With hunger, poverty and joblessness at a record high, and with the people losing faith in a government that has misused government power and resources, Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay today said any attempt by Mrs. Arroyo to extend her hold on power should be resisted.

“The people have suffered so much under the regime of Mrs. Arroyo. Eight years is enough,” he said.

But Binay said it is now clear that Mrs. Arroyo has no plans of retiring from politics, as her sons claim.

“It is apparent that Mrs. Arroyo has no plans of riding into the sunset. She continues to wield power as if she is not on her last few months in office,” he said.

“It is for this reason that the opposition is bracing for a full-scale administration push to extend Mrs. Arroyo’s stay in Malacanang beyond 2010, whether through Charter Change or martial law,” he said.

Binay issued the statement following reports that Mrs. Arroyo will again make a pitch for Charter amendments when she delivers her SONA.

The opposition leader said the last eight years under Mrs. Arroyo “has been characterized by the administration’s abuse of power to subvert our democracy, to subvert our economy and to subvert our national patrimony.”

“This is the same administration that is plotting to keep its grip on power beyond 2010, either through a Constituent Assembly, or failing that, outright martial law,” he said.

Disputing Palace claims that the Arroyo administration has made gains in the economic front and has moved to ease hunger and poverty, Binay said rosy economic figures do not give the true state of the nation.

“Poverty and hunger remain widespread, and is expected to worsen. There are few job opportunities at home and people are falling in line to work abroad, despite government’s claim that unemployment is going down,” he said.

“Aside from record hunger and poverty, Mrs. Arroyo has for the past eight years “eroded the people’s faith in the judiciary as our refuge from injustice, and the legislature has abandoned all pretensions of independence from the executive,” he said.

Binay cited government statistics showing that the number of poor Filipinos now total 27.6 million, or an increase of 2.7 million between 2000 and 2006. The number of poor families rose by 530,642 also during the same period, bringing the total to 4.7 million.

And despite government’s claim that it is winning the war against poverty, Binay said  47 percent or about 8.7 million of Filipino families consider themselves as poor, while  27 per cent put themselves on the borderline.

“How bad is the hunger situation in the Philippines? In a survey conducted by Gallup International, the Philippines ranks 5th among 56 countries where hunger is prevalent,” he added.

Unemployment remains high despite efforts by the administration to fudge the numbers. With government and private think thanks placing the total unemployed to 11.2 per cent.

The total unemployed has totaled 4.2 million, while those who are underemployed totaled 6.6 million, he said.

Binay added that under Mrs. Arroyo, national agencies “have become notoriously injudicious in undertaking projects and implementing programs.”

“Worse, national funds are being treated and spent like it was personal money, like it was Mrs. Arroyo’s personal fortunes to dispense to her allies:

“The p728 million that Joc-Joc Bolante diverted from the fertilizer fund. The $503 million for the Northrail project at p1 billion per kilometer. The $329 billion in the scandalously overpriced NBN-ZTE deal that NEDA approved. In all these cases, high-ranking officials of the national government have felt entitled to the funds – and acted as if they did not have to account for them to the Filipino people,” he said.

“Despite all indication of large-scale fraud, the Ombudsman refuses to prosecute, and the former Secretary of Justice defends their notion that they do not have to explain to the Filipino people,” he added.


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