Aquino: Shun temptation of totalitarian rule

Natashya Gutierrez

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President Benigno Aquino III encourages regional leaders to foster democracy in their respective nations for the good of ASEAN

INDONESIAN WELCOME. President Benigno Aquino III encourages ASEAN leaders at the Bali Democracy Forum to foster democracy for the good of the region. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III’s message at the Bali Democracy Forum was loud and clear: totalitarian regime is never acceptable.

Speaking before regional leaders in Bali, Indonesia, Aquino on Friday, October 10, recognized the possible benefits of totalitarian rule but emphasized that its consequences far outweigh the benefits.

“It can be said: In a totalitarian regime, things get done faster, whether they are right or wrong, precisely because there are no checks and balances in place. Very often, the consent and support of the governed are neither sought nor attained,” he said.

“Naturally, such a regime, one divorced from the desires of its people, will have weak foundations. In that kind of regime, might I point out, the opinions and wishes of the governed are only second to the objective of staying in power.”

Aquino acknowledged that as a leader, it is common to feel frustrated which ”breeds the temptation to consider an authoritarian method” that may likely bring about “immediate gains.” He warned however, that without consensus, instability would ultimately arise.

“Sitting down and reflecting on this idea, however, we realize that, with the lack of consensus and consent from the people, such a mode, which offers quick, short-term gains, may be detrimental to society in the long-run,” he said.

“On the other hand, in a democratic state, which is the opposite of an authoritarian regime, government is systematically attuned to the voice of the people; it represents the people and works towards the betterment of its people.”

The President’s statements come after a previous admission that he would be open to a second term if the people willed it. Currently, the Philippine Constitution prohibits a president from seeking re-election after a single 6-year term.

Surveys have since showed that majority of Filipinos reject the idea of a second term for Aquino, or of amending the Constitution. His term ends in 2016.

Important for ASEAN

Aquino, who is co-chair of the forum, along with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, then encouraged ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) leaders to foster democracy in their respective countries for the good of the ASEAN region even if it would require a “significant amount of time.”

“All of our reforms in the domestic sphere complement our approach in building meaningful consensus with our ASEAN brothers and partners in the region. Like all of you, we share the belief that stability and cooperation are fundamental in maximizing the prospects of success brought about by democratic participation,” he said.

“To those who represent the different ASEAN states here today, all of us know full well that the collective growth of our citizenries may only be fulfilled in a regional context where our shared ideals and individual beliefs are respected by our partners.”

Aquino said it is crucial for the region to harness its “united solve towards a democratic regional community,” and for ASEAN counties to treat each other “as a brother in the path to mutual progress,” vowing that the prospects are promising and will be well worth it.

“Thus, it is incumbent upon us to continue to show our brothers and sisters in ASEAN that they chose the right path; we can do this by extending assistance to them, in every manner possible,” he said.

Aside from co-charing the forum, Aquino is in Bali to share the Philippines’ best practices and the country’s experience in achieving democracy. He will return to the Philippines on Friday evening.

Progress of Philippines

In his speech, the President also shared the history of the Philippines in fulfilling democratic processes, citing the EDSA People Power revolution which toppled the 21-year regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Aquino praised the peaceful movement as “the absolute measure by which all democratic actions in our country will be judged.”

He also talked about how Filipinos recovered from “the lost decade” under his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo by voting for Aquino in 2010, “when Filipinos, after many years of neglect and misgovernance, campaigned with us and voted for an idea whose fruits we are already reaping today: and that idea was, ‘Where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty.’” 

Aquino cited the progress achieved by his administration, specifically the “resurgent economy, a more empowered citizenry, and the growing confidence of the international community in the Philippines.”

“What we have done is to bring back government to its core: to be a provider of genuine service and by so doing, empower society and enterprise; to champion what is right, fair, and democratic towards the benefit of all, and thus enable our people to participate in fulfilling the promise of our freedom,” he said.

In the Philippines, Aquino said, it is “the interest of the majority, and not of the powerful few” that is “the ultimate compass of government.”

The latest Social Weather Stations survey on the 3rd quarter of 2014 shows satisfaction with the President has risen to 59%, while dissatisfaction fell to 25%.

Strong ties

Aquino also thanked Yudhoyono for his work in continuing to strengthen relations between the Philippines and Indonesia, hailing the Indonesian leader as a “big brother and an able partner to many of us.”

He said the relationship between Indonesia and the Philippines is a striking example of ASEAN nations working together for the betterment of all.

The President said Indonesia played a key role in helping the Philippines forge peace between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and has been supportive of the Philippines’ efforts to secure its maritime borders, combat terrorism, and raise awareness for climate change.

Indonesia has indeed been a true friend to my people,” he said. –

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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.