Aquino cracks Arroyo wheelchair joke in NZ

Ayee Macaraig

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President Aquino jokes that corrupt Filipino officials used to like cars but now use wheelchairs to escape

THE CORRUPT'S ESCAPE. President Aquino jokes that corrupt officials in the Philippines used to like expensive cars but when they escape, they use wheelchairs. AFP PHOTO / Bradley Ambrose

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III could not help but share what he felt was a funny text message about his predecessor.

In a speech before the Filipino community in Auckland, New Zealand, Aquino took a swipe at former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He is on a two-day visit to New Zealand to expand economic and political ties.

Aquino graced the Filipino community gathering at the Auckland City Convention Center on Monday, October 22. It was his first function in New Zealand.

Instead of a serious tirade, the President used humor to convey his message that Arroyo must be held accountable for wrongdoings during her administration.

Alam niyo share ko ho lang sa inyo isang, tawang-tawa ako sa narinig kong joke eh. ‘Yung mga kababayan raw ho nating corrupt sa Pilipinas, kagagara ng kotse, kamamahal, katutulin. Pero pagka ginustong tumakas, ang ginagamit, wheelchair,” Aquino said, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd. (You know let me just share this joke, I kept laughing when I got it. It said, “Our fellow Filipinos who are corrupt use luxurious cars, so expensive and fast. But when they want to escape, they use a wheelchair.”)

He added, “Baka naman sabihing namemersonal na naman ako. ‘Yun po pinadala lang sa akin, text. Hindi ko alam kung sino ang sumulat. Nasa telepono ko pa ho kaya lang iniwan ko sa Pilipinas ‘yung telepono ko eh dahil baka naman hanggang dito sa [New Zealand] mapadalhan ako ng, ‘Need a loan?’” (People might say I’m taking things personally again. That was just sent to me via text. I did not write that. It was in my phone but I left it in the Philippines because even all the way here, I might get a text that says, “Need a loan?”) 

Aquino was referring to Arroyo’s failed attempt to leave the Philippines in November 2011 amid a probe into the electoral sabotage case against her. Aquino’s government barred her from leaving the country, resulting in an airport drama.

Arroyo, then in a wheelchair, said she wanted to seek medical treatment abroad for her neck problem. Aquino had expressed doubt about the gravity of Arroyo’s medical condition and offered to fly in doctors for her instead. 

Another political rival of Aquino, former Chief Justice Renato Corona, also used a wheelchair when he testified before his impeachment trial at the Senate in May.

The President made the remark as he contrasted what he called gains under his administration with the corruption under Arroyo’s term.

“’Nung araw ho kasi ‘pag nagnakaw ka raw nang kaunti, kulong ka. Kaya siguraduhin mong magnakaw ka nang marami para gawin kang partner. At ‘yun ho talaga ang tumulak sa atin, ano. Paano nga kung merong ang prinsipyo lang niya ay parang musical chairs ‘di ba?” (Back then, when you steal a little, you’ll be jailed. So you better make sure you steal a lot so you will be made a partner. And that’s what we are pushing for. What if there’s someone whose principle is just to have musical chairs?)

Aquino used a metaphor to drive home the point.

 “’Di ba marami hong tupa rito pero siguro ho baka mas madali.  Dairy: ginagatasan mo na, gusto mo pang gawing bulalo.” (Aren’t there a lot of sheep here so maybe that’s an easier comparison. Dairy: you are already milking it, you still want to suck the bone marrow.)

‘We can boast now’ 

Aquino asked the crowd’s indulgence as he boasted of the gains under his administration.

The President cited the 6.3% GDP in the first quarter and 5.9% in the second quarter, and the revised upward growth projection for the rest of the year.

Aquino also said the Philippines is working to be self-sufficient in rice by 2013, a far cry from Arroyo’s time when the government was in debt because of rice importation. The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest rice importers.

“When I visited ASEAN countries, the ministers of agriculture would tell me they studied here. Of course, we are proud they studied here, we helped them plant rice but in the end, we are the ones importing …. But that was before, it’s different now,” Aquino said.

Aquino also told the Filipinos in New Zealand about the inauguration of the Araneta-Quezon Avenue underpass to help ease traffic, and efforts of the education department to cut the backlog in books and classrooms in public schools. He also highlighted his administration’s conditional cash transfer program for poor families. 

“So now, we have a bit of arrogance. There’s a problem? The Filipino can do it but it would have been better if our fellow Filipino from whom we inherited all these did not cause all these problems. But we can no longer do anything, that has passed. What we can do is to hold that person accountable …. We need to hold them accountable to make sure no one will follow them.”

‘Don’t just vote for stars’

Aquino also urged the 36,000 Filipinos living in New Zealand to vote in the 2013 Philippine midterm polls. He asked them to choose their candidates well.

“If we choose, I hope we do not choose those who are just good singers or good dancers or those who became extras in televenolas but those with platforms. And not just those with platforms but those who have shown that they have really fulfilled promises,” Aquino said in Filipino.

Aquino stressed that the overseas vote should matter in the polls.

“When I ran [in 2010], I crushed all my opponents in the overseas votes. The problem is that I think only 1% of the overseas voters actually voted. So when they were appealing to you earlier [to vote], aren’t we the ones to shape our future? We need to do that. Now.” –


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