Aquino: I'm doing all I can to tackle nation's challenges

MANILA, Philippines – Faced with what he himself described as among the biggest challenges of his administration, President Benigno Aquino III said he is doing everything he can to tackle the problems confronting the nation.

Aquino gave the assurance while addressing youth leaders in Malacañang – his first public speech since his February 6 national address on the Mamasapano clash – at the awarding ceremony of the 2015 Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO).

The President recounted the many challenges during his presidency and said he must remain "calm" through it all.

“As President, I am doing everything I can in order to face and solve the problems of the country. Often, I ignore exhaustion and lack of sleep. I cannot let myself be carried away by emotions because I might just worsen the problem,” he said.

Aquino also said it is also imperative for him to always remember the goal of his administration's hard work.

“This is our ultimate aspiration: To not repeat the mistakes of the past, and to pass on to the next generation an undeniably more prosperous and better Philippines than what we inherited,” he said.

Aquino enumerated the challenges that his administration has faced, so far, since 2010, beginning with the tension in the Korean peninsula, the threat of Ebola and MERS-Coronavirus, the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), and the most recent, the Mamasapano incident.

It is the first time the President – who appeared in good spirits – has mentioned the Mamasapano clash in public in an unrelated event. The issue has sparked calls for his resignation.

'Don't give up now'

After giving a summary of his administration's achievements, Aquino – who is hounded by ouster calls – said he has no plan “to give up” now and neither should the youth. He gave his assurance that he would see through the reforms that has “benefitted many.”

"We have truly come a long way because we choose to do what is right, and to prioritize the interest of the majority. Despite this, we know that we have a lot more challenges to face. But should we give up now when we have accomplished what we only used to dream of? Should we back out now, when there are many more participants in our broad development?" he said.

He added: "The challenge of our times: Continue the reforms that we are enjoying. Let us intensify our cooperation, and strengthen the foundation of the Philippines that we are striving for  – a nation where each one has the means to attain his goal."

On January 25, some 392 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos entered Mamasapano town, a known bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to arrest top terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, or Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman. The commandos killed Marwan but Usman reportedly managed to escape.

The operation resulted in a bloody clash between SAF troopers and rebel forces that claimed at least 65 lives, including 44 SAF troopers. The MILF blamed this on the SAF team's failure to coordinate with them, as provided in its ceasefire agreement with the government on operations in known MILF territories. 

Since the operation, the public has expressed their disappointment in Aquino for his handling of the event. Further dissatisfaction stems from confusion over Aquino’s role in the operation.

A Senate probe and an investigation by the Board of Inquiry are ongoing to determine responsibility and what went wrong.  Rappler.com