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Noy keeps vow of silence on current affairs

Former president Benigno Aquino III speaks during an informal forum at St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City the other night. BOY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines – He hasn’t gained much weight but it’s apparent in his face that he is getting his much-desired rest. He has finished reading 16 books, sometimes finishing 800 pages in two days and is enjoying old movies dating back to the 1930s.

He does not go out often, he says, and still does not have anyone to share life with.

But former president Benigno Aquino III said he is doing okay. He is keeping his promise to stay quiet and give President Duterte a sort of a honeymoon for a year, as he, too, enjoys a break from politics.

In an informal forum at St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City on Friday night, Aquino could not be provoked or baited to comment on current developments, even when told about “creeping martial law” or how divided the people had become because of opposing political views.

He chose to keep the conversation positive and light throughout the night.

The only time he mentioned President Duterte was when he talked about the peace talks with the communist rebels. He said the President and communist leader Jose Maria Sison appeared to have a modicum of trust and could see eye-to-eye.

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Like most Filipinos, Aquino expressed hope the peace talks with the communists would succeed and that there would be sincerity.

At this time, singer Phil Perry’s version of the song “Just To See Her” is a favorite and music in general is a constant companion, whatever his mood.

He hasn’t taken to Facebook or Twitter, preferring to deal with people “face to face” but enjoyed posts with the #SalamatPNoy hashtag. That night, the former president received some more thank you’s for serving the country and being an inspiration to the young.

Like most Filipinos, he gets stuck in traffic as he travels without much security now. He had just watched a concert of singer and friend Noel Cabangon, who launched his latest album, Traffic Jam.

Stop debating, start helping

But being the country’s former leader, Aquino could not escape questions about the latest developments.

Asked if he had lost faith in the Filipino because of what had been happening, Aquino said he could not fault people for their decisions.

They may just be lacking in information and have gone astray, but Aquino said the people would always go back to whatever was right and think about the best for their fellowmen.

He developed patience while he was a congressman and had always believed that it would be better to engage, and possibly turn people to one side, rather than close doors for a compromise.

“Why debate?” he asked, saying actions could speak louder than words and that there were many ways by which Filipinos could help others.

For journalists under attack, Aquino said there was no point arguing online. He said those who had established themselves as credible media practitioners would always have an audience and people would “look for you” because of their belief in the kind of work they do.

Aquino said while he was president, he enjoyed most talking to the young people, as this always gave him an energy boost in the face of the many things he had to do.

“You can’t please everybody all the time,” he noted, and the hardest thing was that some people would come up to those in government with so much anger as to why things were not happening as fast as they wanted.

Merely absorbing the positive and the negative issues surrounding a powerful office is difficult enough, plus “you’re always conscious that whatever you do gets magnified.”

The former president intends to keep his hiatus from politics going for as long as it is not needed for him to get actively involved again.

Enjoying the break

Since he stepped down, Aquino is facing various cases and gets dragged into current issues every now and then, but these did not seem to cast a heavy burden on him – at least it did not show that night, as he was constantly smiling and joking.

As regards his love life, Aquino said: “I used to ask people who had successful relationships, how do you know (who to marry)? They keep on saying, ‘You’ll know.’ No, that is why I am asking, how will you know? ‘You’ll know.’ At this age, I am quite surprised that those who said ‘you’ll know’ are the ones who have solid relationships, those who try to characterize it are the ones who fell out of it.”

But Aquino said he could not be faulted as he did try as early as 18 years old to find the “one” and that he did propose to a former girlfriend  but it “didn’t work out” and so he would just have to wait.

Giving up, he said, could not be an option because it would be the greatest sin to do so.

Once the right one comes along, Aquino expressed belief it would already be “peace time.” If not, maybe he still has a mission from God.

Somehow, he said, “I let the right one go way, way back” but the person was happy and “I am happy for her, seeing her with a big, natural not fake smile, that is also a blessing.”

As former president, Aquino said “you’re not allowed to be human” and you always have to be in control.

Now that he can choose what to do, he said he would like to devote time to make changes in the country permanent, possibly provide jobs through a business and be a salesman for the Philippines.

He cannot work for year because of the ban on elective officials joining the private sector but after that, he can start moving around and talking about what has been gained and present the Philippines’ “best face” as its father for six years.

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