PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. AQUINO III
Republic of the Philippines
“His Excellency: An ANC Special”
Talkback with Tina Palma | 22 September 2015 | Tuesday
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Tina Monzon-Palma: Thank you very much for this opportunity, Mr. President. I've been wanting to do this for many, many years. The first time you granted this interview was when you decided to accept the challenge to run for president. So it’s been almost closing to six years, 281 days.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes, yes.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And what we want to find out in this interview is what are you most proud about? That moment in these several years, what are you most proud about being president?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Let me start out with the change in attitude of the people. From one of apathy to one of… When I get complaints, criticisms, I subscribe to the idea that if you complain, it seems that you believe that the person who you are complaining to can 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. Now, we have everybody’s inputs… Iyong everything is a work in progress. The development never really stops. The demands of our people for food, shelter, clothing, education, electricity—what have you—infrastructure. Hopefully, we will keep on growing as the population grows, the needs also grow.
So again, even with the criticisms, I won’t say I like all of these criticisms but the point is the legitimate gripes are indicative that they do believe that government can effect positive changes as oppose to what we inherited, which was apathy. That I think is the greatest achievement.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Can effect positive changes is your indicator that the change of attitude has actually given you an opportunity to be proud of it? That moment of a change in attitude the government was able to respond, case in point, the traffic. Everybody complains of traffic.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And why did you as President have to take it on?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Traffic… Let me start with some of the numbers that are with me. I think I mentioned it already in some fora. But we have something like 1,200,000 new motorcycles—this is last year’s figures. Car sales are increasing on an average I think about 20 percent year-on-year for something like two or three years. When we started out, I think the most optimistic number was 150,000 units of cars. And in the 2014 figures, I am told that it is a little less than 300,000. Then, of course, the penchant for keeping cars running that were there. Some of them were before I was born, some of them were in my college...
Now, just the other day I was asking Babes Singson, is it time we started building all of these elevated roadways, which something like America which had multiple. Then he said, “Sir, the way our country is growing, I think we will never catch up with the demand.” So the first thing that has to be done is really before we start imposing rules on private vehicles is to have an efficient public transport system. That, unfortunately, is still a work in progress, whether it’s the MRT, the LRT, new concepts as far as bus transportation is concerned.
The other day, DOST (Department of Science and Technology) was presenting what they call a bus train concept—a different take on the Bus Rapid Transit. Bus Rapid Transit, we are piloting it in Cebu but this takes time, and even setting it up, even with buses, the rails—you will have to layout the rails, quarry the land, et cetera. Even with the Bus Transit System, you still have to build all of the stations. There will still be stations that will have to be needed and in the construction of which will further compress the available lanes that can do, for instance like on EDSA. So we have…
We are reviewing so many different schemes. All of them will be happening—a lot of them unfortunately after my term but we'll start it out during my watch. And then, we’re looking now for immediate solutions, amongst them are the Highway Patrol Group. There is under study by both the Highway department and the MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority), amongst others, for temporary infrastructure at major choke points. There is a… You can build temporary structure, for instance, an elevated… Siguro off ramp, for instance in Katipunan—junction of Katipunan is C.P. Garcia. The southbound lanes stops to give way to the C.P. Garcia, people who are going left.
What if there was an elevated runway—way that stuck, that prevents that intersection by building that ramp that crosses to C.P. Garcia? The proposal kasi... There is supposed to be a new technology that we can have it installed within four to six weeks. Our current technology, known by DOST and DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), says four to six months. So they are looking at this proposal from a foreign entity. We have the necessary materials. We just want to check if that technology really is valid.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But from the public’s point of view, I mean those are long-term projects?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: If it’s true, four to six weeks.
