President Aquino talks about the legacy he will leave behind during the ANC special interview. Photo by Jonathan Cellona for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA - There's one thing President Benigno Aquino III is most proud of in his nearly six years in office: the Filipino people are no longer apathetic.
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News Channel's Tina Monzon-Palma on Tuesday, the President took pride in what he believes is a change in attitude of the people -- from being apathetic to being vocal about various issues and problems hounding the country.
"Whenever I get complaints, criticism, I subscribe to the idea that if you complain it seems that you believe that the person you're complaining to will do something about it. Now why is that an achievement? Because before people were so apathetic they just gave up. People were voting with their feet. People were really leaving. The ultimate ambition was how to get out of the country," Aquino explained in "His Excellency: An ANC Special."
"Now we have everybody's inputs. Everything's a work in progress. The development never really stops. The demands of our people -- food, shelter, clothing, education, electricity - what have you - infrastructure -- hopefully will keep on growing. As the population grows, the needs also grow.
"I won't say I like all of these criticisms but the point is the legitimate gripes are indicative that they do believe the government can effect positive changes, as opposed to what we inherited which was apathy. That, I think, is the greatest achievement," he added.
Aquino now only has a little over 9 months before he steps down from office on June 30, 2016, a moment in his life he has repeatedly said he has been looking forward to.
"I will be lying if I say no," he said, when asked if he is happy that his term is already about to end in 281 days.
(READ: What will PNoy do after term ends in 2016?)
Aquino ran for the country's top post in 2010, with the presumptive Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Mar Roxas giving up his plans after the death of former President Corazon Aquino generated a clamor for her only son to seek the presidency.
According to Aquino, he has done his best as a leader, describing himself as a "consensus builder" who has "an allergy to being dictatorial."
"For the bulk, I think they will say that we went beyond expectations," he said. "And when we say bulk, talagang overwhelming majority."
The President acknowledged, however, that there remains the "cottage industry of [his] critics."
"Di bale sana yung half-full, half-empty. Almost empty eh when they describe," lamented Aquino.
But Aquino said he has nonetheless always managed to face all the challenges that have come his way squarely, thanks to the support of the people whom he calls his "bosses."
"I've said several times, it's really an honor to serve the people," he said. "I had supreme confidence that the people were behind me. That enabled me to make the right decisions in the midst of, you know, temptation to play it safe."
HIS ADMINISTRATION'S GAINS
In the interview, Aquino also touted anew his administration's gains and high economic growth rate, while taking a swipe at his predecessor, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Under Arroyo's leadership, Aquino said the average amount of taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) every year was P568 billion. But under his leadership, the average tax collection doubled to P1.3 trillion a year, he said, citing the improvement in government's collection of taxes.
The President also included among his accomplishments the improvement in the delivery of basic social services to the Filipino people.
He pointed out the increase in the enrollment in PhilHealth, the construction of over 100,000 new classrooms, and the expansion of conditional cash transfer (CCT) program beneficiaries from 780,000 to 4.4 million households. All of these happened without any increase on taxes, he stressed.
(READ: PNoy: Insults worth it)
President Aquino enumerates his administration's accomplishments during the ANC special interview. Photo by Jonathan Cellona for ABS-CBNnews.com
Aquino, meanwhile, reiterated the Philippines' stand to continue its arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea dispute, despite Beijing's insistence on holding bilateral talks instead to settle the sea row.
"Perhaps I should ask this question: Is there any other option for me to do at this point in time?"
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands is expected to issue a decision on whether it has jurisdiction over Manila's case against Beijing after the conclusion of the two-round hearings in July.
The President stressed the need for a multilateral approach to resolve the disputes. Parts of the South China Sea are also being claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
"The joke then was it seemed like China was saying 'What is ours is ours and what is yours we share,'" Aquino said, as he went on to also explain why the Philippines and China has never entered into a joint venture in oil exploration in the disputed seas.
"I think the discussions bogged down in terms of conflict resolution. Assuming there is a disagreement between the joint venture partners, whose laws apply?... Laws apply from sovereignty," he noted.
Aquino also maintained that its deepening alliance with Japan is not meant to provoke China, saying that "self-defense is a legitimate exercise."
(READ: PH, Japan hold historic naval drills in flashpoint waters)
EVIDENCE VS BINAY
Meanwhile, the President was also asked by Monzon-Palma about what he thinks of Vice President Jejomar Binay amid various allegations of corruption being hurled against the former Cabinet member.
According to Aquino, he has never gone to the supposed hacienda of Binay in Rosario, Batangas, which is among those being investigated by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee as properties allegedly acquired by the former Makati mayor using ill-gotten wealth.
"Through the years, there have always been rumors, but this is the first time that you've seen parang evidence to support those allegations," Aquino said.
Aquino and Binay share a friendship that goes a long way back. Binay was appointed the officer-in-charge mayor of Makati City when the late former President Corazon Aquino assumed the country's top post in 1986. Binay himself credits the appointment for launching his political career.
The erstwhile friends, however, have turned political foes, following Binay's resignation from the Aquino Cabinet and his subsequent attacks against the administration, and especially with the upcoming 2016 elections.
(WATCH: PNoy, Binay: Friends turned foes?)
Binay will face off with former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Grace Poe in next year's presidential race.
Aquino has endorsed Roxas as his preferred successor. The President believes his former interior secretary is the one who can surely continue his "Daang Matuwid."
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