MANILA - Echoing what his (Catholic) church stands for, Philippines’ President-elect Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino stressed “he is his brother’s keeper,” vowing to give to the “least of the Filipino people” the greater provision and priority of his incoming administration. “To those who have been most dispossessed and powerless, that has to be the priority of government,’ Noynoy said in a press conference after his proclamation on June 9, 2010.
The 15th president of the Republic and namesake of his father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., also invoked the name of God whenever he would feel he has limited powers to address concerns and the country’s problems.
“At times when I feel there is need for more resources, more skills and more talent than I possess I always turn to prayer because I am confident that as far as dealing for the betterment of our people are concerned, God will be with us. So I want to be focused on that idea that those who have least in life should have the most priority, taking into cognizance that we are our brothers’ keepers,” he said.
Noynoy hastened to add he will not be daunted by the task ahead, “because the source of (his) nourishment, strength and support has been prayer throughout the entire campaign.”
He however concedes that not all Filipinos may share his way of “turning to prayer” whenever he feels it is necessary in running the bureaucracy.
“At the end of the day, being a democratically-elected president of a multi-religious country, I cannot impose my religious beliefs on each and every countryman of ours. That will have to be in the conscience of each and every one,” he said.
At the onset of his quest for the presidency, Noynoy “sought God’s will” in a spiritual retreat before he announced he was accepting the challenge to run the race.
He was the first candidate to do this and his decision to “make God his starting point” proved fruitful, for after only eight months since embarking into the presidential derby, despite lack of preparation and bruising attacks on his character and leadership abilities, he still won the mandate of majority of the Filipino people.
Aquino hopes his “spiritual start” will help him keep his campaign promise to curb corruption in the bureaucracy and to improve the conditions of the majority of his countrymen. Aquino believes taht reducing corruption will lead directly to more food on the table for citizens.
"Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap", Noy Noy said. Translated to English, this means, “If no one is corrupt, nobody is poor."
“The conditional cash transfers, devoid of politics, is high on the priority list. Growing the agriculture sector, enabling farmers to market their produce most effectively...turning them to higher value crops, irrigation, etc., TESDA (Technological and Science Development Authority) working closer with the Department of Education, all these are designed to answer the problem of freedom from hunger, which is the first necessary freedom,” he stressed.
As far as curbing corruption is concerned, chasing smugglers is Aquino’s main concern. He said this process is still being firmed up because the prosecution for these tax evaders will have to be airtight.
The World Bank and other non-governmental organizations claim that billions of pesos are lost to smuggling, rendering government resources even more inadequate to handle pressing needs. The amounts they quoted did not even take into account the additional revenue lost to corruption by dishonest government officials.
In the same press conference, Aquino’s “religious and family convictions” became apparent by the way he described Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the one-time jailer of his late father during the late President Ferdinand Marcos’ martial rule.
He said, “as far as my dad is concerned I think my mom is on the record as having said everything had to be directed to President Marcos himself if it is with regards to my father. In fairness to the Senate President, he did champion the role of the Senate in the last year...at considerable political cost to him. He championed issues that I also support.”
Noynoy hastened to add that bygones are bygones. “So long as we are working for the betterment of the people, I don’t see where we should be engaging in conflict that does not produce tangible positive results for the people. Governor-elect Imee Marcos (the eldest daughter of the late strongman) texted me yesterday and I told her they can count on me to do right by her, and especially by her constituents, so long as it benefits the people.”
He made a similar “act of forgiveness” toward sitting Senator Gregorio Honasan, who launched several coup attempts on his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino’s administration. In one of those events, he was hit by several bullets on his body, with one bullet left embedded on his neck.
Aquino, however, doesn’t seem to afford the same forgiveness to his predecessor, outgoing President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was embroiled in so many corruption and political controversies during her administration.
“My mother proposed reconciliation with justice," Aquino said. "I made a lot of promises in the campaign especially the idea of change. It cannot be business as usual. If we are going to just replace people like in a game of musical chairs, I think I would have disappointed everybody who made this victory possible. Therefore there has to be closure on so many issues.”
As an old adage goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Noynoy’s vows to the Filipino people, especially the "keeping his brother” and creating a better life in the next few years may well be tested in the initial months of his stay in power.