MANILA, Philippines – The Senate subjects Malacañang to checks and balances. How will a senator do this if he is not only the President's party mate, but also his cousin?
Wearing his family's trademark yellow shirt and his grandfather's signature glasses, senatorial hopeful Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV told Rappler he's open to deviating from President Benigno Aquino III's stance on certain issues.
“Kami naman ni PNoy, pareho 'yung hangarin pero sometimes baka magkaiba sa issues. Pareho 'yung hangarin na talagang i-push ang kaunlaran at talagang itodo ang kaunlaran sa ating bayan, but sometimes, specific issues might differ,” Aquino said in an interview after he filed his certificate of candidacy Friday, October 5.
(PNoy and I have the same objectives but sometimes may be divided on issues. We have the same objective of pushing for progress, but sometimes, specific issues might differ.)
Categorically asked if he is willing to criticize the President on specific issues, Aquino said: “It's a hypothetical question. I don't know what I will criticize him on. But definitely, I think, our stance will be our own stance.”
“Obviously there will be times when we might not agree on things, but at this point, the reforms that he's done are things that we want to push through,” the senatorial hopeful said.
Platform: jobs, youth
One issue that the executive branch can improve on, according to him, is the government's conditional cash transfer or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program.
Photo by Don Regachuela
“Even when I was still a private citizen, I was already telling them, 'Kailangan, 'yang Pantawid Pamilya, tumawid 'yan toward enterprise. Hindi puwedeng manatili 'yan sa pagbibigay lang ng pera. So ngayon, they're already starting to do that, and as a senator, I hope I can support it even further,” Aquino said.
(Even when I was still a private citizen, I was already telling them, “That Pantawid Pamilya program should progress toward enterprise. That cannot remain to be all about doleouts.)
He also emphasized the importance of infusing youth in the Senate. “Iba talaga eh,” he said, quickly pointing out the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 despite a contentious provision on online libel. Senators have admitted missing out on this provision's implications when they signed the law.
“Kung may kabataan sa senado, I'm sure they would have understood ang implication niyan. That was done on January 24 pa. Ang tagal na niyan nung siningit 'yan, and nobody said anything about it,” Aquino said.
(If there are young people at the Senate, I'm sure they would have understood its implication. That was done on January 24. That provision has long been inserted, and nobody said anything about it.)
The young Aquino is placed in a unique situation. He is running for senator while his cousin is still the chief executive, sparking perceptions of nepotism, special treatment, or conflicts of interest.
This image, however, doesn't bother him. He said being the President's cousin has its “advantages and disadvantages.”
“That's life,” he said. “Some people will be for you because you're the cousin of the President. Some people will be against you because you're the cousin of the President.”
"What I'm hoping for is that in the next 8 months, people will really try to see (what I've done), what do I stand for, what are the things that we are fighting for, and vote for me based on that,” Aquino added. (Watch more in the video below.)
The young Aquino is a social entrepreneur known for Hapinoy, a full-service micro-entrepreneur enhancement program that aims to help and train sari-sari store owners in the Philippines. He also once headed the National Youth Commission.
He is the son of veteran election strategist Paul Aquino – youngest brother of the martyred Benigno Aquino "Ninoy" Aquino Jr, the President's father. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.