President Benigno Aquino III. Photo by Jonathan Cellona
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Four to six weeks this temporary situation. What they point to as a cause of traffic are ordinary problems that have hounded all of us. These are the buses that don’t take their lanes, these are the private vehicles on areas that are not supposed to be, these are roads and little streets that have been transformed to basketball courts. These things cannot be addressed?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Those are being addressed.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Immediately, and has there been some significant impact?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I think it was probably middle of last week, the Metro Manila Council was actually meeting. These are the mayors of the NCR (National Capital Region) who are—they were reviewing all of the secondary roads, people who are parking, people have used it for… so on and so forth.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And what reports have you gotten? Have they actually been able to tow and bring them out of these areas that are no-parking zones?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The initial reports were those that were more of a temporary need, people who use it as to hold their wakes, the wakes that became very prolong, et cetera. I have yet to see the numbers from their activity starting last week.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But are you satisfied with the presence of the Highway Patrol Group and the coordination with MMDA and the mayors? What has been the significant outcome of this collaborative work as far as traffic is concerned? Cutting travel time by how many? Do we have…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I think I read it in the papers, something like 18 minutes or something like that.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: 18 minutes, 18 minutes. So this was a problem that you took on when this was a very localized problem, the mayors and the MMDA. Did you feel that you are being put on the spot to solve a very localized problem and addressing it from a national president point of view?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The problem has been there. There was a study that said something like to lose probably P2 billion, lost productivity, fuel, ‘yung health issues. We have been really trying to address that. We can’t say that everything was just a question of our will. For instance, infrastructure, ‘yung amongst them ‘yung NLEX-SLEX Connector, ‘yung Skyway Stage 3 in particular. I just had to talk to both Leila de Lima and Secretary Singson and asked them. There is supposed to be a rule, my understanding is it’s under the DOT law. If there is a national infrastructure project, this cannot be a subject of a TRO by a regional trial court. Babes, he remembers that it is only the Supreme Court can review.
Now, he tells me, the problem now is, okay they are not granted that they don’t issue TROs on this national infrastructure projects. But what government is supposed to do is to have a deposit for the amount based on zonal valuation and then they can proceed with the national project. This is with question on rights of way. What the lower court does, the RTC, is to have a hearing on the valuation effectively stopping the project. So DPWH and probably the SolGen have already talked to the court administrator of the Supreme Court to ask that all of this lower court be reminded that there is such a law and that government infrastructure project should not be delayed.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Government, national?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: National infrastructure. Again, the just compensation issue is settled because government has to deposit the amount going to the value of the land based on zonal valuation.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: You have the issue that you withdrawn into that we found very interesting was the balikbayan box. I mean that had affected a lot of my friends from abroad and we were wondering how was the President being dragged into an issue like that, a balikbayan box…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I was…
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Where a declaration by Bert Lina says that we will open it, although they qualify that only when it is a suspicious looking box. How did that come about and you had to come in and step into the picture? Did you…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: One of my…
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Did they tell you beforehand they were doing that?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I don’t recall. But I do recall that my Comms Group told me about Sunday or so that week that there is this brouhaha nga in the social media networks and everything. So, quite, soon after that, perhaps I was making everybody my Monday and I was asking 'what is the issue?' and 'what they are trying to do?', et cetera, et cetera, and so many people were trying to play it up. But the bottom line is, if there’s one container containing "X" number of balikbayan boxes, there is one declaration for everything. Now, ‘yung… That’s the…
Ms. Monzon-Palma: From different senders and…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: But it’s the consolidator I assume, the forwarder who issues a declaration for everybody. So in effect, instead of really guarding our shores, we were hoping that all of these people were above board, altruistic, civic conscious and so on and so forth, but that’s not the case. The issue there is how do we make sure nothing is being smuggled, especially drugs, weapon, components of firearms, et cetera. So the solution was to run it through the X-ray and if the X-ray indicates that there is something suspicious then that’s the only time that they open it.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Does Customs have enough equipment to be able to detect these big container vans that are going to go through this X-ray light, meron ba or did they have to buy? Did they make a proposal to buy new equipment?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Something like they have 30 already, if I remember correctly. Perhaps if they have to have an additional tooth. And the whole process they promised for each container will take no longer than 15 minutes.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But that kind of an issue really sometimes catches our attention because this is something that we think need not have gone this way if there had been a more thorough purposive discussion before it even went on an announcement. We’re beginning to sense that it appears to be some dissonance in the way decisions are being arrived at in the Cabinet. Are you beginning to feel some kind of political…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No, I don’t think so.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: …affiliations wavering there?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No, no, no. You know, Bert Lina is new to the job, in a sense, although he is a returning commissioner.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But this is his line of work.