Philippine Bishops Congratulate Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines, JULY 1, 2004 ( The Philippines’ bishops sent their congratulations to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her inauguration as the nation’s 14th president on Wednesday.

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«We have been vigilant and prayerful before, during, and after the May 10 national elections, especially the canvassing phase in the halls of Congress,» said Monsignor Hernando Coronel, the secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, according to an AsiaNews report.

«We join the entire Filipino nation in its much-awaited conclusion to the electoral exercise, culminating in Your Excellency’s proclamation early morning on June 24,» he said. «Be assured of the pastoral solicitude of the bishops, especially on programs alleviating the plight of our poor countrymen and women.»

During the campaign, Arroyo, 57, stressed her program for the poor during her new six-year term as president: more-affordable medicines, clean potable water for communities, loans for small income-generating projects, and more jobs.

Elected vice president in 1998, Arroyo first stepped into the presidency in early 2001 after anti-corruption protests forced Joseph Estrada from office. Former television newsreader Noli de Castro was elected vice president.

Political instability, corruption, tax evasion, poverty, and Communist and Muslim guerrilla groups are among the challenges facing Arroyo over the next six years, the Missionary Service News Agency reported.

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