, at bawat Pilipino makikinabang. Napakaraming sektor na matutulungan nito," he said.
Bureaucratic red tape will also be reduced, Aquino said.
On education, Aquino stressed that the Philippines will aspire for a "global standard" in education, by increasing the basic education cycle from 10 years to 12 years. The PhilHealth program will also be refined to greater serve families who need the most help.
Aquino also vowed to fight for peace in Mindanao and all over the country, by offering peace talks to rebel groups.
Aquino ended his speech by moving his constituents to hope for a better future.
"Akin pong paniwala na Diyos at taumbayan ang nagdala sa ating kinalalagyan ngayon. Habang nakatutok tayo sa kapakanan ng ating kapwa, bendisyon at patnubay ay tiyak na maaasahan natin sa Poong Maykapal. At kapag nanalig tayo na ang kasangga natin ay ang Diyos, mayroon ba tayong hindi kakayanin?
"Ang mandato nating nakuha sa huling eleksyon ay patunay na umaasa pa rin ang Pilipino sa pagbabago. Iba na talaga ang situwasyon. Puwede na muling mangarap. Tayo nang tumungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pinangarap."
REACTIONS. PEP asked several celebrities to convey their reactions to President Aquino's SONA.
According to Rez Cortez, he remembered Fernando Poe Jr. when he was listening to Aquino's address. Rez is the president of the FPJ for President Movement, which pushed for the presidential candidacy of the late King of Philippine Movies.
"Punong-puno ng puso. Yun din ang pinaglalaban namin sa FPJ for President Movement," Rez said. "Babantayan namin si President Aquino at magdadasal na rin para sa kanya."
U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. found the speech "outstanding". "The parts I did understand were really outstanding to everyone," he said.
New Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez liked the speech. "It was short but very siksik," she said.
Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Teddy Casiño, however, was "disappointed." "Hindi naisama ang ilang mahahalagang issue, tulad ng Freedom of Information Bill."
Senator Miguel Zubiri was not pleased with Aquino's approach to health care. "Sana meron po tayong universal health care, hindi lamang PhilHealth," he said.
Senator Loren Legarda, likewise, was disappointed that issues on climate change and the environment were not included. "But let's give him a chance," Legarda said.
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