Former President and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and President Rodrigo Duterte exchanged plaudits as Arroyo thanked the latter for being a good colleague in public service and a friend, while the Chief Executive said he drew inspiration from the former leader particularly in her efforts to strengthen the armed forces.
In her address during her appreciation dinner on Tuesday night at the Manila Hotel, Arroyo thanked Duterte for gracing her farewell party, for his sense of justice and the friendship he offered throughout her 27-year political career.
“You are the only Philippine President more popular in the middle of your term than in the beginning honeymoon period. You are the President most loved by his people among all leaders in the world today,” Arroyo said. “I am proud to be your friend,” she added.
“I thank you that when you became the President, you provided the atmosphere in which the Court had the freedom to acquit me of the trumped-up charges my successor and your predecessor filed against me, so that the Court voted 11-4 in my favor, including those who were appointed by my accuser,” Arroyo told Duterte.
The former President was referring to former President Benigno Aquino.
In his response, Mr. Duterte said Arroyo envisioned to make the Philippines a “strong republic.”
“I share her ideal. That’s also my slogan. I always said that my oath of office…reduce it in a very simple term is that: I swore to protect the people and preserve the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
“So I would like to say at no other time, have we acquired so many armaments. And there were things which I hope that Congress would tide us over to complete the instruments that we need in dealing especially with terrorism,” the President added.
The President hopes that by the time he steps down from power, the country’s security forces would be fully equipped to respond to all threats particularly violent extremism.
“I hope that by the time I make my exit, it will all be there because I am not belittling the events to come or the person coming in to be the next president. And I’d rather that I leave with a strong military and police equipped to challenge the enemies of the state, especially terrorism,” he explained.
Duterte foresees very dangerous times ahead especially in the restive Sulu and Basilan Islands. The government, he noted, must be prepared, adding there are things that the armed forces and the police must possess.
Praising the former leader for her tough leadership, Mr. Duterte said Arroyo’s decisive actions, even if such decisions would prove to be unpopular, carried the nation forward, especially during trying times.
“Indeed, President Arroyo’s extensive experience as a renowned economist and academic was crucial in laying down the foundations of our country’s steady economic growth during her term, the effects of which are still felt today and will be felt in the years ahead,” he said.
Serving in various capacities, Arroyo crossed party lines and worked with different sectors to implement legislations that improved the people’s welfare, brought decentralized development and instituted significant fiscal reforms that sustained the nation for almost three decades, he noted.
“Mr. President, I take this opportunity to thank you not only for giving me the chance to serve you as Speaker, but also for the three decades that we have worked together, starting from when you were a newly elected mayor and I was a newly appointed undersecretary of Trade and Industry,” Arroyo said.
“As early as then, I saw that your formula for development was peace and order combined with honest government. It worked in Davao and it is now working in the country under your leadership,” the former president added.
She also recalled Duterte’s support for her bid during her candidacies for Senator, Vice President and President.
“I can’t forget that in at least one of your campaign speeches, you told the people of Davao, ‘If you cannot vote for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, do not vote for me.’ No wonder I always won in Davao,” Arroyo said.