MANILA - Does President Aquino lack empathy?
Thirty-five days before he steps down from office, the President sought to dispel criticisms that he shows no emotion and lacks empathy with the Filipino people, saying that he is performing his job without having to resort to "play acting."
"Sana nakita namin yung emotions mo. Pero sorry hindi ako ano. I am not play acting at being president. I perform my role as president," he said.
He then told critics: "Yung mga kritiko nagkaroon ng trabaho. E di nakatulong din ako sa kanila. OK na rin siguro."
Critics have rebuffed Aquino, son of democracy icons Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and Cory Aquino, for insensitivity on several occasions.
In 2013, Aquino was criticized for his alleged insensitive statement to a Tacloban businessman who had survived Typhoon Yolanda.
Jeff Manibay, a convenor of One Tacloban, said he was correcting a report given to the President that only 72 people were killed in the disaster. He then pointed to Kenneth Yu Uy, a young Tacloban businessman, to explain the deteriorating peace and order situation in the city.
"That man nearly got shot this morning, buti na lang hindi tinamaan," Manibay told the President.
Aquino then told Uy: "“Eh buhay ka pa naman, di ba?”
READ: Man who did not abandon Tacloban passes away
Malacanang later said Aquino did not rebuff the businessman.
Last year, the President was also criticized for skipping the arrival honors ceremony at the Villamor Airbase for 44 police commandos who were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Instead, the President attended the inauguration of a car manufacturing plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
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During Thursday's press conference, Aquino was asked if he could have addressed his perceived lack of empathy if he was married.
The President then said he had asked an aide to check the definition of empathy in both Wikipedia and Merriam Webster online.
The two online sources describe empathy as "a capacity to understand and feel what another being is experiencing from within another being's frame of reference i.e. the capacity to place one's self in another person's position."
The President then said: "Hindi ko maintindihan kung may basehan yung criticism."
Aquino specifically mentioned his experience in Tacloban during the Yolanda tragedy, which saw more than 6,000 people killed and billions of pesos in property and agricultural land destroyed.
The President said he went to Tacloban two days after the tragedy and saw how people were "just walking on the streets with no one from the local government or police assuring the people that help was on the way."
He said he got down from his vehicle and told several people to go home and wait for aid, which would be coursed through the barangays. He said his main job during the tragedy was to bring a "feeling of calm" and coordinate the relief effort without having to resort to photo ops.
During the siege of Moro rebels in Zamboanga City in 2013, the President also went to the area and was told by one representative that the crisis needed a final solution.
Aquino told the representatives that he could not bomb the rebels since it would also lead to the deaths of some 200 hostages. Killing innocent civilians, he said, would lead to more violence through clan wars.
"Ano ba dapat ang ginawa ko dun - I should empathize with all of them and been as angry and demonstrated yung galit na galit ako, o tatapusin ko na ito. Nakatulong ba para sa interes nila at para sa sambayanan? Dumating ako dun, I took active charge at tumungo tayo sa solusyong maganda," he said.
In the end, he said only two hostages were killed and 200 rebels arrested.
Aquino, the country's first bachelor president, said that even if he was married, he does not see the logic in him being seen as the one who solves crisis situations while his wife cries.
"Hindi ako tumayo dito para mag-showbiz. Tumayo ako dito para gampanan ang papel ng isang pinuno. May krisis, asikasuhin ko yung krisis...," he said.