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: And perhaps that’s why he was addressing it but sometimes, ‘di ba, perhaps it’s in the communication e. The intention was very good. The way it was portrayed… One cannot discount the possibility that there were those that were really exploiting the issue and creating more hysteria than what was required—or justified rather, rather than required.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: We go from the traffic and the balikbayan box. Now, to—as I was saying earlier that Secretary de Lima is now facing the media and talking about the charges against 90 MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), and some private armed groups of complex crimes with direct assault with theft and murder. These are 90 people. How do you think you’re partners here in the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) are going to respond to this? They say that they are still a revolutionary group and will they actually offer those who have been named—although we will not publicly name them—to surrender to the Philippine government?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: At the very least, I am very positive of this, they will as they have already demonstrated in the past that if there is a law enforcement operation they will stand aside. They will not hamper the procedure. But I would venture the guess that perhaps they will be even more than that. Again, they will not be a hindrance to our enforcement.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: So you are expecting the MILF leadership to actually offer the names if at all they are named in the charge sheet and they will be telling the Philippine government or the police who will be issuing the warrants of arrest to bring them to the fold of the law? Is this something that’s going to happen?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Let me try to divide the 90. Let me try to recall the numbers that are in the briefing. About 50 or so belong to—
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Private armed groups?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: And the BIFF.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: MILF, 26; BIFF, 12; and private armed groups, the balance of the 90.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yeah, so most of them are not under their control supposed to be.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Private armed…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: And also the BIFF. Their forces are called the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) so those are also not under their control but, again, let me restate, for their forces they will not prove a hindrance towards enforcing… We presume this 90 will—they will be given subpoenas to appear for the preliminary investigation. Most of them probably will not appear. I asked what is the effect? The effect is you waive your right to preliminary investigation. Subsequently, a court will issue warrants of arrest against these people.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: So before this day you had recently in the Philippine Daily Inquirer forum, talked about an “alternative truth.” That there could have been something there that we need to look at and I was listening to the way you sounded in that interview and you were referring to the images in that photos.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: One image.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: One image, one picture lang, one picture lang, na nakita mo was had some questions in the back of your mind. What bothered you with those photos, sir, that made you say that there could be something there more than what was…?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Baka we don’t want to show all of these pictures again, but the bottom line is…
Ms. Monzon-Palma: What bothered you there, sir?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Number one, the lack of any underwear. The report was, the testimony was, the SAF upon entering triggered an IED device. There is no IED device that I know of that is quiet. It serves two purposes: normally, when you employ such a thing, a booby trap in such a situation, warning to the people who are who feel that they will be assaulted; second, it stops the assaulting team, in a sense. You hesitate, you take care of your wounded, you put them aside. Now, suddenly, you have the picture of Marwan, of course, without again, no pants, no underwear. The mosquito net seemed to be—he seemed to be partially inside the mosquito net. I can show you the picture later. So I had to ask: It doesn’t seem to square with the account. Now, upon talking to—
Ms. Monzon-Palma: The account as discussed by the group of SAF under Napeñas?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: The report that was submitted?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, actually testimony of just one of the officers. Now, when I got to talk to 12 of the 13 who assaulted then it became clearer. For instance, it seems that they really—I believe, they engaged at least one person, probably two, inside the house of Marwan who was—then they couldn’t see who exactly it was because there was like a window type of thing, perhaps kitchen area that had all of this bamboo slats and it was night. Their testimony is this guy first shown a light on them while they were approaching. They stopped, they crouched and subsequently this guy started firing at them, and then there were other groups that were firing on the periphery towards their direction as they were assaulting. So I guess the testimony is erroneous in the sense that they misidentified the person in the secondary room as Marwan.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: What about the supposed story of Iqbal to you that the ones who actually—
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Iqbal to me? I don’t think we ever discussed Mamasapano.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Who told you that the two aides that shot Marwan?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: That was another—that was the alternative theory purportedly coming from witnesses, both circumstantial and direct.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Would you have any information as to who really cleared the area? The hut where the massacre… Sino ho ang naglinis 'non?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The SAF were there for… They engaged, they killed Marwan, that two who were also in the house—there’s testimony now they got last week—managed to escape. We understand… There’s a report that says both of them were shot. One was slightly wounded; the other was more heavily wounded and subsequently died. Who cleared? The SAF were there for something like two minutes to accomplish everything. They took the pictures, took the finger, and then extracted themselves from Marwan’s hut.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Yeah, but when the rest of the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) teams went to visit the place, there was nothing there for them to do some forensic.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Was it Leila who—?
