SENATOR Benigno Aquino III, who headed for a landslide victory in this week’s presidential election, on Tuesday, renewed a campaign vow to go after President Arroyo and her cronies for any corrupt acts in office.
“I will not only not steal, but I’ll have the corrupt arrested,” Aquino, 50, told a news conference in his first comments since Monday’s polls.
“We want to correct all the flawed economic policies of this administration, policies that resulted in the ballooning of the budget deficit and made the people wallow in poverty,” Aquino said in an interview with the Manila Standard.
“We will make those responsible for the injustices and graft and corruption pay for their crimes. We will prosecute those that will be found liable for these injustices.”
Aquino campaigned on a strong anti-graft platform, promising to start prosecuting corrupt officials within weeks of his presidency and restoring integrity to Congress and the judiciary.
In his first 100 days, Aquino said, he would create a commission that will review all of Mrs. Arroyo’s projects, especially those that had been tainted with graft.
To save money, Aquino said, he would avoid foreign trips, trim the Cabinet, and impose “zero-budgeting” in which agencies would have to propose and defend their budgets from scratch.
Aquino also said he intended to increase tax collection to 15 percent of the gross domestic product from 13 percent “practically instantly,” and by targeting tax evaders, raising funds to plough into job creation, education and health care. He planned to raise judges’ salaries and improve the implementation of a law that rewards or punishes tax officials based on their ability to meet collection targets.
In a bid to fight poverty, Aquino said he was declaring an “all-out war” to rid the government of graft and corruption that he said his predecessor had aggravated.
“I believe the people have chosen which path to take. They picked the straight path and rejected the old path,” Aquino said, referring to his campaign promise to lead the country to the right path to progress.
Former Education Secretary Florencio Abad, Aquino’s closest political lieutenant, said he would not be able to rest on his family name.
“This means he really has to deal with the problem of corruption and deal with the people identified with nine years of corruption,” he said.
Aquino vowed to upset Mrs. Arroyo’s plans to become Speaker of the House because her agenda was different from his aim to fight corruption.
He also scoffed at the suggestion that President Arroyo had the numbers to get elected as Speaker.
“I doubt when she is no longer in Malacañang that she would still find the people there still as her allies,” Aquino said. “I expect people to join me. Our recruitment is continuous.”
To preempt any attempt to amend the Constitution to make Mrs. Arroyo a powerful prime minister, Aquino said, he would create another commission to study if the constitutional changes were needed and which economic provisions might have to be revised.
Aquino balked at the proposal to shift the system of government from bicameral presidential to unicameral parliamentary, emphasizing the need for checks and balances.
Even as Aquino spoke, Mrs. Arroyo looked set to win a seat in the House of Representatives in the Second District of Pampanga, a post held by her eldest son, Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, who chose to continue his stint in Congress through the party-list system.
On Tuesday, President Arroyo formed a 12-man presidential transition team to cooperate with the incoming administration.
“We must now turn our sights on preparing for a new President, a new Congress, and a new set of local government officials,” Mrs. Arroyo said.
Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza was named to lead the transition team. –Christine F. Herrera with Joyce Pangco Pañares, AP, Bloomberg