Aquino
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Almost all candidates for government positions in the coming elections have been promising the Filipino public virtually everything: the sun, the moon, the stars, cure-alls to current problems of the nation¬. Rep. Benigno Aquino III, however, just promises to do what is right. As simple as that.

“The theme that I have been very, very partial to is the catch-all phrase ‘gawin ang tama’,” Rep.Aquino III said in a podcast interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Born on February 8, 1960, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco-Aquino III, popularly known as Noynoy, is the third of the five children (Maria Elena, Aurora Corazon, Benigno III, Victoria Elisa and television host Kris) and only son of Benigno “Ninoy” Simeon Aquino, Jr. and Maria Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco-Aquino. Aquino, Jr. was a Philippine senator— the youngest the country ever had— and a leading oppositionist during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. He went on self-exile in the United States for three years and upon his return to the country in 1983, was assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport (now named Ninoy Aquino International Airport in his honor). His death spurred a mass, bloodless revolt in 1986 that ultimately put an end to the autocratic Marcos regime and placed his widow, Corazon Aquino, at the presidency. Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino became the first woman president of the Philippines, serving her term from 1986 to 1992. She had to face challenges of restoring the country fresh from the dictatorship, including several coup attempts. President Aquino has since been hailed for supporting democracy, chosen as Time Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1986 and one of the 60 great Asian Heroes in 2006.

“I have [said] long ago, I will not be able to surpass what my parents have accomplished, which frees me from the pressures that I would have had in trying to overcome their achievements,” Rep. Aquino III said in the same interview , “which, in turn, I think, leads to an efficiency in terms of fulfilling my duties at this point in time.”

Unlike other candidates that may have conflicting interests, Rep. Aquino III is a full-time legislator. He is single, and he does not have any other business apart from being the representative of the 2nd District of his home province, Tarlac, to the Lower House, a position he has held for three terms since he entered politics in 1998 (1998-2001; 2001-2004; 2004-2007). He was a member of the Committees on Banks and Financial Intermediaries; Energy; Export Promotion; and Public Order and Safety during the 13th Congress. He also served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives during this period.

As a congressman, he has authored and sponsored eight House Bills and six House Resolutions covering a variety of issues ranging from labor (HB 4251 and HB 4252), criminal laws (HB 1842), consumer laws (HB 4397), energy rate increase (HR 65) to intelligence funds (HR 788). He was likewise behind a legislative initiative making the procurement of petroleum, oil and lubricant requirements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines transparent by requiring public bidding. In addition to these, he registered a complete attendance record during the first session of the 13th Congress, attending all 76 sessions. Aside from being a congressman, Rep. Aquino III is also the current chairperson of the Central Luzon Congressional Caucus; moreover, he has been the Secretary General of the Liberal Party of the Philippines since the year 2004.

Furthermore, Rep. Aquino III was one of the congressmen who voted for the passing into law of several important House Bills. He gave his nod to current Republic Acts such as the act increasing excise tax rates on alcohol and tobacco (RA 9334), the act prohibiting the imposition of death penalty (RA 9346), the Anti-Money Laundering Act (RA 9160), the Overseas Absentee Voting Act (RA 9189) and the Philippine Clean Air Act (RA 8749). He also endorsed the impeachment complaint against then President Joseph Estrada in 2000, and disapproved of the junking of the impeachment complaints filed against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 and 2006.

Prior to being a legislator, Rep. Aquino III held administrative positions in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, a sugar refinery owned by his mother’s family. He worked as Executive Assistant for Administration from 1993 to 1996, then became Field Services Department Manager from 1996 to 1998. He once also was the vice president of an insurance company, Intra Strata Assurance Corporation from 1986 to 1993. He likewise ventured into the field of advertising and promotions through working as retails sales supervisor of Nike Shoes for Mondragon Philippines in 1985, four years after he received his undergraduate degree in economics at the Ateneo de Manila University .

At present, Rep. Benigno Aquino III is running for senator under the Genuine Opposition ticket. He is seeking for a position in the Senate this coming elections because he believes that the Upper House is one of the two remaining institutions in the government that provide effective check-and-balance with “the excesses… the current administration is doing on the Filipino people.” He feels that if he doesn’t run for this position this May, the effectivity of the Senate as a check-and-balance mechanism might change.

