MANILA, March 24, 2004 (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo, in yet another stinging tirade against her political enemies, blamed the current political mudslinging for the peso’s plunge to a historic low of 56.450 to the dollar at Monday’s close of trading.

"The transient lag in the peso signals an underlying fear that the opposition, by its politicking, is dragging us to the past and crushing our hopes for the future," she warned.

But the President, herself an economist, reiterated her confidence that Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Rafael Buenaventura would be able to address the jitters in the financial and currencies market.

"I have faith in Governor Buenaventura and besides the Central Bank is independent of the President. Governor Buenaventura has been awarded as one of the best Central Bank governors in the world," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She did not mince words in blaming the political opposition for the continued slide of the peso during a press conference held yesterday at the Carigara town hall in Leyte.

"While our politics would remain engaged in too much mudslinging, excessive politicking rather than talk about issues, our financial markets really get nervous on the prospect that the next to sit (as President) might have no experience to offer the right investments in our country," Mrs. Arroyo said, obviously referring to her rivals in the May 10 elections, particularly movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. whose candidacy was endorsed by his bosom friend, former President Joseph Estrada.

"Because the first time around was a mistake, the second time will be a disaster," Mrs. Arroyo said. "Look at what happened during the previous administration. It only created half a million jobs because investors have no confidence in government."

In contrast, she said her administration was able to create more than three million jobs since she took over the government in January 2001 following Estrada’s ouster.

Mrs. Arroyo, who is seeking a full six-year term in the May polls, emphasized that it is only her presidency that would be able to restore investor confidence in the country’s economy and strengthen anew the Philippine peso.

"We are not denying the economic problems we are facing but I believe I have the clout and experience to tackle these problems and protect the public interest," she said.

"The weakening of the peso, oil price hikes and other problems haunting the country should be among the top priorities of the candidates in their platforms, and they should explain their options and solutions to the people," she added.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye blamed the peso’s fall on the jitters in the international currencies market brought about by the slay try on Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and his vice presidential running mate two days before the elections were held.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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