MANILA, Philippines - An opposition lawmaker on Monday said President Arroyo should let historians reflect on the legacy of her 9-year rule instead of releasing her own books trumpeting her achievements.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño issued the challenge after Malacañang announced the upcoming release of two books, Beating the Odds and Beat the Odds, which enumerates President Arroyo's challenges and achievements during her 9-year presidency.
Casiño, one of Arroyo's staunchest critics, said it was the first time that he had heard of a president already listing down her version of history even while in power.
"Usually, books discussing the legacies of presidents come out long after the leader has stepped down from office. This is the first time that I've heard of a president who already has a book about her legacy even before her term ends. It would've been better if she left it up to historians instead of her own officials. it doesn't look good. She should have waited and left before heaping praise on herself," Casiño said in an interview on ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."
The opposition lawmaker said he expects Arroyo to have accomplished something after operating with a trillion-peso budget every year during her terms.
He said, however, that the Arroyo administration gets failing marks in eradicating poverty, diminishing unemployment and narrowing the gap between rich and poor during her term.
Casiño said that instead of her achievements, what comes to mind when reflecting on Arroyo's 9-year stay in power is the unanswered issues and scandals that affected her presidency.
He said the Arroyo administration will be remembered for 3 things: the “Hello, Garci” scandal, the NBN-ZTE scandal and all her unfulfilled promises especially her dismal human rights record.
“She will be remembered as the most hated president in history…who faced possible impeachment at least 4 times,” he said.
For his part, book editor and Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar said the book “Beat the Odds” is meant to cast President Arroyo in a different light after being bombarded by criticisms since Day 1 of her presidency.
“In the past 9 years, the criticisms against Arroyo have been non-stop. There are half-truths and rumors being peddled against her and a lot of people don't know what she has accomplished. This is why she is coming out with these books so that people will be reminded of her achievements,” he said.
He said the full title of the book that he edited is “Beat the Odds: Another Stone for the Edifice”, which is a play on the memoirs of Arroyo’s father, former president Diosdado Macapagal, titled “A Stone for the Edifice.”
“Our message here is that every president has a stone that can be used to build up the edifice that we call the Philippines. It describes the stone that Arroyo used during her presidency and we hope that the next President will also do the same during his presidency,” he said.
He said President Arroyo wants to be remembered as the President who “was not a miracle worker but tried to do what is right.”
'Very energetic but hounded by scandals'
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile earlier said described President Arroyo as a “very energetic” Chief Executive even as her administration, stretching over nine years, was frequently hounded by corruption scandals and other anomalies.
“To be fair to President Arroyo, [she] probably was among the most industrious presidents this country ever had,” Enrile said, when asked to assess the outgoing Arroyo administration in an interview over the weekend. “She is truly hardworking.”
Enrile added: “I think even [former President Ferdinand] Marcos wasn’t like Gloria, who is always in the field, because I have been in the Marcos government for 20 years. I know by experience what happened. Gloria is very energetic until now. She really made sure so much vital infrastructure was built—airports, the RoRo [roll on-roll off], which many people are now using and benefiting from, as well as road systems. In agriculture, conditions improved, because many irrigation projects were completed.”
But as far as governance is concerned, Enrile acknowledged that corruption also became widespread under the Arroyo administration due to nonenforcement of laws to check irregularities in government transaction. “As for governance, anomalies were many, and corruption widened, partly because many laws were enacted which were not implemented.”
Enrile explained that the same is true with assorted scandals tied to the Arroyo administration. “Many scandals surfaced in her administration. But whether she was involved is another matter; because you have to prove that.”
“I do not know that she [Arroyo] was involved, although some people say that. An example is the supposed fertilizer scam, which we investigated for many months. No one said that the President gave any of the orders,” he said.
Enrile also cited the allegedly overpriced $300-million national broadband network project awarded to ZTE of China, but which Arroyo aborted after it blew up into a major scandal implicating her husband, Miguel Arroyo.
“’Yung NBN-ZTE deal, they only said she played golf with those involved. They pointed to the First Gentleman but there was never any indication that President Arroyo herself [wanted] that the matter be done, although former Neda Chief Romulo Neri, if I remember correctly, mentioned to the President that he was offered [P200 million by former Comelec chairman Ben Abalos to endorse the deal]. But it wasn’t clear how the President reacted to that revelation.”
Enrile recalled that the outgoing administration sustained a major crack when President Arroyo apologized at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal when she called then-Comelec Commissioner Garcillano to check on her lead over her rival in the 2004 presidential polls.
“That Hello Garci, that really marked the biggest crack in her administration,” the Senate President said.
But Enrile also pointed out in the same interview, that “in the overall performance [during the Arroyo administration] I think we weren’t badly hit by the global economic crisis. We were able to weather the crisis quite well,” and he credited Arroyo for this.
“They took steps early enough to mitigate the impact of the crisis even before it became full-blown. Some of our neighbors were hit—Thailand, Vietnam, even Malaysia, which was more resilient, though, because of its more diversified economy.”
The Philippines was spared from the worst blows of the crisis by the outsourcing industry, the overseas Filipino workers and its exports sector, said Enrile.
According to Enrile, the Arroyo administration became “very unpopular” largely due to “the advice Malacañang gets from its legal adviser” who did not want Palace executives to appear in Senate investigations.
“That created an impression that they were hiding something. If I were Arroyo’s adviser, I’d have allowed the Cabinet secretaries to appear in congressional hearings,” Enrile said.Another problem, Enrile added, was that the Arroyo administration “alienated media” due to the impressions that it was not doing anything to stop media killings. Aggravating this was the deaths of over 30 journalists in the Maguindanao massacre.