(UPDATE) Arroyo arrives from US, goes straight to Cory’s wake

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2009 03:48 AM | Updated as of Aug 05 2009 06:45 PM

MANILA - President Arroyo, after arriving from the United States on Wednesday early morning, immediately went to the Manila Cathedral and paid her last respects to former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino who succumbed to colon cancer August 1.

Arroyo had just come from the US in commercial Philippine Airlines Flight PR 105 which arrived 2:53 a.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

She paused for several moments in front of Mrs. Aquino’s remains and looked to have said a prayer for the late president.

She was received at the wake by the late president's son Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino Jr. with whom she sat and talked for several minutes along with the late president’s sister-in-law Lupita Kashiwahara.

After an estimated 10 minutes after she arrived, she again viewed the remains of former President Aquino and then President Arroyo left the wake.

President Arroyo was accompanied to the Manila Cathedral by officials including those who went with her to the US including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago as well as Presidential Political Affairs adviser Gabriel Claudio. Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Arroyo's former presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor were also at Aquino's wake before Mrs. Arroyo arrived.

Period of national mourning

Mrs. Arroyo was in Washington DC when Aquino passed away last Saturday. She immediately declared a 10-day period of national mourning from August 1 to 10. Mrs. Arroyo also declared August 5, the day of Aquino’s burial, as a special non-working holiday, to give the Filipino people the chance to honor the late president.

Remonde earlier said the president is “very sincere about her condolences”.

“She (Cory) was a great woman and she presided over the most important historical event in our country in the last 100 years and that is the peaceful People Power revolution,” President Arroyo was quoted in a statement on the Palace Web site to have told CNBC business news anchor and reporter Maria Bartiromo in an interview. The interview was reportedly aired by CNBC at 4:45 p.m. Monday in the United States (4:45 a.m. Tuesday Manila time).

The President served as Undersecretary for Trade and Industry during the Aquino administration.

The president, in her US trip, met US President Barack Obama at the White House July 30 (US Eastern time), with the two leaders praising Philippine-US partnership in a range of issues. The meeting, held at the Oval Office, lasted 45 minutes. She also discussed the fight against terrorism with Obama as well as the global economic crisis, climate change.

Earlier, Palace officials who went with Arroyo in her US trip have said the president would go to Aquino’s wake even as Aquino’s family refused a state funeral offer from Malacañang.

“Before they left for New York, her officials confirmed to reporters that President Arroyo will definitely, personally pay her last respects to President Aquino,“ reported Ging Reyes, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau chief.

Ermita had earlier said Mrs. Arroyo will arrive in Manila on Wednesday, the scheduled internment of the late president.

“Sec. Ermita expressed with certainty that he's almost sure that nothing untoward will happen, that the president will not be treated badly there, and they all expressed admiration for the Aquino family also, and don’t expect anything untoward once the president arrives at the wake,“ Reyes reported on ABS-CBN News.

Some local news reports have quoted Aquino’s son, Sen. Aquino that Mrs. Arroyo would not be welcomed. However, Sen. Aquino was also quoted that they would treat Mrs. Arroyo with civility and be polite to her if she attends their mother’s wake.

“As for Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, he said they're quite certain that even if Sen. Noynoy Aquino earlier expressed that the president won’t be welcomed at the wake, he's quite certain that things would go smoothly, that the opposition or the critics of President Arroyo will not go against the tradition of Filipinos in respecting and honoring our dead, especially the beloved, former President Cory,“ Reyes said.

Erstwhile allies

Aquino was once an ally of Arroyo and was instrumental in the incumbent president’s installation to power in 2001 where Aquino joined calls for the ouster of former president Joseph Estrada.

In response however to President Arroyo’s apology in 2005 for the “Hello Garci” scandal, Cory held a press conference asking President Arroyo to make “the supreme sacrifice” by resigning from office. The scandal concerns the release of wiretapped conversations allegedly between President Arroyo and then Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Virgilio Garcillano purportedly about padding in the 2004 presidential elections count,

Aquino would then lead prayers in different churches in Metro Manila to reiterate this call for President Arroyo to resign.

The late former president also threw her support for Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, the “secret witness” who emerged early morning of February 7 in 2008 implicating former Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos and First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo in the anomalous National Broadband Network deal with China’s ZTE Corporation

Mrs. Aquino's remains is set to be buried in a private ceremony in Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City on Wednesday. With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News and dzMM