Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, 15th president of the Philippines (2010-2016), may be said to have entered Philippine politics through doors opened accidentally by iconic parents – the assassinated democratic champion during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos and his pious widow propped up to presidency by an enraged citizenry.
His shocking passing from major illnesses this Thursday (June 24) at age 61 unveiled though, even belatedly, a man who not only delivered on his seeming birthright but left a rich legacy to the country he intensely loved. His 18-year record in government service dusted off during the resulting media coverages and the amazing stories by his former Cabinet, other colleagues, and old friends exposing the real him to the public, doused sunshine on the gloom and doom in the current national politics. Chances are not remote that Noynoy Aquino, or more respectfully PNoy (P for President) may become as honored and loved as heroic dad Ninoy and prayerful mom Cory still are.
In a nutshell, PNoy served nine years as congressman of his native province (Tarlac in Central Luzon), three years as senator, and six years as president. In the Legislature, where he focused on justice, human rights, peace, environment, economic affairs among others, his serious ideas and diligence were acknowledged but drowned in the noise of flashier personalities. It is as the nation’s president (destiny’s seeming gift on the passing of his mom less than a year before a national election) when he became truly his own man, as Time magazine even put it in his first year when named in the media’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He also grew into the eloquence of the charismatic Ninoy.
Here are some key ideals he pursued and major accomplishments on record which sadly had been smeared or distorted by the successor administration with a different trajectory:
- Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) grounded on moral fiber, honesty, transparency
- Kung Walang Kurap, Walang Mahirap (If no corrupt in government, no poor people)
- Kayo ang Boss Ko (You the people are my boss, which meant it’s their concerns and needs that would direct his government’s actions).
Some Aquino Accomplishments:
- Best growth numbers in the Economy: highest GDP of 7.8% in 2013, faster than that of China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam for the same period, and yearly average of 6.2%; good investment-grade ratings; high confidence of investors, financial markets and consumers, among others.
- The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Bill (despite Church opposition)
- The breakthrough Bangsamoro Peace Agreement framework with impact on the conflict-ridden region of Muslim Mindanao
- Enhanced Basic Education Act (K-12 Act)
- Kick-off of some key infrastructure projects (then continued and “owned’ by the next administration)
- Philippine victory in the defense of its sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over superpower China’s claim
- High respect gained in the international community.
Strong commitment to the interests of the country and people, competence, and hard work were not the distinct drivers of such performance. Moral fiber, decency, honesty, seem to have been. They are the foundations laid down both by PNoy’s conservative and principled lineage and the Jesuit upbringing (“man for others” mission) in his alma mater Ateneo de Manila University from grade school to graduation from the AB Economics course. Imperfect governance, with failures and missteps feasted on by critics, but on the whole, a shining one.
The past three days, Yellow also bloomed reflecting the gratitude and love of his previous “bosses”. Like the yellow ribbons tied on trees and on cars, a rain of yellow confetti, the yellow pins with the Laban (Fight) hand sign, wreaths of yellow flowers outside the Aquino home and church, all reminiscent of the street protests Ninoy sparked which led to a national rebirth. Not to mention the outpourings in the media including Facebook.
Expectedly, the queues in the church during the vigils and the lines of people along the streets waving at the funeral procession were a far cry from those during the Ninoy and Cory send-offs due to the constraints of the Covid-19 rampage. Surprisingly, there were some very sharp comments during the holy masses and eulogies that regretted the turn of the tide favoring behavior contrary to the moral, decent, ethical, and democratic principles of PNoy (and his parents). Which had broken his heart.
Quite early for a good man to go, but Filipinos can hope that the coming May 2022 election can produce a president after his own heart and can sustain his legacy of a nation on a straight path towards its vision.p
photos sourced from Facebook and Wikipedia