Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's State of the Nation address yesterday was more of a political campaign speech than a policy announcement for her last three years in power. When she assumed office in 2001, Mrs Arroyo promised to cut the cost of electricity, education, medicine and food as well as reduce red tape and corruption. Yesterday, she made the same promises. Mrs Arroyo devoted much of the 45 minutes to reminding her political allies what she had done for them and what was still to come. Meanwhile the Muslim conflict in the south got scant mention, and the long-running communist insurgency received none at all. Markedly absent from the televised address was any mention of the abducted Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi, who was freed by his kidnappers late last Thursday. Four years ago a Filipino truck driver, Angelo de la Cruz, who was abducted in Iraq, was Mrs Arroyo's special guest at her annual address that year. But Father Bossi was not present yesterday. A Catholic Church source said he apparently felt aggrieved about comments made by Mrs Arroyo at their meeting on Friday. In her speech, Mrs Arroyo briefly mentioned the conflict with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but only in reference to the recent ambush where 14 marines had been killed while searching for the abducted priest. In a recent press interview, Mrs Arroyo declared her 'ambition to sign a deal ending decades of Muslim insurgency'. But there was no mention of any such intent in her speech. Instead, she paid tribute to the 'massacred' marines and promised 'peace with justice' in any deal with the militants. She made the pledge with the military chief of staff, General Hermogenes Esperon, in the audience. On Sunday, a deadline set by General Esperon for the rebels to surrender those who had killed the marines expired. Now both sides are waiting for a major confrontation. At a recent summit organised by the Supreme Court to address political killings and forced disappearances, delegates from the government and private sector urged Mrs Arroyo to order the military and police to put a stop to extrajudicial killings by their rogue uniformed elements. But yesterday Mrs Arroyo only urged Congress to enact laws 'to transform the state response to political violence, laws to protect witnesses from law breakers and law enforcers ... laws reserving the harshest penalties for the rogue elements in the uniformed service'. Given the slow speed of the Philippine legislature, Mrs Arroyo is likely to step down in 2010 without seeing any such law passed. Her speech won rousing applause, especially when she promised infrastructural projects such as small business pilots in Mindanao and an airport in the town of Alaminos. However, her proposal for 'Congress to fund poll watchdogs and to enact an election law against election-related violence' received a muted response.