5 years of Aquino: Highs and lows

Jee Y. Geronimo

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5 years of Aquino: Highs and lows
Rappler looks back at the most criticized and most applauded statements and actions of President Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III was more quotable than usual during his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday afternoon, July 27. 

He took a jab at former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo: “Makakamove-on lang tayo ‘pag ating nakamtan ang katarungan (We can only move on once we achieve justice).”

He hit Vice President Jejomar Binay with a one-two punch: ‘I thank you, bow‘ and ‘Eh di wow.’

But he was self-reflective by the end of his speech, admitting that he is not perfect but he nonetheless fought the good fight.  

For the past 5 years, Aquino had his fair share of praises and criticisms. As he enters his last year in office, Rappler looks back at the most criticized and most applauded statements and actions of the President. (READ: Aquino’s SONA speeches through the years)


For a long time, our country lost its way in the crooked path. As days go by [since I became President], the massive scope of the problems we have inherited becomes much clearer. I could almost feel the weight of my responsibilities.

This was from his 1st SONA on July 26, 2010. Jumping off from his Social Contract with the Filipino People, Aquino defined “Tuwid na Daan” (straight path) in his first SONA.

He would repeat that phrase in all of his SONAs and throughout his presidency as a commitment to good governance.

“Some of my critics say that I take this campaign against corruption personally. It’s true: doing what’s right is personal. Making people accountable – whoever they may be – is personal. It should be personal for all of us, because we have all been victimized by corruption.” 

Aquino said this in his 2nd SONA on July 25, 2011, about two months after Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, an Arroyo appointee, resigned. Relieved that her resignation “spared the country from a long and divisive impeachment process,” Aquino told Gutierrez the fight is not personal. 

Months later, Arroyo herself was arrested for electoral fraud, while her appointee Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached. Senator-judges arrived at a guilty verdict after an impeachment trial that lasted for more than 4 months.

“There are those who say that we should let Bajo de Masinloc go; we should avoid the trouble. But if someone entered your yard and told you he owned it, would you agree? Would it be right to give away that which is rightfully ours?”

This was how Aquino – in his 3rd SONA on July 23, 2012 – appealed for “solidarity from our people” regarding the issue of Scarborough Shoal, whose official Philippine name is Bajo de Masinloc. Throughout his presidency, he continued his tirades against China, and went as far as saying China’s efforts to seize disputed parts of the South China Sea were similar to Nazi Germany’s actions before World War II.

“Saan po kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha ang mga kawani sa ahensyang ito? (Where do employees of this agency get the gall?)”

Hands down, this was the most powerful statement made by Aquino in his 4th SONA on July 22, 2013. He again took a swipe at corrupt practices, zeroing in on the Bureau of Customs after the finance department revealed that over P200 billion in revenue did not go into public coffers.

“I will not let peace be snatched from my people again. Not now when we have already undertaken the most significant steps to achieve it.”

Signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014, at the Malacañang Palace, the President appealed to the Filipino people to support this opportunity to end a “cycle of poverty, injustice, violence.” In his 5th SONA, he also appealed to Congress to understand the delay in the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“Our guiding principle: Good governance equals good economics, equals good quality inclusive growth. So in terms of the economy, let us forget the [Philippines’ old] label as the ‘Sick Man of Asia.’ We are now regarded by other countries as the ‘Darling of Asia.'” 

During his visit to Filipinos in Chicago in May 2015, Aquino talked about the improved Philippine economy as a result of his administration’s anti-corruption drive. But for the first quarter of 2015, the country’s gross domestic product grew by only 5.2% – the lowest in 3 years. 

WHAT WILL HE SAY? Aquino's last SONA is probably his most anticipated one. File photo by Francis Malasig/EPA


Manila hostage crisis: Resolution took 4 years

Almost two months after he assumed office, Aquino faced his first major challenge as president: the Manila hostage crisis on August 23, 2010, that led to the death of 8 Hong Kong tourists.

It took almost 4 years for the Philippines and Hong Kong to resolve their differences on the issue. Aquino had refused to issue an official apology, one of Hong Kong’s major demands.


Partying after Sendong?

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Sendong in 2011, Aquino drew flak for “partying” with Malacañang employees before Christmas. Sendong – one of the worst natural disasters in the country – killed 1,439 people in Mindanao.

“Gusto kong masabi na talagang lahat ay ginawa na natin para lang maisalba ang ating mga kababayan. Para sa akin kahit isang namatay ay sobra na po.”

(I want to be able to say that we have done everything to save those who are missing. For me, even just one death is too much).

He said this during the 2012 awarding ceremony of Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations at the Malacañang Palace. Typhoon Pablo, one of the worst typhoons to hit Mindanao, had caused massive flooding and killed 1,901 people in December 2012. The President even compared the destruction he saw to a war zone.

FVR’s criticism on Zamboanga siege

During September 2013’s Zamboanga siege, former President Fidel V. Ramos criticized the government for its handling of the siege and its alleged failure to implement the peace accord.


“Buhay ka pa naman di ba? (You’re still alive, aren’t you?)”

Not long after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Central Visayas in October, Super Typhoon Yolanda barreled through the Visayas and some surrounding provinces, leaving 6,300 dead.

During a meeting on November 10, 2013, in Tacloban City, Leyte, regarding local and national response to Super Typhoon Yolanda, a businessman, who was shot by looters, recommended the imposition of martial law in typhoon-affected areas. A frustrated Aquino shot back at him. 

“My message to the Supreme Court: We do not want two equal branches of government to go head to head, needing a third branch to step in to intervene. We find it difficult to understand your decision.”

The President said this in a July 14, 2014, address to the nation at the Malacañang Palace. Aquino was caught in a quarrel with the Supreme Court after Senator Jinggoy Estrada first exposed in 2013 the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The High Court declared key executive moves under DAP as unconstitutional.

“In general, I don’t attend wakes of people I don’t know. I find it – and I’m speaking for myself – I’m uncomfortable in trying to condole with people who don’t know me.”

On October 22, 2014, this was how Aquino explained why he chose not to attend to the wake of transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, who was allegedly killed by a US Marine visiting the country.


Aquino skips arrival honors for SAF44

In January 2015, the public was outraged when Aquino chose to attend an inauguration of Mitsubishi plant in Sta Rosa, Laguna, instead of going to the Villamor Air Base to give a heroes’ welcome to 42 elite cops who were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

But a day after, he spent more than 12 hours in Camp Bagong Diwa to talk to the families of the fallen Special Action Force (SAF) troopers, he said:

“I am the father of this country and 44 of my children were killed. They can no longer be brought back. This tragedy happened during my term, and I will carry this to the end of my days.”



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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.