Aquino-Arroyo word war rages

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 28 2011 02:10 AM | Updated as of Jun 28 2011 10:10 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The word war between the camps of former President, now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and President Benigno Aquino III rages on 12 months since she turned over the reins of power to him.

On Monday, the most vocal female figures from both camps faced off on ANC’S Dateline Philippines after the debate spilled over to social networking site Twitter on Saturday.

Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte and Arroyo ally Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay figured in a Twitter debate over Aquino’s handling of the economy.

Magsaysay questioned Aquino’s competence, that started the debate with Valte who follows Magsaysay’s Twitter account.

The debate lasted about 3 hours, from 11 a.m. to about 2 p.m.  It ended only when Magsaysay had to board her plane back to Manila from Singapore.

At some point, even Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also joined the fray.

'Not fighting'

When the 2 saw each other for the 1st time on ANC’S Dateline Philippines on Monday, both clarified they were not fighting.

Magsaysay said, “As far as I'm concerned, I never fought with her.”

Valte said it was the media who started calling it a catfight, and “we laughed it off. We're both mature naman, we can handle the issue without getting personal.”

The tweets centered on disaster preparedness and flood control.

Valte characterized the exchange was “muted...well argued.”

Both ladies shook hands after the guesting.

Valte told reporters that when they first saw each other in the ABS-CBN Newsroom, she waved at Magsaysay and the latter acknowledged.

They also exchanged pleasantries when they were seated together prior to the interview.

Twas fun: Valte

Valte, in a subsequent Palace press conference, said their meeting was “ was actually quite a lot of fun. It was good to see her face to face. When she sat down, I said, 'nice to finally meet you'.”

Valte clarified there is no offensive between them. However, she did feel compelled to set the record straight.

“I do follow Cong. Magsaysay. I looked at my account and I saw she was indeed making comments. The first response I sent to her was when she mentioned the president was incompetent,” she said.

Valte said the President merely said “ok” when informed of the exchange with Magsaysay.

“Apparently a lot of people were bored on a rainy Saturday morning,” Valte added.

Valte was also gracious at the compliment of Magsaysay, who said she was better than her boss, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

Valte said Lacierda would welcome it as a compliment since it was Lacierda who got her for the job.

Abad vs Lagonera

On Monday,  Arroyo’s last Budget Secretary Joaquin Lagonera rebutted his successor, Florencio Butch Abad, who twitted Arroyo’s statements on her gains in the economy.

In a statement emailed to ABS-CBN News, Lagonera asked the administration to account for what it has done to boost the economy.

“Maganda po sigurong maitanong din kung ano ang ginagawa ng kasalukuyang administrasyon upang muling iangat ang ekonomiya, na lumago ng mahigit 7% noong huling taon ni Pangulong Arroyo, pero nitong huli ay 4.8% lamang matapos ang siyam na buwan," he said.

Lagonera further twitted the Aquino administration for underspending.

“Ano po ang ginagawa nila sa underspending o kakulangan ng paggamit ng budget? Alam po natin na naipasa ang kasalukuyang budget in 'record time.' Siguro naman po ay pinag-aralan nila ng husto ito bago aprobahan. Kung ganuon, bakit ang nasa budget na, hindi pa rin ginagamit o ginagastos?" he said.

Lagonera also reminded Abad about Arroyo’s achievements.

“If Secretary Abad is wondering whether Mrs. Arroyo thinks the deficit she ran up is sustainable, the answer is this: That level of deficit is no longer necessary, because it helped to bring about the current recovery. May I remind Secretary Abad and his colleagues that Mrs. Arroyo steered the economy through 38 consecutive quarters of unbroken economic growth."

Lagonera further justified the disbursements of the Arroyo administration.

“As a practical matter, more than half of the budget is disbursed in the first half of a fiscal year because that is the only way to fund the actual cash outlays needed to start the second half. Moreover, so-called Personnel Services or salaries for the bureaucracy for the entire year are disbursed in the first half because of their priority status.  Calamity fund spending is authorized not only in anticipation of future typhoons, but also for repair and rehabilitation of damage caused by previous ones," he explained.

In the end, Lagonera virtually lectured Abad.

“I am hopeful that Secretary Abad, just like me when I started, will get to appreciate these practices better as he gets to know his job more.”

Both Lagonera and Abad, at some point, served in Mrs. Arroyo’s Cabinet.

Lagonera was a deputy executive secretary before becoming budget secretary.

Abad was an ally turned critic when he resigned from the education department at the height of the 'Hello Garci' scandal.

Abad: What gains?

On Sunday, Abad released his statement against Arroyo. 

“It is amusing at the same time galling for Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to lecture President Noynoy Aquino about building on the gains of her government. The first question that comes to mind is, what gains? The people’s gains, or her gains? The previous administration left us with our largest projected fiscal deficit to date of P325-billion or 3.9 percent of gross domestic product. Is she saying that is sustainable?”

Abad recalled that when President Aquino took over in July last year, more than 60 percent of the P1.541-trillion national budget of 2010 had already been disbursed the Arroyo administration, leaving it with a mere 40 percent to survive its first semester in office.

Abad also noted that the Arroyo administration even authorized the obligation of P16.5 billion of P67.98 billion in Congressional insertions. These were earlier subject by the Arroyo administration to a conditional veto, subject to new revenues being raised, which never materialized.

“In other words, the previous administration violated its own veto message,” he said.

He also said that the Calamity Fund in 2010 also had to be replenished because the Arroyo administration used up more than 70 percent of the P2-billion fund in the first half, “even before the typhoon season commenced.”

Worse, P105 million of the funds went to the former President’s district, while other more heavily affected provinces got
measly support.

GMA: Nobody home

The word ward began with Mrs. Arroyo’s press conference in Lubao, Pampanga last Friday where she twitted her successor for lack of leadership.

In that press conference, Arroyo pointed to the “nobody’s home” type of leadership as a danger for the economy.

Arroyo pointed out how the lack of leadership could be a danger ahead.

“Yung characterization of nobody home, that’s the main source, that there may be danger lurking ahead for economy (Parang leaderless?), oo. Itong pagkukulang lumutang nung hostage taking sa Luneta," she said.

Arroyo alleged how inflation, self-rated hunger, and even corruption are going up under the new administration. Aquino had accused Arroyo of corruption during her term and is seeking to hold her accountable.

“During my time, inflation rate was slowest among [other] administration...Now, all prices are going up sharply… Even the score of the Philippines in corruption is going up," she said.

Aquino allies rebut

That merited an ensuing media offensive by Aquino’s allies.

It was rebutted the same day by Valte who charged that Arroyo was doing it for media mileage.

Valte said, “We believe that her press conference today is merely a ploy to deflect attention from her refusing to submit to proper procedures for ascertaining accountability. Despite her glaring absence from proceedings inquiring into her culpability and accountability as President, she has found time to try to obtain media mileage at a time that calls for the attention of media, the public, and the government on the current weather disturbance.”

That same evening, Aquino ally, Senator Francis Pangilinan, issued a statement also twitting Mrs. Arroyo.

“Yes, Malacañang has been exorcised of all these with GMA stepping down and as such, we are truly grateful that nobody's home who's willing and capable of doing all that.”