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Aquino to skip Duterte SoNA again

For the third time, former President Benigno S. Aquino III will skip President Duterte’s State-of-the-Nation Address and will not be able to hear first hand criticisms that might be hurled against how he managed government during his six-year term.

The House of Representatives announced that unlike his ally, Vice President Leni G. Robredo, Aquino will not join former Presidents in the special seats reserved for them.

“President Aquino already sent regrets,” the Inter-Parliamentary Relations and Special Affairs Bureau of the House of Representatives said yesterday.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos and former President now Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada said they will attend the SoNA on Monday at the Plenary Hall of the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

Former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria M. Arroyo is expected to occupy her usual seat as member of the 17th Congress. This will be the third SoNA Arroyo will attend since she completed her presidency in 2010.

Arroyo also snubbed the first two SoNAs delivered by Aquino, both of which made her administration the center of her successor’s public censure.

She became the centerpiece of Aquino’s attacks in his remaining SoNAs but the second lady President of the country by then had a plausible alibi for not showing up. Arroyo was placed under hospital arrest for over four years on charges that the Aquino government pursued.

Government lawyers had also vigorously opposed Arroyo’s requests for temporary release although it is not known whether or not she sought one for her chief detractor’s SoNA.

All criminal charges against Arroyo were later dismissed. Last week, House Secretary General Cesar Strait-Pareja disclosed that all invitations for former and incumbent government officials have been sent and that they were awaiting confirmation.

Among those who confirmed their SoNA presence were former House Speaker Jose C. de Venecia Jr. and former Senate Presidents Juan Ponce Enrile, Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., and Manuel Villar. (Ben R. Rosario)