MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - A Malacañang spokesman on Monday downplayed retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz's claim that 2 groups are eyeing to replace President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino because he is incompetent.
In a press briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte said the Aquino administration has already started initiating reforms in government.
"Well, hello there, Archbishop Cruz. We meet again. What is our reaction to this as far as the claim of incompetence goes? Of course, that is utterly baseless. You have seen in the past 7 going to 8 months that we have started making the first steps to implement reforms. You have the conditional cash transfer in place. We have a very lean budget for 2011 and we intend to keep it that way," Valte said.
She said the Palace intends to verify reports that Pastor Boy Saycon of the Council for Philippine Affairs is urging Aquino to step down. She pointed out that Saycon supported the President in the May election.
"Actually I'd like to verify that also because from what I remember, they did support the President during the elections. If this is true, we'd like to know what happened in the interim as well," she said.
She noted that there will always be detractors against the government.
"It's actually the first time that I've heard of that. But you will always have detractors in every administration. We believe that we are doing the right thing. We will continue to push for the right thing," she said.
Cruz earlier said at least 2 groups are considering the possible removal of President Aquino just 7 months after was installed as Chief Executive.
Cruz said the first group "has money and wants to get back into power" while the second group is composed of ideologues. At least one of the 2 groups has a military component, he noted.
The former archbishop said the groups eyeing Aquino's removal agree that the incumbent President is incompetent.
"Ang problema po ay yung incompetence ng incumbent president. Ang incomptence ay hindi mareremedyuhan hanggat hindi aalis. Ano man pong ibigay niyo na magagaling na tagapayo, Cabinet members, basta't incompetent ka hindi po kayang lutasin. Yan po ang pinakamabigat na pasanin diyan," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."
"He may be sincere, he may be truthful, he may be this, he may be that but frankly, he is incompetent," he added.
The Council for Philippine Affairs earlier warned the President might not be able to finish his 6-year term if he fails to stamp out rising criminality in the country.
Deteriorating peace and order
Cruz said the deterioration of peace and order is one of the sticking points of the groups out to replace Aquino.
He said Aquino appointed Jesse Robredo as an acting secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government while appointing his close friend, Rico Puno, as a permanent undersecretary of the department.
He said Puno was put in charge of the Philippine National Police but did not say anything when the police came under fire for the August 28 hostage crisis and the spate of carjackings in Metro Manila.
Cruz said Aquino's campaign to curb corruption has stalled after the Supreme Court blocked the formation of the Truth Commission. He said news reports of corruption, such as the "pabaon" system in the military, did not come from the Office of the President but from other people.
Even Aquino's centerpiece program - the P21 billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) - has been put into question because of the size of its budget.
Cruz said he knows 1 family who receives P10,000 every 3 months from the CCT even though the father is a drunk, the mother gambles and the kids are on the streets and not studying.
The archbishop said the family signs documents admitting that they receive P10,000 "but the question is if it's really P10,000."
Cruz said he still has hope that Aquino could turn things around and prove that he is competent enough to do the job required of him.
Otherwise, he warned that groups out to replace him might work together to bring about the President's downfall. With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News