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Aquino delivers tearful national address.

Manila: Philippine President Benigno Aquino III delivered his annual national address Monday in the face of what could well be the biggest challenge to his four year-old presidency -- an impeachment complaint.

"The Filipino is worth fighting for," Aquino, 54, tearfully said near the end of an hour and a half State of the Nation Address (SONA) where he listed the accomplishments of his administration.

"If by any chance that I would not still be here, always remember that what I did was all for the good of this country," he said.

Aquino is facing several impeachment bids filed by various groups in connection with his alleged misuse of government funds under the Disbursement Allocation Programme (DAP).

Observers said the attempts to remove him have little chance of prospering as most members of the House belong to Aquino's Liberal Party.

Three weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled the government move to spend DAP funds was "illegal" since such spending is not under the national budget which was approved by Congress.

Now, critics want Aquino to account for the funds and take the fall for making the decision.

As Aquino was delivering his speech inside the Batasan (House of Representatives Compound) in suburban Quezon City, firemen trained their high-pressure water hoses at demonstrators.

The demonstrators were carrying a giant pig-shaped effigy of Aquino brandishing a pistol holding an image of a wooden barrel.

During Aquino's speech, several lawmakers, belonging to the so-called "Makabayan" or nationalist bloc, held a walkout.

"This walkout is our act of protest against a corrupt system," Representative Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna (Nation First) said.

For its part, left-wing group, the New Nationalist Alliance (Bayan) said: "Aquino's anticorruption campaign has been exposed as a sham by his stubborn defence of the pork barrel system. The DAP has also revealed the dictatorial tendencies of Aquino, who now thinks he is above the law and beyond the reach of the Supreme Court," Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan said.

In an interview aired by Solar News television, political analyst Malou Tiquia said the President's speech had missed settling the issue over the illegal government fund allocations that went to the PDAF.

"He (Aquino) has to respond to these allegation to clarify the matter to the people as well as be held accountable for his actions," she said.

Reviving faith

For his part, Senate President Franklin Drilon called on his colleagues to focus on reviving the people's faith in the Senate and the government in general.

"The eyes of the people are upon us again as we open the second regular session of the 16th Congress. I view this day as our opportunity to recover the people's faith in their Senate, regain their trust and revive their confidence," Drilon said in a speech during the opening of the Second Regular Session at the Batasan during the SONA.

The Senate had lost much of its credibility after three of its members, Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jingoy Estrada and Bong Revilla were accused of dipping their hands into the pork barrel funds.

Officially referred to as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the pork barrel fund is a discretionary budget allotted for lawmakers intended for projects for their constituents.

Ponce-Enrile, Estrada and Revilla had been accused by whistle-blower Benjur Luy of diverting funds allotted for his office to "ghost projects" and pocketing the allocation in cahoots with businesswomen-political power broker Janet Lim-Napoles.

The three Senators are currently on under 90-day suspension and are detained at a holding area inside the Philippine National Police compound in Camp Crame in Quezon City.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jul 29, 2014
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