TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

When former president Fidel Ramos and business consultant Peter Wallace urged President Aquino to be more presidential, they were referring to the fact that Aquino does not seem to bury his head in presidential work as much as is demanded by the office he holds.

More specifically, according to Wallace, Aquino should utilize the tremendous political capital he has acquired on the heels of high popularity ratings and start aggressively pushing his reform agenda even if it meant making unpopular decisions.

I agree with the views of both gentlemen in their assessment of the president. But I have my own take on the need for Aquino to act more presidential, and it has something to do with his character and how it affects his decorum and demeanor.

At the Asean Summit in Cambodia, Aquino rudely interrupted the closing speech of summit host and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to interject that what Hun Sen was saying about the row between some Asean members and China and how to proceed about it was not true.

Aquino stopped Hun Sen in dead speech that it was not true Asean had come to a consensus to keep these controversies within Asean and not bring it up before international forums for resolution or arbitration.

Now, everybody knows Cambodia is a hopeless lackey of China and is to China even more than what the Philippines is to the United States. And it may be true what Aquino said that there was never such a consensus as what Hun Sen was trying to impress at the time he was interrupted.

But these facts should not be lost to anyone, least of all to Aquino: The gathering was of the highest level. All the participants were heads of state. That as national leaders, nothing short of propriety, dignity and mutual respect were expected at all times of all participants.

Hun Sen, whether deliberately or unintentionally, may have been speaking of an untruth that Aquino could not take. But he had the floor. And he was the host. Whatever Aquino had in his heart and in his mind would have been best kept until the proper time.

The Asean leaders were not in a classroom where it was all right for anyone to raise a hand and speak his mind. They were in a leaders’ summit where certain expectations and protocols are supposed to guide the actions of participants.

What Aquino should have done was to keep his quiet, wait for Hun Sen to finish speaking, pull him to the side once finished, and tell him to his face he didn’t like what he heard. He can then call for a press conference if he wanted and there announce to the world his feelings.

But it was bad manners and very unpresidential for Aquino to interrupt the host of a summit of national leaders while he was speaking and then insult him by suggesting he was lying. That is not the way to court respect and win friends.

But when has Aquino ever been presidential? In fact he has racked up a track record of being rude and uncouth. On several occasions already, Aquino publicly scolds people in their own gathering, and to which he is just an invited guest.

This type of behavior may be common among corner toughies who are not expected to know the finer nuances and subtleties of good manners. But Aquino is the president and his lofty office comes with certain demands on character and behavior that just cannot be compromised.

I can congratulate Aquino for bravely taking up the cause of the Philippines in relation to its dispute with China. But I can’t stomach his being “bastos” in doing so, especially if more proper means are available to achieve the same purpose.


  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with