Aquino sworn in as president, vows to honor parents' legacy
Benigno Aquino (C) takes his oath as Philippine President before Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales (L) during a ceremony at Quirino Grandstand in Manila on June 30, 2010. Holding the bible is Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ. Aquino's sister Kris looks on. Benigno Aquino was on June 30 sworn in as the Philippines' 15th president. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Benigno Aquino took over as president of the Philippines on Wednesday with a vow to lift his nation out of poverty and wipe out crippling corruption that he said thrived under his predecessor.
In his inauguration speech to a mass of supporters wearing his family's signature yellow, the 50-year-old bachelor promised to honour the trust of the millions of Filipinos who delivered him a landslide election victory.
"Today marks the end of a regime indifferent to the appeals of the people," Aquino said in one of many stinging criticisms of Gloria Arroyo, whose nearly 10 years in power were marred by allegations of vote rigging and massive graft.
"Through good governance in the coming years we will lessen our problems. The destiny of the Filipino will return to its rightful place and, as each year passes, the Filipino's problems will continue to lessen."
Aquino said ending poverty -- nearly a third of the nation's 90 million people live in slums -- by eradicating corruption would serve as the foundation of his administration's six-year term.
"Our foremost duty is to lift the nation from poverty through honest and effective governance," said Aquino, an economics graduate who spent the past 12 years as a member of parliament.
Aquino promised to increase funding for education, health and low-income housing using money that would have otherwise been lost to corruption.
Police estimated 500,000 people turned up at a seaside Manila park for Aquino's inauguration, and the event took on a festival-style atmosphere with a popular folk singer belting out songs of hope before the oath-taking.
The crowd roared and waved yellow flags as Aquino, wearing a traditional Filipino "barong" shirt, took his oath in front of a Supreme Court judge.
Aquino vowed to honor his parents' legacy of democracy, and promised a better Philipppines as his own legacy.
"My parents sought nothing less and died for nothing less than democracy, peace and prosperity. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward," he said. "Ang layunin ko sa buhay ay simple lang: maging tapat sa aking mga magulang at sa bayan bilang isang marangal na anak, mabait na kuya, at mabuting mamamayan."
"Layunin ko na sa pagbaba ko sa katungkulan, masasabi ng lahat na malayo na ang narating natin sa pagtahak ng tuwid na landas at mas maganda na ang kinabukasang ipapamana natin sa susunod na henerasyon. Samahan ninyo ako sa pagtatapos ng laban na ito. Tayo na sa tuwid na landas."
Aquino reiterated his campaign promise to curb corruption and practice good governance.
"Ang mandatong ito ay isa kung saan kayo at ang inyong pangulo ay nagkasundo para sa pagbabago - isang paninindigan na ipinangako ko noong kampanya at tinanggap ninyo noong araw ng halalan. Sigaw natin noong kampanya: 'Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.' Hindi lamang ito pang slogan o pang poster - ito ang mga prinsipyong tinatayuan at nagsisilbing batayan ng ating administrasyon," he said.
"Sa tulong ng wastong pamamahala sa mga darating na taon, maiibsan din ang marami nating problema. Ang tadhana ng Pilipino ay babalik sa tamang kalagayan, na sa bawat taon pabawas ng pabawas ang problema ng Pinoy na nagsusumikap at may kasiguruhan sila na magiging tuloy-tuloy na ang pagbuti ng kanilang sitwasyon."
Aquino said clean and honest governance will start with him and his Cabinet.
"Ang unang hakbang ay ang pagkakaroon ng tuwid at tapat na hanay ng mga pinuno. Magsisimula ito sa akin. Sisikapin kong maging isang mabuting ehemplo. Hinding hindi ko sasayangin ang tiwalang ipinagkaloob ninyo sa akin. Sisiguraduhin ko na ganito rin ang adhikain ng aking Gabinete at ng mga magiging kasama sa ating pamahalaan," he said. (Jump to next paragraph)
Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay (C) takes his oath of office before Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morlaes (L) at Quirino Grandstand in Manila on June 30, 2010. Binay was sworn in as the Philippines' 15th vice-president president. AFP PHOTO
"Naniniwala akong hindi lahat ng nagsisilbi sa gobyerno ay corrupt. Sa katunayan, mas marami sa kanila ay tapat. Pinili nilang maglingkod sa gobyerno upang gumawa ng kabutihan. Ngayon, magkakaroon na sila ng pagkakataong magpakitang-gilas. Inaasahan natin sila sa pagsupil ng korapsyon sa loob mismo ng burukrasya."
Jobs, revenues, red tape
Aquino also said he would revive his mother's emergency employment program, which succeeded in generating economic growth during her term.
"Bubuhayin natin ang programang "emergency employment" ng dating pangulong Corazon Aquino sa pagtatayo ng mga bagong imprastraktura na ito. Ito ay magbibigay ng trabaho sa mga local na komunidad at makakatulong sa pagpapalago ng kanila at ng ating ekonomiya," he said.
