MANILA, Philippines - Former president Benigno Aquino III yesterday belied allegations that the Liberal Party (LP) intends to oust President Duterte from office.
Aquino said it is illogical for the LP to initiate ouster moves, as he even offered to help Duterte.
“We offered help and now we want to destabilize? I think it’s foolishness,” Aquino told reporters yesterday at the People Power Monument in Quezon City.
In a rare public appearance, Aquino joined anti-Marcos protesters in the commemoration of the 31st anniversary of the EDSA revolution that toppled former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Aquino attended mass at La Salle Greenhills in San Juan and later joined the march to the People Power Monument at the corner of EDSA and White Plains Ave. in Quezon City.
Aquino said it would not benefit the country if there was constant fighting between people affiliated with the present and previous administration.
“I told his people we are not looking for a fight. We want to accomplish all the things that we worked hard for,” Aquino said in another interview.
He stressed that his administration poured “blood, sweat and tears” to give a bright future for the country and they would never resort to any moves to destabilize his duly elected successor.
“We want continuity. He (Duterte) was elected by the people so we want to help him to further achieve growth,” he said.
Aquino said he was invited to join this year’s event dubbed “Power of We” last Friday. Instead of wearing yellow that has been the color associated with the EDSA revolution, the former president wore black.
Aquino said this year’s celebration was different from previous years.
“The gathering here for a long time is celebration. Now, I think there is something that needs to be done aside from remembering,” he said.
Aquino also has a message for people who tend to forget past events in the country.
“Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it,” he said.
Aquino refused to comment on the spate of extrajudicial killings and other controversies under Duterte’s administration, keeping his promise of not issuing comments for a year on how his successor is running the government and giving him time to adjust to the workings of the presidency.
When asked about his former justice secretary, Sen. Leila de Lima, who is now detained on drug charges, Aquino believes she will be proven innocent.
Aquino said he talked to De Lima over the phone before she was detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center at Camp Crame, Quezon City last Friday.
“I called her and I was happy that she was in high spirits,” the former president said.
Aquino said he believes De Lima is innocent, noting that he never heard a single rumor that she was involved in any illegal activity when she was justice secretary.
“I believe that during trial, Leila and her lawyers will expose the truth,” he said.
LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan, for his part, said the EDSA rally is not an anti-Duterte demonstration.
“I have not seen any slogan saying they are anti-Duterte. This is a celebration of the 31 years when we regained democracy,” he said.
Vice President Leni Robredo joined the celebration later in the evening.
“Thirty-one years ago we were united in fighting the violence that happened here and we hope we will never forget that power really resides in the people,” she said.
Sens. Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino and Risa Hontiveros also attended the rally.
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) said around 2,300 people attended the event.
QCPD director Chief Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said they have not monitored any untoward incident.
There was a slight commotion when several pro-Duterte supporters tried to disrupt the rally at the People Power Monument.
Policemen escorted them to another area around 50 meters away from the monument where they staged a short program. – With Janvic Mateo