Aquino gathers allies: Either you’re with us or you’re not
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, September 12, gathered his allies in Malacañang and delivered a clear message in a speech that read like a mini-State of the Nation Address (SONA): It’s either you’re with us or you’re not.
A day before he embarked on 12-day visit to Europe and the United States, Aquino led an “agenda-setting dialogue” with what Palace officials described as “reformists and like-minded public servants" at the Palace Rizal Hall.
Aquino reminded them of his administration’s achievements, and emphasized that the only way forward is through the straight and narrow path he and his ruling Liberal Party (LP) are treading.
He said this is what would matter come the 2016 presidential elections.
“Ang misyon nga po natin: Isagad ang magagawang pagbabago sa kasalukuyan, para makita ng ating mga Boss na ang tanging daan tungo sa ating mga adhikain ay ang pagsunod sa tuwid na landas (Our mission is to further our reforms, so our Bosses can see that the sole path to realizing our dreams is righteousness),” he said.
Aquino also slammed the opposition for going against his administration's reforms. He said this makes the opposition, which is fielding its own candidate in 2016, "against us" and his achievements – from the 6.2 million scholars of the Technical Educational Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) to the peace process.
“At siyempre po, ang mga kontra sa atin, magtutulak ng sarili nilang kandidato. Sa kanila nga po, na hindi natin kasama ngayon dahil kontra ang prinsipyo nila sa atin, ‘di ba’t natural lang din na kokontra sila sa lahat ng nagawa natin?,” he said.
(Of course, those who oppose us will push for their own candidate. And to those who are not with us today because their principles are inherently opposed to ours: is it not also natural for them to oppose everything that we have already done?)
'Why are you not with us?'
Anticipating the opposition to support the continuity of reforms, as they had done in the past, the President said: "Should they say that they are agreement with our efforts, and that they too have the goal of serving our Bosses, then I will ask them: Why are you not with us?"
He added: "If you are in agreement with our work, why do you choose to oppose the things we are fighting for, as opposed to working with us, and contributing to the positive transformation of society?"
Vice President and opposition leader Jejomar Binay was not in the room. He was not invited.
It was the first time Aquino distanced himself from the Vice President.
Binay currently tops surveys of preferred presidential candidates. In the latest Pulse Asia survey, Binay received a 41% voters' preference if elections were held that day. Aquino has yet to announce his choice, but presumed LP standard bearer and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas’ numbers are at 7%. (READ: How do you solve a problem like Mar Roxas?)
In his speech. Aquino also said he trusts thats, as long as the administration continues to work hard, the people will be able to see that the best way forward is to support someone who will continue his reforms.
“Tiwala po ako, maski anong panlilinlang o pagpostura, makikita ng ating mga Boss kung sino ang ampaw at nais silang pagsamantalahan; masusuri nila kung sino ang talagang handa silang ipaglaban,” he said.
(I have faith that, whatever the posturing or lies of others, our Bosses will see the difference between those making empty promises, in order to take advantage of them later on, and those who are ready to fight for them.)
The President added: “Kailangan lang po talagang araw-araw nating pag-ibayuhin ang pagsisikap, kailangan nating doblehin ang pagkayod, kailangan nating idiin sa taumbayan na itong tuwid na landas, itong agenda ng reporma at ng tapat at mabuting pamamahala, ito lamang ang tanging paraan para magpatuloy ang ating paglalakbay tungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pangarap.”
(We need only to renew our efforts every day; we need to double our work; we need to impress on our countrymen that this straight and righteous path—this agenda of reform and of true and honest governance, this is the only way to ensure that we continue on our journey to fulfill all our aspirations for our country.)
About 400 guests from the Cabinet, Congress, and local governments packed Malacañang’s Rizal Hill to listen to the President's speech.
Before the event began, many said they were not sure why they were called in, and that they were only invited a few days ago.
Albay Governor Joey Salceda, an Aquino ally, was initially clueless as to why he was called in but later described the gathering as a “show of force.”
“Everybody’s here,” Salceda said.
Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras told reporters the gathering was meant to “refocus and clarify certain things” after numerous “distractions” in recent months, apparently referring to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), among other issues.
“It’s setting the tone for the next few [months],” he said.
Aquino reminded his allies at the event that they are all tied together “not by personalities, not by the color of the vests we wear in the campaign, not by slogans –but by principles."
“Iisa ang ating paninindigan. Pinagbubuklod tayo ng ating mga mithiin para sa bayan. Wala pong tactical alliance dito: Magkakadiwa tayo. At kahit kailan, hindi po tayo naniniwala na ang tamang pamamahala ay politics of addition lang – na kahit ba kasalungat mo ng prinsipyo, kung maisusulong ang ambisyon mo, ay kakampihan mo na,” he said.
(We are united by the belief that we are bound together by our aspirations for the country. There are no tactical alliances here; we are of the same spirit. At no time have we ever subscribed to the politics of addition as true governance – none of us are willing to sacrifice our principles, and ally with those who stand diametrically opposed to us, just out of the selfish desire to ensure the success of our personal ambition.)
His statement was a strong call to stay allied with him and his reforms, a timely appeal as 2016 nears.
According to a legislator supportive of the President, Aquino's allies in the House of Representatives are "looking at options" as early as now, and starting talks with other parties in anticipation of 2016. Convinced that the LP has no viable candidate at the moment, legislators are concerned about their own welfare.
Another Malacañang source told Rappler that Aquino wants to ensure his allies stay with him in his last few years, as he attempts to pass important bills and solidify more reforms before he leaves office.
Emphasis on continuity
Aquino said he has received text messages telling him it is his obligation to find a replacement or to train his successor. He also said there are suggestions from the public that he should stay on to ensure the permanence of reforms, a statement that elicited light laughter from the crowd.
Aquino objected to the idea of staying on past 2016, which he himself had earlier broached.
“Alam ko pong nasa isip na ng ilan sa atin ang halalan sa 2016. Darating po ang panahon para sa pagpili natin ng kandidatong magpapatuloy ng ating tuwid na landas. Sana po, hindi po ako ang kandidatong iyan,” he said.
(I know that the 2016 elections are already on the minds of some. Indeed, the time will soon come when the straight path will choose a new candidate. I hope it isn’t me.)
The Constitution prohibits a president from re-election after one 6-year term.
Aquino emphasized that it does not matter so much who he will endorse, but rather the commitment of everyone to continue his administration's reforms.
Despite this, he made sure to praise Roxas in his speech for the reforms he had instituted in the Philippine National Police (PNP) as Interior Secretary, including cleaning up the image of the police force, its modernization, and its renewed commitment to capturing criminals and bringing them to justice.
“Iyan nga po ang dinala ni Secretary Mar Roxas sa PNP: Ang pagsipat, nakabase sa datos at estadistika, kaya ang resulta, mas maaasahan (And that is what Secretary Mar Roxas brought to the PNP: investigations are based on data and statistics, which lead to more reliable results)," he said.
Roxas was the one who introduced the President before he delivered his speech. – Rappler.com