MANILA – She describes herself as "not pro-GMA" but Zambales Rep. and senatorial bet Mitos Magsaysay believes former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a better President than the incumbent as far as work style is concerned.
Magsaysay, who once called President Aquino the “most amateur, stubborn, laid back, lazy, immature, and least knowledgeable president we ever had,” said she admires the former president for her hands-on style of management.
Asked to compare the two presidents and choose which one is better, she told ANC’s Headstart: “For work style, I think GMA because she was more hands-on in terms of...she knows what each and every Cabinet member is doing 24/7. I saw how she worked in the past administration. She was up very early. Every time there was something happening in an agency, she’s on top of it because let’s face it, the Cabinet secretary is the alter ego of the president.”
Asked if she believes Arroyo is corrupt, she said: “They perceive that she is corrupt but so far, nothing has been proven yet. They are all allegations but nothing has been proven. Let’s just say some people in her administration and probably those around her were corrupt.”
During the interview, Magsaysay defended Arroyo on a number of issues including her alleged involvement in the NBN-ZTE deal and the P728 million fertilizer fund scandal.
On the NBN-ZTE deal, the congresswoman pointed out that it was Arroyo herself who discontinued the project after a congressional inquiry uncovered massive overpricing and alleged kickbacks in the project.
“The point is – it did not continue. I was watching closely the proceedings. They could not pin her down. Even this administration is talking to ZTE to do the same project,” she said.
On the fertilizer scam, she said agriculture secretary Jocelyn Bolante should not be the only one prosecuted but all the governors, mayors and congressmen who allegedly benefited from the fertilizer funds.
She also defended Arroyo and her husband for playing golf with ZTE officials before the deal was signed.
“That is common. Even the president will do that also with anyone. When you are the president and people will want to host you, who are you to say, I cannot go there? It happened to so many presidents,” she said.
Magsaysay said she also had skirmishes with past members of the Arroyo Cabinet, which earned her the moniker “the feisty dragon lady of Zambales.”
She said she fought with then Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes over the Oil Deregulation Law and former Finance Secretary Margarito Teves over the sale of Petron. She also criticized the past Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner for non-perfomance and the past Customs chief for smuggling issues.
“In other words, I am a maverick. I don’t care which administration is it, whether GMA or PNoy administration, as long as I see something wrong with policy and we can correct it and give alternative solutions, I will speak out because it affects our constituents,” she said.
PNoy admin a ‘6’
During the interview, Magsaysay gave the Aquino administration’s performance a rating of “6.”
“I am not rating PNoy. I am rating his administration. I am rating it a 6 because when he was campaigning, he kept on promising the freedom of information law but the FOI is so watered down,” she said.
She also accused the Aquino administration of trying to encapsulate Executive Order 464 of the Arroyo administration into a law. The controversial EO stopped top officials from attending congressional inquiries unless given permission by the President.
Magsaysay chastised Malacanang for crafting the national budget and then asking Congress to pass it without amendments. She said the order marginalized Congress and tried to remove the power of the purse from the legislative branch.
The congresswoman said Aquino’s “daang matuwid” has been found wanting on several fronts.
She cited a World Bank study that said smuggling under the Aquino administration had ballooned to P19.6 billion when it was only P3.6 billion during Arroyo’s time.
She also criticized the budget department for withholding her pork barrel, an act which she said Aquino copied from Mrs. Arroyo.
“They said they would not do what the past administration did but they precisely aped the past administration by not giving me the PDAF for my district, which should have benefited my constituents who also voted for PNoy,” she said.
“If you are already espousing daang matuwid, then you should not follow what is already wrong,” she added.
She also criticized Aquino for paying the bail of his Liberal Party allies who are facing cases before the Sandiganbayan. The President earlier paid for the bail of former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca after she was appointed to the Commission on Elections.
Magsaysay said Aquino also tried to pay the bail of presidential consultant Neric Acosta who is also facing a case before the anti-graft court.
“Let’s just let the rule of law be the one to handle them. Justice in the country should not be selective,” she said.
“If the past administration is guilty of past infractions, then they should pay for it. But there should also be accountability with the present administration. If in case some of his allies commit wrongdoing, he should not condone it,” she added.
Gordon 'not an enemy for life'
In the interview, Magsaysay also admitted that her family is the political opponent of the Gordon family in Zambales.
Senatorial bet Richard Gordon and Magsaysay are allies under the United Nationalist Alliance ticket.
Gordon’s brother, Olongapo City Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr, is running for representative of Zambales’ 1st district, the same position Magsaysay is now occupying.
Magsaysay’s eldest son, 29-year-old Jobo Magsaysay, is seeking to replace his mother.
Gordon's son, Brian, is also running for vice mayor of Olongapo, against Magsaysay’s second eldest son, 28-year-old Vic-Vic Magsaysay.
In the interview, Magsaysay said she and Gordon are civil to each other.
"Yes, we are normally beside each other during sorties. We are very civil to each other," she said.
She added: "As far as I am concerned, when there’s local elections, we slug it out for the position but after the elections we go our own way and they go theirs. It is only at the election period that we are at each others’ throats. We are both professional legislators. There are some advocacies that we can work on together and I don’t think we are that kind of legislator that just because you fought it out in the election period kaaway mo na for the rest of your life."
Drilon 'super balimbing'
On the other hand, the congresswoman called Sen. Franklin Drilon "super balimbing" and chastised the senator for calling Liberal Party candidate Ramon "Jun" Magsaysay as "the real Magsaysay."
"That’s how low he regards married women in this country because that makes his wife a fake Drilon and his mother a fake Drilon also," she said.
"It doesn’t matter if you are coming from a lineage or not. Does it mean...that if my family name was Abana I don’t deserve to run for the Senatre despite my track record and performance? Sometimes nga, you may have a famous last name but you have not done anything when you were elected into office," she added.
Magsaysay also noted Drilon kept changing sides depending on who is sitting in Malacañang. She said Drilon backed former President Joseph Estrada when he was in power and then shifted sides and joined Arroyo during the EDSA Dos revolt.
She said Drilon defended Arroyo during the canvassing of results of the 2004 presidential election and even promised to build Arroyo “a Malacañang in Iloilo” if people in Manila did not like her.
She asked: “If Vice President Binay becomes President, will [Drilon] jump to Binay’s side, too?”