Manila (30 June) — Benigno “P-noy” Aquino III took his oath today as the country’s 15th President, vowing to guide the nation to the right path, lift Filipinos from poverty, give them the benefits and services they deserve, and curb corruption and other forms of excesses of power and authority.
The 50-year-old Aquino, the first bachelor ever to head the nation, said he will lead by example, with the ideals starting from him, as he promised to live up to the legacies of her parents, the assassinated former Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr., and the late Corazon C. Aquino, the country’s 11th president and widely regarded as icon of Philippine democracy.
“Ang unang hakbang ay ang pagkakaroon ng tuwid at tapat na hanay ng mga pinuno. Magsisimula ito sa akin. Sisikapin kong maging isang mabuting ehemplo. Hinding hindi ko sasayangin ang tiwalang ipinagkaloob ninyo sa akin. Sisiguraduhin ko na ganito rin ang adhikain ng aking Gabinete at ng mga magiging kasama sa ating pamahalaan (The first step is to have leaders who are ethical, honest, and true public servants. I will set the example. I will strive to be a good model. I will not break the trust you have placed in me. I will ensure that this, too, will be the advocacy of my Cabinet and those who will join our government),” said Aquino in his 22-minute inaugural address delivered largely in Pilipino and applauded more than 20 times by more than a half million who trooped to the country’s Rizal Park.
Aquino, an economics graduate honed in Congress politics in his 15 years as congressman and senator, delivered a straightforward speech to the delight of the attentive crowd majority of whom were adorned with everything yellow.
The color is associated with the pro-democracy movement in the 80’s spawned by the murder of his father in August 1983 up to that fateful February 1986 revolution that ended years of Marcos dictatorship and catapulted the widow Corazon Aquino into power. Yellow has since then been the identifying color of Aquino family supporters and followers.
“Nilabanan ng aking ama ang diktadurya at ibinuwis niya ang kanyang buhay para tubusin ang ating demokrasya. Inalay ng aking ina ang kanyang buhay upang pangalagaan ang demokrasyang ito. Ilalaan ko ang aking buhay para siguraduhin na ang ating demokrasya ay kapaki-pakinabang sa bawa’t isa. Namuhunan na po kami ng dugo at handang gawin itong muli kung kakailanganin (My father offered his life so our democracy could live. My mother devoted her life to nurturing that democracy. I will dedicate my life to making our democracy reach its fullest potential: that of ensuring equality for all. My family has sacrificed much and I am willing to do this again if necessary),” he said.
He said his mission in simple: to be true to ideals of his parents and the Filipino people, be a dutiful son, a good brother and good citizen.
“My parents sought nothing less and died for nothing less than democracy, peace and prosperity. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward,” he said.
Aquino succeeds Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, daughter of another Philippine president. Arroyo is now congresswoman, after nine years in Malacanang. She won the congressional seat for the second district in her home province of Pampanga.
Aquino took his oath of office at the famed Luneta Grandstand before Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales exactly at 12 noon as mandated in the Constitution.
He went to Luneta in the same car with Arroyo, as required by tradition. The outgoing President however did not wait for her successor’s inaugural speech and left Luneta Park for her own swearing in ceremony in Pampanga.
Vice President Jejomar Binay was also sworn in by Morales. The new President followed and read his oath, his left hand on top of the Bible, his four sisters behind him including a barangay captain who furnished the holy book.
But before the two leaders were sworn in, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile read the joint Congress resolution proclaiming them winners in the May 10 elections, a historic political exercise in the country being the first-ever automated national election.
Aquino said that on Day One of his administration, he wanted an end to what he said is the insensitivity by leaders to the plight of the Filipino people, although he said, it will also be the start of his own sacrifice and calvary.
“Ngayon, sa araw na ito – dito magwawakas ang pamumunong manhid sa mga daing ng taumbayan. Hindi si Noynoy ang gumawa ng paraan, kayo ang dahilan kung bakit ngayon, magtatapos na ang pagtitiis ng sambayanan. Ito naman po ang umpisa ng kalbaryo ko, nguni’t kung marami tayong magpapasan ng krus ay kakayanin natin ito, gaano man kabigat (Today marks the end of a regime indifferent to the appeals of the people. It is not Noynoy who found a way. You are the reason why the silent suffering of the nation is about to end. This is the beginning of my burden, but if many of us will bear the cross we will lift it, no matter how heavy it is),” he said.
He promised to give attention to the education system, public infrastructure projects, employment opportunities, revenue collection, public health and housing.
He said specific instructions have been issued to his incoming cabinet to look at the agriculture sector, specially the setting up of trading centers where farmers can directly trade without being hounded by middle men and even corrupt lawmen.
For the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), he said he has given instructions to the foreign office, labor and welfare agencies to strengthen their welfare and assistance programs for them.
Among the most applauded portions of his inaugural speech were his clear messages pledging to apply justice to all and make accountable those who have been engaged in corrupt activities.
In forthright terms, he said he will not condone even petty abuse of authority.
“Walang lamangan, walang padrino, at walang pagnanakaw. Walang wang-wang, walang counter-flow, walang tong. Panahon na upang tayo ay muling magkawanggawa,” he said.
As to his campaign pledge to look into the allegations of corruption against the previous administration, Aquino said he was glad that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. has accepted his offer to head a truth commission to look into the numerous unexplained issues of corruption in the past.
“Ang sinumang nagkamali ay kailangang humarap sa hustisya. Hindi maaaring patuloy ang kalakaran ng walang pananagutan at tuloy na pang-aapi,” he said.
On the issue of reconciliation and unity, he said: “To those who are talking about reconciliation, if they mean that they would like us to simply forget about the wrongs that they have committed in the past, we have this to say: There can be no reconciliation without justice. Sa paglimot ng pagkakasala, sinisigurado mong mauulit muli ang mga pagkakasalang ito. Secretary de Lima, you have your marching orders. Begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.”
On the problems in Mindanao, he said: “My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflicts, inclusive of the interests of all – may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian.”
On the international front, he said: “To our friends and neighbors around the world, we are ready to take our place as a reliable member of the community of nations, a nation serious about its commitments and which harmonizes its national interests with its international responsibilities.”
He closed his inaugural message, thus: “Layunin ko na sa pagbaba ko sa katungkulan, masasabi ng lahat na malayo na ang narating natin sa pagtahak ng tuwid na landas at mas maganda na ang kinabukasang ipapamana natin sa susunod na henerasyon. Samahan ninyo ako sa pagtatapos ng laban na ito. Tayo na sa tuwid na landas (My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have traveled far on the right path, and that we are able to bequeath a better future to the next generation. Join me in continuing this fight for change).”