“Senate President Franklin Drilon will be ending his term come June 30; as you know, he has been at the forefront of our party (the Liberal Party) in trying to uphold our democratic principles and ideas during the spirit of crisis that our country is facing,” Rep. Aquino III said in the same interview . “So, we feel that if we don’t put up a fight for that position, it might change the effectivity of the Senate as an effective check-and-balance mechanism.”

Political science professor Gene Lacsa Pilapil believes that Rep. Benigno Aquino III has what it takes to become senator of the country. “He has the surveys. He has the money. He has the machinery,” Prof. Pilapil said in a casual interview, “so I think Noynoy Aquino has what it takes to become a senator.”

Prof. Pilapil was referring to the latest Pulse Asia survey of probable senatorial winners conducted during the first week of March . In the survey, Rep. Aquino III received the approval of 34.2 percent of the 1800 respondents, which translates to possible ranks of 4th to 10th if the elections were held during the said period.

Rep. Aquino III’s constituents in the 2nd District of Tarlac, however, believe that he could have been more of service to them had he run for governor of his home province this coming elections. “Gusto nga sana namin nag-governor muna siya. Marami siyang nagawa para sa distrito namin, lalo na para sa Concepcion. Napaayos niya ang palengke at mga public schools doon. Magaling siyang congressman. Susuportahan din naman namin siya bilang senador,” commented Genixon David, 18, a resident of Tarlac City.

Nevertheless, Rep. Aquino III would like to use the experience he has gained as a congressman if he is elected to the Senate. He is well aware that many of the problems experienced by people in his district are the same problems faced by Filipinos at large. He cites the death of democracy, his primary advocacy, as an example.

“I’ll go back first to my district. When I was first campaigning, there was somebody who said, ‘Regardless of whoever is elected, we are in the same condition’,” Rep. Aquino III shared. “That, to me, was the perfect way of summarizing why democracy died. It’s not relevant to us. It doesn’t help us. It’s meaningless to us. I want them to see that our interaction, our cooperation, produces change. ”

Aside from the revival of democracy, Rep. Aquino III also believes that the state of the Philippine economy is one of his primary concerns. As an economist, he considers the fact that many Filipinos are in a perpetual state of want as a pressing problem of the country that needs to be immediately addressed.

“The problem has not diminished. It seems to be increasing, and that will tend to make anybody looking at it pessimistic ,” the representative said.

A possible way of addressing this problem, Rep. Aquino III proposed, is promoting transparency in the budgetary process through line-item budgeting. He aims, through this proposal, to be able to specify exactly where every centavo of the budget is going. Line-item budgeting, he added, is “an effective means in achieving check and balance” in the budgetary process.

“In that sense, (we can) really support policies of government we feel are worthwhile supporting, and at the same time, suppress activities that are detrimental to the people ,” he explained.

Rep. Aquino III believes that the educational system is an area that deserves a very significant bulk of the country’s budget. Also in the podcast interview by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he commented that a lot of projects financed by the government in the past were mostly “wastage that could have gotten into the educational system.”

“When you have scarce resources, it is even more crucial that you get the bang for each peso you spend. So when you get into projects like the North Rail, the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) renewal of franchise deal, these bio-fuels, fertilizer scams, etcetera, etcetera, those were so much wastage that could have gotten into the educational system ,” the senatorial candidate remarked.

He also suggests a refocus of the educational system to avoid training students “to get jobs that are non-existent.” He added that giving students technical skills, enriching their abilities in mathematics, and providing them access to the growing Information Technology (IT) field are possible starting points in the effort to adjust the deteriorating educational system.

Apart from these problems related with the nation’s economy and educational system, Rep. Aquino III also regard the country’s political situation as another pressing problem confronting the Philippines at present time. He describes our current political status as “an effective state of limbo.” He attributes this indeterminate state of politics in the country to the “many questions and issues that have been left hanging.”

