Thank you, Mr. President
- Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2016 - 12:00am

The trolls in media were out to discredit you from Day One when you made Daang Matuwid and anti-corruption the centerpiece of your administration, and proceeded to go after the most obvious violators, lassoing a chief justice and a former president, and later dismantling the PDAF scandal which bagged at least three senators, countless congressmen and other government officials.  While these earned you the early respect of most citizens, it unleashed the contempt of the guilty who are rich, famous and influential.  Brickbats were thrown at you at every turn. A lesser man would have shriveled under the blistering attacks you’ve had to endure. 

Your enemies made fun of Daang Matuwid, saying it is hogwash. But the fact is, the hogs were compelled to stay away — and see how far you’ve gone.  At the end of your term, which was, admittedly, not perfect, you have the firm approval and support of over half of the population, the highest rating garnered by an outgoing president, warts and all. 

Before you leave the seat of power, I would like to thank you, President Benigno S. Aquino III, for six good years of honest governance, prosperity and freedom we have enjoyed as a people.

Thank you, Mr. President, for making travel around the country so much easier.  Even your worst critics enjoy the convenience of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac-Pangasinan Expressways that have cut travel to the north by half, the countless roads and bridges where there used to be none, and new airports and seaports that have vastly improved the access that GMA’s Roll On-Roll Off (the original RoRo) transport system initiated.  There are still on-going projects that, when finished, will probably not be attributed to you anymore, given short memories and the expected spin of the incoming administration. May they remain corruption-free.

Your administration created efficiencies never before seen in government. You made the budget process transparent and inclusive, giving civil society and communities roles in planning programs and projects and monitoring how funds are spent.  You built more classrooms and hired more teachers than any other administration, and started the process of bringing our educational system up to par with international standards by switching to K-12.  You helped the poorest families in the country through the Conditional Cash Transfer by investing in the youth, giving them a head start in terms of health and education as a means to overcome generational poverty.  And you signed a comprehensive peace agreement with the Bangsamoro. While the Bangsamoro Basic Law remains pending, you have opened the doors to peaceful dialogue,  development and empowerment with the Muslim rebels in the most impoverished region of the land.

Thank you, Mr. President, for relentlessly going after Janet Lim Napoles and the senators, congressmen and other government officials who enriched themselves by cooperating with her evil schemes. The audacity you displayed in a political culture that looks the other way in the face of shenanigans by the rich and powerful, made you some pretty vicious enemies. Thank you for not playing their game like most of your predecessors. 

Thank you, Mr. President for modernizing the AFP and making our armed forces proud with new equipment, skills and mindset.  While the incoming President considers AFP modernization as too puny and a waste of resources in the face of China’s military and economic might, you saw a much bigger picture — the threats to our sovereignty from within and without, the scourge of terrorism, the unforeseen dangers wrought by climate change, among others.

Thank you for steadfastly upholding our sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, bringing our case to the world so that now, the greatest powers are behind us as we await the decision of the international court on our protest over China’s incursion into our waters. 

Thank you for making the world aware of the Philippines and our sterling economic performance.  While prosperity still has to be spread over the entire population, we now have the capability to do it, given the political will.  You have brought foreign investments, international events and tourists to our shores putting us on the map as a major destination.  A particularly proud moment was your hosting of the APEC meeting last year which showcased in extremely good taste, the best of Filipino cuisine, design, music, and our legendary hospitality, making us realize that we ARE world-class.  

Thank you for appointing the right chair and members to the Commission on Human Rights whose resolve is being tested by the legally-challenged incoming president.  Thank you for clean elections and the peaceful turnover of power. Thank you for taking charge of every crisis. You have been criticized for not displaying enough empathy in the face of tragedy, but you got the job of cleaning-up and building-better done in your quiet, unobtrusive, non-political manner.

There is so much more to be thankful for, Mr. President, but one thing stands out:  You have kept your cool.  The media have been exceptionally vicious and rabid towards you, with energy that seems to be coming from something or someone other than their own principles.  We heard you complain to publishers and network owners about unfair criticism from their minions, but you never threatened a reporter, columnist or broadcaster, or punished a publisher or network. You rolled with the punches and kept communication lines open, fully mindful that the flow of information is vital in a democracy.

And we never heard you utter a cussword. 

You kept the faith. You ran the course with courage and dignity.  You made us proud.

Thank you and Godspeed, Mr. President.

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