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Leila and the CIDG, one at a time went there. There were so many teams visiting the place and there was no crime scene to speak of.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No crime scene? Mujiv was part of that group—Hataman—and he tells me that he saw grenade craters that appeared to have...
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But the hut where Marwan was shot…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The pictures again will show you…
Ms. Monzon-Palma: The pictures but right after that there was no chance for the team of the PNP (Philippine National Police) to really look at the place because they only stayed there for two minutes, ‘di ba, sir?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Teka muna. They have the operation, the SAF was there, was inside the house for something like two minutes. They have GPS units that show a track of them staying—baka naman incorrect ‘yon. Para clear na clear. When you’re inside the building the GPS uses a contact with the satellite. So it’s supposed to show that there was a gap of about two minutes and then a new line when they were extracting, kasi the GPS tracker or unit got to talk to the satellite.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But was there any investigative team, be it MI, CIDG, Leila de Lima, CHR, that went into the place where they actually still saw the picture, the background in the picture where Marwan was lying down, parang wala na?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The videos that were being shown, they didn't come out in your station?
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Hindi po. Iyong picture lumabas pero ‘yung video sa loob, wala pong nakuha. I could be wrong but I think…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The only thing in my possession are the pictures taken by the SAF while they were there that will show…
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Pero moving pictures parang wala po tayo. So did you have a hard time explaining to the survivors of the Mamasapano, the SAF and their families about that recent statement of yours, about a possible alternative truth, and that was why you met with them last Friday?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I talked to the 12—the 13th is out of the country, currently on leave—and that was the first opportunity to talk to any of them after I said that there was an alternative—
Ms. Monzon-Palma: These are the SAF troopers?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The 12 of the 13.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: The 12 of 13, and what was… How did it go, sir?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Very nice discussion. I wanted them to see my perspective and I wanted to see their perspective also. Amongst the things, you were 13, you were supposed to be 38, ‘yung did you know that SAC 55 was not in position to help you, why did you proceed with the assault? Who was… A very detailed account of what everyone was doing.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And this was the first time you were hearing it or this was something that you have read in a report because I understand you read reports very diligently.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: For first time after the possibility of an alternative version but I did talk to them, they came… We had the necrological Friday. I think I talked to them after the necrological.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Oo, but that was then?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I had a conversation also subsequently, probably two after that that last—and also with the families. But this is first one after—
Ms. Monzon-Palma: After, this is last Friday po. This was happened last Friday.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: After the resolution of… Well, they showed me the pictures Monday last week. Now, I did ask at some point in time: “It doesn’t seem normal that you will just take one picture. Are there any other pictures?” And the SAF director, Director (Moro Virgilio) Lazo, was not sure of the answer because he was the new director after the Mamasapano. So he gave me an answer and when he gave an answer I presumed that was a “no.” But he did subsequently tell Chief PNP (Ricardo) Marquez that he thinks there are and he went back to the people who had the cameras and lo and behold, there really were other pictures. And I asked: “Why didn’t you accord this previously?” And the simple answer was, "nobody asked." And I think the transcripts of all the investigations will show it.
