PAMPANGA, Philippines - Confident of his popularity in Pampanga, President Benigno Aquino III refused to cut former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo some slack even in her home province.
Instead, Aquino criticized the past administration in a rally in San Fernando town, as he campaigned for his senatorial candidates.
"They say Pampanga is the bailiwick of the Arroyo. That's impossible. I know the Kapampangan. I know they support democracy… surely they will only support what is right," he said in Filipino. "Almost 10 years of rolling the country is over," he said. "Why the past administration did not focus on the problems of Pampanga, I do not know."
Aquino then cited the ongoing projects of his administration in the province, including the construction of thousands of classrooms, creation and improvement of roads to make Pampanga better connected, and the establishment of anti-flooding structures in low-lying areas.
Pampanga has 1.2-M registered voters for 2013. Arroyo is the 2nd district representative of the province.
No holds barred
When the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) visited the province two weeks ago, they chose to remain silent on Arroyo's alleged sins, even if UNA's key leaders were her fiercest critics.
UNA bet and San Juan Rep JV Ejercito, son of former president and UNA stalwart Joseph Estrada, said the ruling Liberal Party (LP)’s Arroyo-bashing will hurt its chances of winning in Pampanga, and benefit UNA.
But Aquino clearly did not agree.
"Surely there will be people who will say, 'There goes PNoy again, always criticizing and blaming the past government'… But can we really just let it all pass? Is it enough to feel sorry for them?," he said. "This is about doing what's right, about taking care of Pampanga, and making sure the past is not repeated."
His confidence stems from the overwhelming support he received from the province when he ran for president. In 2010, Aquino won in Pampanga, garnering 327,666 votes, roughly 36.4% of the total number of votes from the province. Arroyo had endorsed Gilberto Teodoro, but he only had 280,462 votes. Even Estrada stood no chance to Aquino in Pampanga, mustering a measly 43,298 votes.
In his speech, Aquino thanked Pampanga for backing him then, and emphasized the province's history in supporting his parents in the past. He told the crowd he will continue to prove "you did not go wrong in trusting us."
Even before Aquino's speech, some bets of the President did not hold back either from bringing up Arroyo.
Former Akbayan Rep Risa Hontiveros, one of Arroyo's biggest critics, said she does not believe that Team PNoy should stop criticizing Arroyo. "We've been accused of refusing to move on from the GMA issue. They reduce this as an issue of personalities… this is about our principles in action and we are fulfilling what we promised," she said.
Re-electionist Koko Pimentel also highlighted his anti-cheating slogan, "Pag walang madaya, buhay ay kay saya," even singing to the crowd his version of "Imagine" by John Lennon, wherein he condemns election cheating.
Pimentel claims he is a victim of cheating in the 2007 polls, a scheme allegedly executed by Arroyo. - Rappler.com