Empowerment of people, media among my legacies – Noy
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino believes people power and the media thrived under his administration and this could be the legacy he could leave behind, especially since he is the son of two democracy icons.

“I kept saying I had the courage to do what had to be done because I sincerely believed that the people were behind me,” Aquino said on Friday in a media forum in Pasay City.

“So I’d like to hope also that in return I have helped in empowering our people so that they are able to take more active control of their future, that they really have a stake in where this country is going, that they feel connected to the fortunes of this country.” 

Aquino said changes were happening because the “people willed” them and “they have charted the present and the future.”

“So they are not powerless to affect their fate,” he said.

“They are, in fact, the prime movers towards determining their fate. That is the lesson that was really stressed – people power is a reality and it can really be used for the good.” 

Aquino said he had always appealed for balance in reporting – that good news would also sell – but noted the stark contrast between the environment now and during martial law.

The relationship between the media and the government could really be one of mutual irritation, and sometimes his main message would fail to be sent across because of other issues that the media would like to highlight based on their own editorial prerogative, he added, quoting a newspaper columnist.

Aquino said media would have to play a crucial role since they had been exposed to all kinds of candidates through the years.

“I trust that, as exemplars of your profession, you will continue to do your part to speak the truth and deliver our message of hope- – not only in the next six months, but even long after I leave office,” he said.

“It is that very message that enabled all of us to stand up against a dictator in 1986; dismantle the system of lying, cheating and stealing in government in 2010; and in turn lay the foundations for a Philippines that now works, a country where no one is left behind.”

Aquino reiterated the administration’s investments in people and how the attitude of the Filipinos – from apathetic to being demanding now – would be his legacy as well.

“Aside from the projects or the programs…really it’s the mindset, the change in attitude of our people,” he said.

“I know all of you will agree with me. Hopefully, it will continue and it will accelerate, we are getting our citizens back.” 

Aquino said he was happy with the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

“I think a lot of people are beaming with pride that we can host, successfully host, such a big meeting with so many luminaries entrusting their safety to us,” he said.

“When you have local government officials telling you about the change in – before begging for each and every project, now saying that they are having difficulties in coming up with their counterpart because there is just so much activity.” 

Aquino said people with agenda could always ask themselves why they were feeling bad about everything even if there were legitimate gains that the administration could get credit for.

“Bakit masama ang loob mo (Why are you feeling bad)?” he asked.

“The economy improved. Why are you feeling bad? About 4.4 million families are being assisted by (the conditional cash transfer program). Why are you feeling bad? Our Armed Forces got modernized.” 

Aquino asked why some journalists would wake up wanting to hit the government when at the end of the day, Filipinos were in one boat and it would be everyone’s obligation to make things work for the better.

“If they are right, if they are broadcaster et cetera, people gave them that opportunity and they could have used that opportunity for the common good,” he said.

“Why is it such an alien concept to promote the common good? Perhaps it might also fill me up with negativity. I’d like to forget them. Of course, I ignore them now,” he added.

Aquino will miss the media but he will not read the newspaper when he wakes up in the “late afternoon” the day after he steps down from office on June 30.

He will keep on hoping to settle down by praying to St. Jude, and he will leave the presidency a changed man.

These were some of the thoughts going on in Aqïno’s head when he was again asked about what he was planning to do after the end of his term.

He reiterated he was not entertaining the idea of running again or extending his term as there would always be things left undone.

“I will try to enjoy feeling no pressure whatsoever on that day,” he said.

Aquino thinks he can be a ‘fiscalizer’ as a former president, but he hopes there will be no need to do so because the people will choose his right successor.

“Again, like any citizen, if called upon to help, why shouldn’t we?” he said.

“But as much as possible, I will pray for the successor, that he really builds upon the successes that we’ve had already, and therefore we can go from strength to strength.”

Like his mother, also a former president, he was not fond of unsolicited advice, he added.

Aquino said he would like to have the “Bora experience” or to be able to go to Boracay island and stay long for a vacation.

“One of the best pictures my mother ever had was of her really being at peace walking in the beach in Bora,” he said.

“To be honest, I had the same opportunity to visit Bora for a total of about 40 minutes”   for the inauguration of a project.

 St. Jude

Aquino said his nephews and nieces had told him they would probably get married before he would and went on to tell the story of how one of his nephews proposed to his wife.

“You could see really the intense happiness in both their faces,” he said.

“Perhaps, even our family is entitled to perpetuate the next generation. So we’re close to that. Now, do I have plans? I’ve always had plans. Maybe when I have more time, now I will be able to go to St. Jude a lot more often, it might help.” 

Asked “who is Benigno Aquino III” now, the President admitted he was looking at the mirror the other day and joked that “I was trying to decide whether or not I had more hair now or less hair.”

“But in all seriousness, I’d like to think I’ve also grown as a person,” he said, noting the challenges the country had to face even during the Christmas season.

“I tend to be a person who prepares for the worst but hopes for the best and some of the challenges were really (heavy),” he said.

If there were times that he was perceived to be hardheaded, it was only because he was standing by his principles, Aquino said.

He had learned to listen and deal with a lot more inputs now than before assuming the highest office, Aquino said.

“So hopefully that also helps in having a higher level of discourse in things that affect this country,” he said.

He would like to believe he helped enable the people reach their potentials, he added.

 Still a scrooge

But one thing that does not change in him would be his being thrifty or a scrooge, Aquino admitted.

“I bought myself a La-Z Boy chair a very, very long time ago. Close to a decade ago. I must admit to all of you that was like a luxury item for me,” he said.

He shared that he looked for all the models and the price tags and ended up buying a blue one.

One week later, the chair went on sale, and he wanted to go and ask the salesman why he never tipped him about that so he would have gotten a better deal, Aquino said.


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