So in Congress, is that a believable assertion? There was a head of—and I call it a legislative security bureau and he has been there since ’87 when this Congress had been formed, then he says, “You know I’ve seen so many investigations, sir, but there was one incident that he was called as a witness and he kept on answering that I refuse to answer on the ground that it will incriminate myself.” He said it’s very different when you are a witness, when you are in the actual witness of the inquiry rather than just watching everybody. So I would presume that a lot of these people who were very tense about being able to respond to any and all questions. And perhaps, at the time that they were being grilled, nobody I guess wanted to venture, “Sir, there are other pictures you might want to see.”
President Benigno Aquino III. Photo by Jonathan Cellona
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Do you feel a certain kind of closure with the filing of these charges against the 90 and…?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes, and the subsequent other charges.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And the subsequent other charges as far as Mamasapano…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, first, the idea of closure is that these pictures seemed to vindicate to me that the SAF was telling the right story, that the alternative versions are—have really no basis. And it also points to a way where we can improve intelligence gathering. Part of the reason that it became—you have all of these gossips, rumors, et cetera, these are so many information peddlers that will play on the truth in the hopes of being able to share in the rewards that are being offered to the—
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And did somebody, did someone get a reward as far as you know?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I think the… Well, the Americans are almost done with their processing. I understand just one male claimant. I will have to inquire on whether or not we have afforded—we have given our rewards also.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Our reward and another reward coming from the US government. And what kind of a process is going through with that? There has to be corroborative data coming from the investigation and the findings of…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I don’t do…
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Opo.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I don’t do the verification process and not exactly the system.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But that has to be shown to you that yes this is the person, ganoon?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes. They don’t actually clear the reward with me.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Talaga?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There’s presumption of regularity of the conduct. They do make a decision; the decision can stand scrutiny or should be able to stand scrutiny.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: So does that also—will you seek with this kind of a closure? Will that at all settle the issue of that hounding question of why you gave an order at all to Alan Purisima who was suspended? Does that also clear his name or you more comfortable now that…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There are still other questions. And it all said Napeñas' activities on that particular day. First and foremost to my mind is the issue of insubordination. And suddenly, my warnings to them were proven. And actually I don’t know if warning is a correct word. It might be a reminder because he did operate as the regional public safety battalion in that area and presumably he would know the terrain, would know all of the people.
When I’m given all of the details of these plans… Well, the execution of the plans versus the plan as presented to me is a very—how should I put it?—very unprofessional conduct of it. You know, I’m kind of hesitant to answer all of these questions because this is a pending investigation and anybody that will investigate will suddenly say, “the commander-in-chief, the chief executive already made all of these pronouncements…”
Ms. Monzon-Palma: How is Alan Purisima, sir, have you talked to him?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I haven’t talked to him in quite sometime. But can I just, ano… Perhaps, ano, just to put some substance to the assertion, and I think it was Mar Roxas who did mention it at one point in time. Assuming you were able to enter the areas stealthily, you had suppressed weapons, shouldn’t the planning take into account that perhaps your opponents do not have suppressed weapons and when… Suppressed meaning less sound signature. They were going to assault Marwan presumably this guy is called terrorist who will not come meek as a lamb. When they start engaging our forces, their guns will not be suppressed and this will alert everybody in the neighborhood that there is something happening.
So why is it that the entry and the exit are both the same route? Shouldn’t you exit through a different path? In fact in the presentation to me of the plan of “Exodus,” they were entering one side—they have two exit routes planned on the opposite side. Now, when we interviewed the supporting cast SACs 41 to 45, they were in the line of march, the original line of march, the entry route was what they were supposed to be guarding. So they were going to go in one route, they were going to go out the same route, and they will go out the same route presumably when the enemy or forces that were not friendly were already alerted. How does that make a sensible plan?