He also promised to clean up the two key revenue generating agencies of government: the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenue.
"Hindi kami magiging sanhi ng inyong pasakit at perwisyo. Palalakasin natin ang koleksyon at pupuksain natin ang korapsyon sa Kawanihan ng Rentas Internas at Bureau of Customs para mapondohan natin ang ating mga hinahangad para sa lahat," he said.
Higher proceeds from tax collections will go to quality education, health care, and housing.
In response to persistent problems of red tape, Aquino vowed to set up a predictable place for investors.
"We will be a predictable and consistent place for investment, a nation where everyone will say, 'it all works.'," he said. "Walang lamangan, walang padrino at walang pagnanakaw. Walang wang-wang, walang counterflow, walang tong. Panahon na upang tayo ay muling magkawang-gawa."
"Gagawin nating kaaya-aya sa negosyante ang ating bansa. We will cut red tape dramatically and implement stable economic policies. We will level the playing field for investors and make government an enabler, not a hindrance, to business. Sa ganitong paraan lamang natin mapupunan ang kakulangan ng trabaho para sa ating mga mamamayan."
Midnight appointments, aid to farmers
Aquino also announced that he would scrutinize the "midnight appointments" issued by Mrs. Arroyo.
"Sa mga itinalaga sa paraang labag sa batas, ito ang aking babala: sisimulan natin ang pagbabalik ng tiwala sa pamamagitan ng pag-usisa sa mga 'midnight appointments.' Sana ay magsilbi itong babala sa mga nag-iisip na ipagpatuloy ang baluktot na kalakarang nakasanayan na ng marami," he said.
He also promised to prioritize poverty alleviation and improve services for farmers.
"Ang ating pangunahing tungkulin ay ang magsikap na maiangat ang bansa mula sa kahirapan, sa pamamagitan ng pagpapairal ng katapatan at mabuting pamamalakad sa pamahalaan," he said.
"Kung dati ay may fertilizer scam, ngayon ay may kalinga na para sa mga magsasaka. Tutulungan natin sila sa irigasyon, extension services, at sa pagbenta ng kanilang produkto sa pinakamataas na presyong maaari," he said.
"Inaatasan natin si Secretary Alcala na magtayo ng mga trading centers kung saan diretso na ang magsasaka sa mamimili - lalaktawan natin ang gitna, kasama na ang kotong cop. Sa ganitong paraan, ang dating napupunta sa gitna ay maari nang paghatian ng magsasaka at mamimili."
He also said he would continue the policy of peaceful settlement of conflicts in Mindanao. (Jump to next paragraph)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers his inaugural speech after taking his oath of office at Quirino Grandstand in Manila on June 30, 2010. Aquino vowed in his inauguration speech to lift the country out of poverty & end corruption. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE
"My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflicts, inclusive of the interests of all - may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian.
Poverty, revered parents
"I think he can reduce corruption and improve governance," said high school teacher Terlito Malaya, 52, as he waited for Aquino to be sworn in.
"Poverty is also a very big problem and needs a permanent solution... but no one should think right now that he will fail."
One crucial factor in Aquino's election victory on May 10 was his status as the son of democracy heroes Benigno and Corazon Aquino, who remain revered for their efforts to overthrow dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
His father and namesake was shot dead at Manila airport in 1983 as he returned from US exile to lead the democracy movement against Marcos.
The new president's mother took over from her martyred husband and led the "people power" revolution that overthrew Marcos in 1986, then earned a reputation as an incorruptible leader during six years as president.
"My parents sought for nothing less, died for nothing less, than democracy and peace," Aquino said.
"I am blessed by this legacy. I will carry the torch forward."
Aquino repeated his warning to Arroyo and her allies that he would investigate them for their alleged crimes while she was in office.
"To those who are talking about reconciliation... we have this to say: There can be no reconciliation without justice," he said.
Aquino then referred to a Truth Commission that he announced on Tuesday would be set up to investigate and potentially prosecute Arroyo for alleged corruption, vote rigging and human rights abuses.
"Those who are guilty should face justice," Aquino said.
Part of Wednesday's events saw Aquino escort Arroyo in a limousine from the presidential palace to the Rizal Park venue for the oath-taking ceremony and transfer of power.
They shook hands and smiled for the press at the presidential palace, but Aquino avoided making eye contact in their awkward encounter.
At Rizal Park, some in the crowd booed Arroyo, then gave her ironic cheers as she departed before Aquino was sworn in.
Although Arroyo, 63, was an unpopular leader, she won a seat in the elections to represent her home town in the nation's parliament.
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk were among the foreign dignitaries to attend the ceremony. -- with reports from Cecil Morella, Agence France-Presse; Ces Oreña Drilon, ABS-CBN News; and ANC