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Lagman: Voters erred on Aquino

The over 15 million Filipinos who voted for President Benigno Aquino III last year committed a “mistake" in electing a “big problem" into the country’s top post, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said Wednesday. In a strongly worded statement, Lagman assailed Aquino for “failing to deliver his promises of more jobs and less corruption" almost a year after he was elected into office. "The Filipino people were expecting too much from President Aquino. Shibboleths and promises during the presidential campaign concealed and overshadowed his inadequacies," the lawmaker from Albay said. In response, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Lagman "is once more playing fast and free with the facts." "Making assertions that are obsolete, misleading, or patently false. Here he goes again, because this is not the first time in what is turning out to be a litany of misrepresentations by him," he said. Lagman cited reports from Hong Kong-based Political and Risk Consultancy and pollster Social Weather Stations showing that corruption and poverty in the country escalated under Aquino's watch. "He [Aquino] must be made aware repeatedly that virtually all principal economic and social indicators of growth and progress are down, just like his plunging popularity and trust ratings," he said. The opposition leader also warned Filipinos to "be prepared to expect the worst" from the next five years of Aquino’s term. "One cannot squeeze blood from rock… Blunder begets disaster," he said. Lacierda, on the other hand, denied all this. "In his most recent squid tactic against the administration, Lagman either overlooked or chose to overlook the Q2 unemployment figures," he said. He said contrary to Lagman's statement, unemployment actually went down from 7.4 percent in the first quarter to 7.2 percent in the second quarter. He said this was achieved despite the surge of overseas Filipinos returning to the country due to the various conflicts in the Middle East. He added that the previous administration was never able to achieve the supposedly "low" unemployment figure of 7.2 percent. He cited that the unemployment rate in 2001 is 11.3 percent; 10.3 percent in 2002; 10.6 percent in 2003; 11 percent in 2004; 11.3 percent in 2005; 8.1 percent in 2006; 7.8 percent in 2007; 7.4 percent in 2008; 7.5 percent in 2009; and 7.3 percent in 2010. "Apparently unsatisfied with his misrepresentations, Rep. Lagman's fishing expedition raked up old numbers that have already been overtaken by more current data," Lacierda said. He said the first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 4.9 percent and not 4.8 percent and was comparatively far better than those of 2009 (1.0 percent in first quarter, 1.6 percent in second, 0.5 percent in third, and 1.4 percent in fourth). He said another example of Lagman’s “penchant for substituting clouds of ink for clear responsible thinking, he misrepresented the survey numbers he claimed to cite in defense of his case." He said the actual survey period covered was January to February 2011 not November 2010 to February 2011. "The public remembers that period well when the headlines were being hogged by the shocking revelation of the Pabaon System where officials appointed by the previous administration pillaged public coffers," he said, referring to the illegal send-away cash gifts allegedly being given to retiring military chiefs of staff. He said Lagman has tried to characterize the administration’s first year in office as, “365 Days of Sound and Fury" but “it has been a year of solid, painstaking, and conscientious rebuilding of our gutted and shattered institutions." "Such statements show the current lack of standing of Rep. Lagman whose career as Minority Floor leader can be characterized as a year of bluster and bluffing," Lacierda said. - KBK, GMA News