Aquino’s New Year resolution: Ignore ‘hopeless’ critics

Natashya Gutierrez

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The Chief Executive also says he will put less pressure on his Cabinet

IGNORE CRITICS. President Benigno Aquino III says his New Year's resolution is to ignore hopeless critics, citing those who urged Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to resign for failing to fulfill 1% of his promise. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – What does President Benigno Aquino III’s resolve to do this year? Aside from not being too hard on his Cabinet officials, he will pay less attention to criticisms.

The President, known for reacting to sometimes even petty comments, told high school students on Tuesday, January 7, that there is “a cottage industry already of people who make a living out of criticizing me.”

These critics, he complained, “see nothing good in whatever I say” and they “detract from [efforts at] solving the problems of this country.”

The President cited the continuous call of critics for Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to make good his promise of resigning if he were unable to restore power in all communities affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda by Christmas Eve.

Aquino said Petilla missed the targets by 14 hours for 3 towns out of 320, but people were immediately calling for his resignation. “Instead of concentrating on the 99+ that were energized, they focused on those that were not energized,” he said.

Aquino refused to accept Petilla’s resignation.

“So in my end, the next time they speak again, why would I give them my time of day when they are so unreasonable? If I attend to them, I won’t be able to attend to the problems of the country. So that has to be another resolution: ignore the people who are hopeless,” the President said.

Aquino has been vocal about his unhappiness with the Philippine media.

In December, Aquino said he does not understand why the news media continue to criticize him, and even said he would pray for enlightenment for biased columnists.

In July 2012, as special guest of media giant ABS-CBN during the 25th anniversary celebration of TV Patrol, Aquino slammed the newscast’s main anchor, former Vice President Noli de Castro. He used the occasion to criticize De Castro for supposed baseless speculation and commentaries against the administration despite his own stint in government. (READ: Aquino slams in Kabayan in TV Patrol event)

Previous to this, the President also criticized the media for inaccurate and negative reports, when he was the guest speaker at a Philippine Press Institute’s event in April 2012.

But media criticism of the President and his administration has not been limited to the Philippines.

Days after Yolanda struck, CNN’s Anderson Cooper called out the Philippine government for the slow relief effort, saying it was unclear who was in charge. He described the condition in Tacloban City as a “miserable, miserable situation.” Tacloban is among the areas that bore the brunt of the typhoon.

Less pressure for the Cabinet

The President also apologized for getting his Cabinet members back to work on the first day of the new year.

“I’d like to apologize to the Cabinet members who I started working with on January 1. It’s as if I really just waited for New Year’s Eve to pass. It wasn’t even noon yet, I started calling up [Justice Secretary] Leila de Lima, and so many others. And, of course, they had to respond to me because I’m the head of the Executive department. Afterwards, I felt guilty. I said, this is their only time to rest,” he said.

Aquino said he wondered how many of them were hoping he didn’t read the news, or that he left his cellphone at home so he wouldn’t follow up with them so soon.

He said he realized he should change his behavior and allow his allies some rest.

“The Cabinet is very hard working, they are very dedicated. You can’t ask anything more of them. And perhaps I should learn to give them a little bit more breathing room, because all our government officials who actually do everything, out of love of country, might get burned out,” he said.

Aquino said he would work on guiding them rather than pressuring them.

“They can go in the private sector and really make tons and tons of money and have less controversies in their life and have a more peaceful life. But they chose to make a contribution at this point in time so I really thank them from the bottom of my heart,” he said.

“Perhaps, that has to be the most important thing: those that are sacrificing to help the country, to help me, I should guide them and care for them rather than pressure them.”

The bachelor President has been consistently described by his Cabinet as having an unusual memory with an extreme eye for detail, who constantly challenges them. Cabinet secretaries, when presenting to Aquino, have likened the experience to “oral examinations,” or a “thesis defense.”

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.