07/27/2006, 00.00
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In her speech to Congress president portrays a country that doesn't exist, say bishops

Several prelates criticise the president's State of the Nation Address to Congress for what she mentioned—alleged success in the fight against poverty—and what she did not mention—the country's current political situation.

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) – While praising President Arroyo's programmes for the country's future, some Filipino Catholic bishops took issue with her Monday's State of the Nation Address to Congress for failing to deal with its real situation and problems.

For Mgr Oscar Cruz, archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, what the President did was to take a futuristic approach to the nation's challenges even though its present state is "dim and dismal."

"While it is understandable to say where the country is going and what people can expect, it is incongruous to have a State of the Nation Address precisely so much focused instead on what it is not," he said.

In her speech Ms Arroyo vowed to share power with the provinces and said that the country's future largely depends on aggressive socio-economic development. The bishops, however, are sceptical about her agenda becoming a concrete reality.

Archbishop Cruz insisted that there must be a sufficient funding to do them, unity among government leaders and enough time. But "if the same national leadership cannot even rid the country of a stupid illegal numbers game like 'jueteng', it is quixotic for it to even imagine that it can deliver so many fantastic and grandiose national projects," he said, especially since she has less than 4 years left in her term to see her plans implemented.

Mgr Deogracias Imenez, bishop of Caloocan, has also added his critical voice to the debate. For him, the president should have instead discussed the several impeachment complaints she is facing because it would show the real picture of the country.

Finally, Mgr Antonio Tobias said: "I heard that the number of the poor is dropping and that poverty will be eradicated. Right now though, more than two million people in the Philippines are living below the poverty line and I can't see any improvement to their situation any time soon".

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Filipino bishops: agricultural reform and defense of life, to revive the country
Filipino bishops give Aquino a passing grade
Aquino speaks to the nation but disappoints Filipinos, who are tired of utopias and proclamations
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