Noy not considering return to politics
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - July 18, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - In the quiet of his home on Times Street in Quezon City, former president Benigno Aquino III ponders what to do next year after stepping down from office – but returning to politics is not an option at the moment.

Faced with charges before the Office of the Ombudsman, particularly for alleged graft and usurpation of authority in connection with the January 2015 Mamasapano massacre, Aquino appears ready to go through the judicial process.

He is taking things in stride as a private citizen devoid of the perks of a government position. And he may be preparing to become a businessman if the opportunity presents itself.

“I’m glad I had a year’s break. I’ve indulged in my passion again of reading, listening to music and buying CDs, go to Tarlac when I want to and as soon as I want to,” Aquino told The STAR on Monday.

He also does not wake up to problems he needs to attend to and go through the newspapers, “which are my main source” of information.

Aquino just finished reading “No Mission is Impossible” by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal about the death-defying operations of the Israeli forces. “I have a lot of time. I’m not bothered by my conscience. I read a book sometimes in one sitting, 300 pages or 400 pages.”

According to the former president, he stays at home most of the time and does not have a love life at present. “Below zero,” he joked. Aquino used to compare his love life to Coke Zero.

Asked if he would now be looking for work since the one-year ban on those who worked in government had lapsed, Aquino appeared to be focused on attending to his cases first.

He has been cleared of liability in the Disbursement Acceleration Program issue by the ombudsman but there are other cases which he described as absurd and baseless.

Asked if he could be a member of the board of certain companies, Aquino answered: “I’m not encouraging that. Perhaps, I’m not as desirable at the current time – for various political reasons.”

“I’m sure it takes the first one to start the ball rolling… I think a foreign university was the first (to offer a board membership) but we’re still waiting,” he said.

Aquino also does not have plans to go back to the House of Representatives where he served as Tarlac representative for three terms.

“Congress, probably not,” he said, adding he was also not keen on accepting an ambassadorial post.

“No, thank you. I’m not really fond of traveling. Then I would have to live elsewhere?” Aquino said, laughing.

“At most I’d like to visit places I’ve never been to, which means chances are I’d rather not go to places I’ve been to.”

Aquino said he was willing to still be of help to people though, as they “still come up to me” – mostly for medical assistance.

His political party, the Liberal Party now led by Sen. Francis Pangilinan as president and Vice President Leni Robredo being the highest elected official, also calls every now and then, along with allies and friends.

“There is really a lot (to do). If this case did not transpire perhaps I will set up small businesses. When you are in government, you affect the entirety of the nation so it gets difficult to see the effects – positive or negative – on each individual. If you set up a business, you are able to see on an individual basis whether or not you are assisting these people,” Aquino said.

“It’s more direct, it’s more compact, concentrated, you are able to see the results of your efforts,” he noted.

No shotgun criticisms

Though still considered a party leader, Aquino said the system gives their president the authority to speak for the group and that he was not fond of giving unsolicited advice or making unnecessary comments regarding various issues being raised against the Duterte government.

“My mom…she publicly stated, ‘I’m not soliciting any unsolicited advice.’ I really got to the point that I felt that. Everybody will always have their two cents’ worth and sometimes there were instances when there were five people and they gave five different pieces of advice, while in the presence of the four others. And all of them felt that they were holders of the complete truth,” Aquino said, referring to his mother, Corazon, also a former president.

“So here, I think I’d rather wait to be asked, if ever… it’s useless advice or it produces a negative effect,” he added.

Aquino also stressed no “shotgun” criticisms or comments could be expected from him and that he would only talk if convinced that he had a chance of laying down another perspective or dimension, “complete the picture of things that they are looking at” and make the whole approach better.

He said the LP could now focus on things they were not able to do when they were in power to still be of service to the people.

The former president said he was praying for Robredo and another political ally, Sen. Leila de Lima, his justice secretary now detained on illegal drug charges.

He would not directly answer if the prospect of being jailed scares him, but he admitted having fears about his cases given De Lima’s situation, the justice and political systems that he said his administration honestly tried to improve.

“I pray for both Leni and Leila, that they are sustained in the trials they are undergoing, even the wisdom to surmount all of these,” Aquino said as he also prays for guidance to do the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons.

Absolute truths

Given his situation and his own experience in politics, Aquino said the “Jesuits taught us that there has to be absolutes” when asked if he believes in the saying, “weather, weather lang” or it all depends on whoever is in power at a certain time.

“So perhaps how you apply the truth might be based on your background, biases… but there should be no question of what the truth is,” Aquino said.

The former president also does not have regrets about having answered the call to run for the country’s highest office in 2009 after his mother died of colon cancer on Aug. 1 of that year.

Being the son of democracy icons, his father being former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. who was assassinated in 1983 for fighting the dictatorship, he has a family legacy to continue and protect.

Aquino said he could not have shirked from the challenge to effect change and just sat back and allowed things to stagnate or deteriorate.

“At some point in time, I’ll have to ask myself, ‘What if I’ve done something that stopped that or reversed it?’ And through cowardice or whatever weakness in the knees, (you backed out), no thank you,” Aquino said.

“I also thought, if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. I guess again we recognize that we live in an imperfect world. We’re all given a chance to do something about it. It’s just a question of, at the end of the day, even my faith says that, What did you do to the least of …your brothers?” he said.

Leave it to the ombudsman

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Gordon and his Senate colleagues were urged yesterday to leave the case of Aquino on Mamasapano to the ombudsman.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said a new Senate inquiry as proposed by Gordon would be unfair to Aquino, former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and former PNP-Special Action Force head Getulio Napeñas.

“They would be dividing their time between attending a new Senate investigation and fighting off the criminal charges the ombudsman wants to file against them, instead of just focusing on the latter. A new inquiry would also subject them to trial by publicity,” he said.

“I am sure (Aquino) and his co-accused are willing to testify in a Senate probe, but they deserve undivided time in defending themselves from the ombudsman’s charges,” he said.

Albano reminded senators that the Senate and the House of Representatives have exhaustively looked into the PNP-SAF raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that resulted in the deaths of 44 police commandos.

“Every conceivable question has been asked. What more do senators want to find out? I think they will just be wasting their time and taxpayers’ money,” he said.   

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