He cites the Garci scandal as an example of an issue that has been left unsolved. He said that the government is not addressing the issue squarely, and that new issues have covered it up from the public eye, causing unresolved issues to pile up.

“Why can we not have it investigated thoroughly? Why can not we put the issue to a rest? ,” the representative asked regarding the issue.

The extrajudicial killings of left wing militants and journalists is also one such issue that still remains unresolved by the government up to the present. On this, Rep. Aquino III commented, “The President says, ‘We will not tolerate and we will go after you’. The following day, there’s a new killing. Doesn’t that send the wrong signal? Doesn’t that make the government so inutile ?”

Rep. Aquino III, nevertheless, foresees that these killings will eventually stop, basing his prediction on experience. Amidst this, he believes that the State should still double its effort in tracking down the people behind the killings.

He also related the government’s inability to address a number of issues to military adventurism. He said that this inability makes young military men run out of patience, forcing them to seek for immediate solutions. “If it’s a never-ending chain, especially if you’re young, you will run out of patience a lot earlier than your seniors. You’re more prone to impetuousness than those who have learned more in life and want to temper their responses accordingly,” he said.

Rep. Aquino III refuses to believe, however, that Charter Change is the answer to the country’s problems. He is firm in the belief that the system of government is not the main problem of this country; in reality, it is the people populating the system.

“Regardless of the system, the main issue is the people who will be populating that system. Sad to say, the people who advocate Charter Change are the ones who have made the system fail and who expect to be rewarded by being in power for perpetuity ,” the congressman commented. “That is, I guess, the worst scam that can befall the Filipino people.”

With regard to international affairs, Rep. Aquino III believes that there should not be any discontinuity between national sovereignty and international commitments. He thinks that the country’s international commitment has to be part of its national interests. When there is a conflict, however, the representative deem it necessary for the government to serve the Filipino’s interests.

“National concerns should outweigh international relations ,” he said. “That is where the allegiance has to be of anybody in government— to the people who bestowed power on this elected official.”

In relation to this, Rep. Aquino III seeks to review the current Visiting Forces Agreement if elected as senator. He referred to the Subic rape case to explain his stand on this issue. He said, “We have afforded that marine (Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, an American soldier found guilty of raping a Filipina) all of the opportunities to defend himself. We give him the same rights to appeal that any other Filipino can have, but can he have more privileges than our citizen has? I guess that is a minimum concern that I have with regard to the VFA.”

Talking about morality-related issues, Rep. Benigno Aquino III admits to not being very liberal. He said he is even kind of conservative. This conservative outlook manifests in his stand against abortion. He shared that he always had the perspective that the right of the child supersedes even the right of the mother.

“The child was not part of the decision that led to the unwanted pregnancy, and therefore, should not be the primary focus of having to pay the price for it ,” he further said.

Furthermore, the representative also revealed that he does not support same sex marriage at present. He, however, expressed his willingness to reexamine the issue. “As far as same sex marriage, I really would want to think about that a lot more,” he said.

Commenting about family planning, Rep. Aquino III stressed the role of the government in educating families about their responsibilities. He also pointed out the need to admit that there is indeed a lack of proper information dissemination on this subject.

“I think the State should be part and parcel of educating all our families na, when you have children, there are so much responsibilities. The State should come in ,” he emphasized.

On the other hand, the congressman thinks the choice of the method of family planning should be ultimately left to the couple, and is something that the government should not meddle with. He also treats in the same way the issue on contraceptive use. “At the end of the day, it would be your conscience (that determines your choice), and the State should not be dictating your conscience to you ,” he said.

Asked on how he wants to be remembered if elected as senator, Rep. Aquino replied that he wants to be recalled simply as someone who continued the process of going to the rightful place.

“So how should I be remembered? Somebody who didn’t agree to the trend of backsliding, who did everything that he could, who pushed as far as he thought possible, trying to achieve that which is rightfully ours ,” he stated.

With all his plans, proposals and ideologies, Rep. Benigno Aquino III seems to be a promising candidate for senator this coming elections. Let’s just all hope he stays true to his promise if he gets elected: to do what is right.—Dreo Calonzo

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