PNoy on life after the presidency

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

On Sept. 16, 2015, I had the privilege of having a two-hour one-on-one interview with then President Noynoy Aquino. It was for a book – The Aquino Legacy – that my wife and I eventually published. I had some questions that referred to his plans after his presidency and general philosophy in life. Here are the questions and answers I have selected for this column.

ESC: How would you want to be remembered after you’ve stepped down as president?

PNoy: I would like to think I was part of the movement that changed the people’s attitude from one of cynicism and defeat to one of perhaps, unbounded optimism that the Filipino is really capable and special and we can achieve all our dreams. Every time there is criticism, we’d like to think of it as an advancement in our people being active in governance. Being concerned, which is the key to strengthening the democracy and making it really work for everybody. So we welcome that and again, I’d hope that people will say that I had a part in changing that attitude which was so prevalent five years ago.

ESC: How would you like to be remembered not as a president but as an individual?

PNoy: They had a leader they could trust, that I never lied to anybody.

ESC: After the presidency what is next, what is next for you? Are there more mountains to climb?

PNoy: In the past, there have been attempts of people who were in government to try to study what could have been done better and impart that knowledge. If you were a leader right now you would be so concerned with the day-to-day matters that sometimes in Cabinet meetings, we want to study this and that, but at the end of the day, we have to do something today. We do not have the luxury of time, of getting the perfect solution that we would have if we were perhaps in the academe, after an extensive study. But here, waiting for the perfect answer would be depriving the people of the good they would benefit from right now. It doesn’t redound to serving them because they would be kept in a worse off situation.

When Barack Obama was here, he did say what his plans were: get in touch with all of these people that you worked with and are no longer in office and try to come up with a manual to help all those that come after us. How do you handle the insecurities, how do you tackle unforeseen consequences, how to decide in an imperfect environment when the needed information will only come after?

ESC: Do you have philosophy about running a government that you’d like to share with other people who would be taking your place in the future? Or an ideology?

PNoy: One of the greatest qualities of single-term leaders is the ability to decide based on the factors of the problem rather than on what is popular. That frees you from making a popular decision which might have a negative effect, prolonging the already negative effects of the situation you are trying to resolve. So what is the underlying philosophy? Personally, I would like to impart this with the rest of the Cabinet. At the end of the day, can we really say that we put in an honest day’s work, that we did everything we could at this point in time? It doesn’t mean that you made the perfect decision, it doesn’t mean everything has come to fruition. But the point is, is there anything else that you could have done that you didn’t do at this particular day to have advanced the cause? If you can say, positively and honestly, that you did everything that could be done, that is good enough. There is always the tendency to choose between what is popular and what is right. Sometimes you really have to make an unpopular decision. But if you know that’s right, then you have to be able to stand by it and be able to convince others that this is the right path.

ESC: If you can address the millennials to say why the legacy of Ninoy and Cory Aquino is something they should remember, and not mind the dismissive attitude of some who say it’s time to move on, what would you say?

PNoy: This will sound like a broken record: those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, are the words of George Santayana. He didn’t say “might repeat it;” he said “condemned to repeat it.” Now may kasabihan tayo, yung hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan, hindi makakarating sa paroroonan. There are some committed persons who take it upon themselves to fight for a cause. I’d like to include my father in that mold. Babalik ka sa tanong, bakit kailangan kargahin ng isang tao sa balikat ang lahat ng problema natin? How did we get here? All the excesses of martial law could not have happened overnight. The majority allowed the abuses to pile up. We are lucky we had EDSA, a peaceful revolution with no bloodshed. We cannot say that all Filipinos wanted a peaceful revolution, though.

There is another Filipino saying that what we do not value or safeguard, we are bound to lose. So if we do not look at where we came from, it is guaranteed that we will not reach our destination. We have to ensure that the way we were abused in the past should not happen again.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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