Luncheon session. Senator Benigno Aquino III, the only son of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and the Philippines’ first woman President Corazon Aquino spoke about “People Power, Elections, and Democracy.” Senator Noynoy, as he is more popularly known, recently accepted the decision of leaders of the Liberal Party for him to run for President in the coming national and local elections in May 2010.

Senator Aquino speaks on RP’s free press

He began his speech by talking about press freedom during the Martial Law, when access to information was curtailed, which is something the younger generation today might not understand. The government then wanted everyone to stick to the party line, to the point that an anti-rumor mongering decree was passed. Everything that went against the party line was considered rumor, and people can be prosecuted for this.

He said that this led to a gap between the government and the people, which led to frustration. This frustration gave rise to the mosquito press, who were willing to be imprisoned for reporting against Marcos. The mosquito press was instrumental for the enlightenment of the people, and gave focus to their frustration, focus that culminated in the 1986 Edsa People Power revolt.

He praised the PCIJ for being “what media should be in this country.” He pointed problems in the fourth estate and their duties, with the blurring of the line between reporting the truth and doing marketing. Again, he pointed to the importance of the media for helping in unfinished tasks, in restoring people’s trust in government, showing people that they have a stake in their democracy, and promoting better dialogue. He also lauded the PCIJ for engaging not just in criticism but in promoting alternatives.

The senator then answered questions from the floor, with PCIJ chairman David Celdran asking him about his relationship with former President Joseph Estrada, who had been investigated by the PCIJ for his excess wealth. Sen. Noynoy made it clear that he will not step down for Estrada because he was drafted by the people, but if Estrada would join them, the senator would be open to support on his terms, without compromise, especially if Estrada is interested in helping rebuild the government’s institutions.

Journalist Johannah Son next asked Sen. Noynoy about political dynasties. Sen. Noynoy pointed out that his mother, Cory Aquino, only entered politics after the death of his father, and that he himself did not run for office until six years after the end of his mother’s presidency. But he said that he doesn’t have any problems with people from political families running for office if they were had the best intentions.

Johannah followed up with a question about the (lost) gains of Edsa, with the country seemingly in worse shape more than twenty years after the revolution. Sen. Noynoy talked about the need to engage the people, in particular informal sectors, citing the example of Mayor Jesse Robredo in Naga City. He added that there is also a need to change the mindset of the business community, pointing out that he had filed legislative measures to encourage businesses to share profits with their workers.

He segued into a discussion about a need to translate democracy into governance. He mentioned the fact that the country has some of the best anti-corruption laws in the world, but enforcement is lacking. He added that carrots can be used in addition to sticks, but all these are a question of political will. He said that these matters will be threshed out when he unveils his platform of governance.

When asked about the possibility of uniting the opposition, Sen. Noynoy said that he didn’t see it as necessary. He pooh-poohed the ratings of the administration candidate, pointing out that analysts have said that an endorsement from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would be a “kiss of death.”

He also talked about his legislative performance, and offered the caveat that his measures have not progressed through Congress because they ended up stepping on people’s toes. He did talk about one such measure that aimed to reform the procurement method for lubricant and fuel for the armed forces, which didn’t go through bidding before.

He also clarified his position on the reproductive health bill, saying that he supported it with reservations from some provisions. He pointed out that unmitigated population growth is a big issue for the country, and that what he advocated was better education and advice on family planning, with the state not imposing any method on any individual. Ignorance, he said, cannot lead to good decisions on planning.

PCIJ fellow Alex Tizon asked Sen. Noynoy about what he thought was the fundamental change needed for the country. Again, he went back to the concept of involving the citizens, something that seemed like wishful thinking a few months ago. He said that it was the people who are now nurturing his candidacy, and he always points out that while he is the focal point of the movement, these people should also be active in governance. He cited as an example the Arroyo impeachment issue, saying that representatives who did not vote for the impeachment were not made accountable by their constituents. This he said led to the brazenness of the administration in pulling off scams knowing that people would not get mad.

Ben Suzuki of the Japan Foundation wondered about the peculiarity of Sen. Noynoy running against his second cousin, administration bet Gilbert Teodoro. Sen. Noynoy said that their families had a falling out in 1965, and the two of them met each other for the first time when they both became congressmen in 1998. He also pointed out that they voted against each other in almost every issue in the House of Representatives, something that continues up to now with him being in the opposition and Teodoro part of the administration. Despite their differences, however, he expressed confidence that the two of them would be able to raise the level of debate to focus on issues, even as he will stay open to ideas from those opposing him politically.

Sen. Noynoy addressed the failure of institutions specifically in curbing corruptions. He said that there needs to be certainty of punishment for corruption, and the government needs to demonstrate its seriousness in pursuing reform. He underscored the importance of the judiciary for expediting the process in the endeavor.

Senator Aquino takes questions from conference participants

Blogger Marck Rimorin asked him about Hacienda Luisita, and Sen. Noynoy clarified that he owned only 4% of the hacienda. Still, he said, his biggest concern is the livelihood of the workers affected, and he is negotiating for an assurance that the workers would get their livelihood back. He said that he was now working to find a solution that was fair to everyone.

Finally, he addressed another question from Marck about his hair. “What do they want me to do, wear a wig?” he said. He added that he doesn’t really pay much attention to these questions, as there are more issues that deserve his attention.

1 Response to Senator Noynoy on Media:
PCIJ’s 20th Anniv Conference


Saving… Face « The Marocharim Experiment

October 11th, 2009 at 11:55 pm

[…] from someone who asked Noynoy Aquino what he thought of people who mocked his hair […]

Comment Form