Press Release
July 20, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today told Malacañang to stop looking to scapegoats and excuses for the continued downward slide of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's popularity.

Pimentel blasted the Palace for pinning the blame on an outside factor - the soaring prices of imported oil - for the record-low minus 38 percent public satisfaction rating obtained by the President in the second quarter-2008 nationwide survey of the Social Weather Stations.

He said the people's disenchantment with Mrs. Arroyo's leadership remains because she refuses to heed the clamor for measures that will ease their economic plight - particularly their demand for the removal of the 12 percent Value Added Tax on petroleum products and on electricity.

Pimentel said the President is merely hurting their sensibility by trying to appease them through the grant of fuel subsidy for jeepney drivers and one-time subsidy to small consumers of electricity.

"By refusing the give up the billions of pesos in VAT revenues from oil, the government is exploiting the people's misery instead of alleviating their plight," he said.

He asked why the President has alienated herself from the people by turning a deaf ear to their demand for scrapping of the EVAT on petroleum products in order to lower prices of fuel and basic commodities.

"Gloria Arroyo's below zero rating reflects the people's disgust over the administration's incompetence, misgovernance and corruption, as well as the extra-judicial killings and disappearances most of which remain unsolved. Besides, hers is a presidency without mandate and the people know that," he said.

Pimentel said the Filipinos are fed up with the rampant stealing and corruption under the present administration, for which the Philippines has earned the unsavory tag, the most corrupt country in East Asia.

He said corruption was the reason why the $329 million national broadband network-ZTE project was abandoned and why the $503 million North Rail Project has been suspended and is now in danger of going to waste.

Pimentel said the government's ineptness in extending relief and rehabilitation assistance to families in typhoon-devastated provinces has also stoked public anger.

"They are pretending to be looking for money to be used for calamity assistance. But the President has at her disposal huge calamity, contingency, confidential, intelligence and social funds contained in the 2008 national budget which are intended for use during disasters," he said.

According to the minority leader, Mrs. Arroyo suffers from lack of credibility because the people think that she robbed the presidency from the late Fernando Poe, Jr.

Pimentel said the unending decline in the President's popularity could also be attributed to the spate of extra-judicial killings of political activists and journalists, most of which remain unsolved.

Up to now, he said the mother of missing farmer-activist Jonas Burgos and the mothers of two UP coeds are still looking for them and fighting for justice for their loves ones who were believed to have been abducted by the military.

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