MANILA, Philippines – Former National Youth Commission (NYC) chairman Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said he is not an instant shoo-in for the Liberal Party (LP) senatorial slate just because he is the cousin of President Benigno Aquino III.
Speaking to ANC, Aquino said he talked to LP officials about his intention to run for senator only after getting the go-signal from the President. He said he is currently in the list of 17-18 names being considered for the LP slate.
“You don’t get a free pass because you're the cousin of the President,” he said.
The former NYC chairman said being a member of the Aquino clan has its pros and cons.
“Actually, I think it’s really a double-edged sword. Definitely, there will be people who want to support because of the family name but as I’ve seen already there are people who will hit you also because of the family name,” he said.
Hacienda Luisita controversy
He said one criticism that puzzled him about his proposed senatorial run is that he is being fielded to revitalize the President’s hold on Hacienda Luisita. This is despite the fact that the Aquino clan has divested itself of its shares in the hacienda.
“The Aquinos have no holdings in Luisita. They made a knee-jerk reaction without looking at the facts…There are just some people who won’t like you because of what your last name is,” he said.
He said he is all for the distribution of the hacienda to landless farmer-beneficiaries.
Aquino also said he does not expect his past as NYC chairman during the Arroyo administration to affect him.
Aquino said he remains proud of his work in government despite the numerous scandals that cropped up during the Arroyo administration. “Ang gulo na ng gobyerno nung time na yun,” he said.
He said that when his NYC term ended in 2006, he wrote a letter to President Arroyo to say that he would move on.
Paul Aquino as adviser
In the interview, Aquino said his father, Paul Aquino, will always be his adviser because of his long years of experience as a campaign manager. The older Aquino is the youngest brother of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
Bam, however, said he is putting a young team that will bring to light the issues of poverty and the youth in a way that will resonate with young voters.
Asked what he expects to do in the Senate, he said: "What I envision for the Senate is being able to create laws that will define that our country is pro-poor, supports the micro-entrepreneurs and gives a level playing field to countrymen who want to improve their lives."