Robredo hits ‘ill-timed’ proposal to rename NAIA: ‘We’re in the middle of a pandemic’

Mara Cepeda
Robredo hits ‘ill-timed’ proposal to rename NAIA: ‘We’re in the middle of a pandemic’
(UPDATED) 'Alam naman natin why it was named Ninoy Aquino International Airport. So 'yung tanong: Where is our sense of history?' asks Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Vice President Leni Robredo slammed what she called the “ill-timed” move of some lawmakers to rename the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) while the country was still struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Robredo made the statement in an interview on  CNN Philippines’ The Source, when asked about the move of 3 congressmen, including presidential son and Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte, to file a bill renaming the NAIA to the Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas.

“Nasa gitna tayo ng pandemya, ito pa talaga maiisip natin (We even thought of this while we’re in the middle of a pandemic). Number one, it’s ill-timed,” the Vice President said on Friday, June 26.

Duterte, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, and ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap filed their bill on Thursday, June 25, the same day that the Department of Health announced that COVID-19 cases in the country had risen to 33,069 

Social media users have since poked fun at the congressmen’s proposal, saying the acronym for the airport’s new name would be “PAPAPI,” a reference to popular Filipino actor Piolo Pascual.

In the same interview, the Vice President also questioned the sense of history of the lawmakers pushing for the name change.

“Number two, alam naman natin why it was named Ninoy Aquino International Airport. So ‘yung tanong: Where is our sense of history?” asked Robredo.

(Number two: we know why it was named Ninoy Aquino International Airport. So the question is: where is our sense of history?)

NAIA was named after the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr who was assassinated on the tarmac of what was then known as the Manila International Airport (MIA) on August 21, 1983. He was a fierce critic of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose 21-year rule was marred by killings, disappearances, torture, corruption, and media oppression. (READ: LOOK BACK: The Aquino assassination)

Aquino’s murder would spark the events that eventually led to ouster of Marcos through the EDSA People Power Revolution on February 25, 1986.

The dictator was succeeded by Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, under whose term the MIA was renamed the NAIA.

The Aquinos were prominent political figures of the LP, of which their son and former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is now chairman emeritus. The Vice President, as the highest ranking LP in power, is the party chairperson. 

Since Duterte rose to power in 2016, the color yellow of the LP – or “dilawan” as propagandists call it – has become a derogatory term for critics of the administration.

Detained Senator Leila de Lima also called out the lawmakers pushing for the NAIA name change. 

“The lawmakers pushing for it have a distorted sense of nationalism, if at all. Such a proposal is devoid of any salutary objective. It’s plain and simple politics. And stupidity,” De Lima said. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.