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And it was also already daybreak right, early on?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: When the... The ones on the road, 41 to 45th for deployment was I think... They actually saw people already preparing for a wedding feast. They saw people praying so this was presumably after 4. I am drawing everything from memory. I think they saw the people 5 or 5 plus.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: What is the best lesson that is handling of the Mamasapano by you, by the police, by the military and the conduct of the investigation teaching you?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, so many things ano. But even when the operators were talking to Director Napeñas there was an assertion that there was very serious debate about the plan as conceptualized and he stopped the debate somehow or stopped the discussions.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: At his level or with other...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: At his level with the operators, the people who will actually carry out the operation. SAC 55, which suffered the worst, they had the bulk of the opposing forces were in the back that they had come from with the bridge. The BOI reports talked about an area where coconut trees were present that could have afforded better cover. The first rule is get out of the kill zone. There is a testimony by Lalan that they weren't fired upon right away. Then there was a massing up of forces around them that eventually what triggered it was a challenge that they couldn't respond to. So Lalan says that their officers—I don't know if they got communications, then they discussed amongst themselves and then decided to stay put. Now, these are nuances of tactics.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But you go into this detail...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Kasi I don't want a mistake.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Miss out, yes.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No, I don't want a mistake. I don't want a mistake repeated. I want the lessons completely learned. You know, the dictum of 'fool me once, shame on you and fool me twice, shame on me,' is something I really believe in.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Did you have a chance to finally be able to express your compassion and sympathy to the families who for awhile did not actually feel good...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No, no, the bodies...
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Do you feel it? Do you think that they now welcome your interest and your continuing communication?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I haven't talked to them recently. But just for the record, Thursday the bodies arrived and I made a conscious decision not to attend. And primarily because I wanted to afford them some space to grieve because I wanted to start the healing process also with them that's why I did it the following day and I think at least on two occasions basically to get them—to restart their lives. To do everything that government can to restart their lives, or to help their lives.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And have they? Have they begun to...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Most of them and some of them I am told did not report for the jobs that they were applying for. Or some have changed what they wanted to do from getting employed into starting a livelihood project.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Well, when you would be asked what defines your presidency in terms of governance and in terms of leadership and management, what is the area that you think you have really shown your mettle as a leader and as a manager and as a transformational—I mean a lot of people tell me that you have transformed the way they look at how government is being managed. You are a person of integrity, of honesty, and sometimes can be very stubborn. What do you feel is the best moment that defines you as a president?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, first, I think—hopefully they will support me but I don't think I micromanage. If I do—
Ms. Monzon-Palma: That is not micromanagement?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No, if I call them... Parang micromanaging to me is calling them up several times in the week to follow up what the latest development or whatever the assignment is.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Okay.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Normally, I will get into details with them if I am not satisfied with what is already happening. How may I define? I'd like to think I am a consensus builder. Siguro I really have an allergy to being dictatorial thereby I really—we will have very, very thorough discussions. Sometimes I am told it doesn't have to be that difficult and that hard if I just ordered people around. Then I said, they will comply but I think it's better if they complied because they believe in what we were trying to do.
I don't think I shirked away from any responsibility. I am told by people close to me that perhaps I take on too much of the flak instead of my subordinates taking parang—taking the sword for me.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: That is true, that is true. Part true but do they deliberately do that so that you can keep their backs protected for the next administration?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I would like to think that isn't the case. But at the end of the day, if I did subscribe to whatever that they were doing then perhaps as the leader I should carry the responsibility for it.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But you have a friend who is now a former ex-LTO person who is being linked to an attempt to smuggle, smuggled sugar at the Bureau of Customs. I mean, how are you taking that and do you believe the story that you've read? Have you called her and asked her: What's going on?"
PRESIDENT AQUINO: You know, unfortunately, and I have to confess this, I found out all about it because of the article in the paper rather than the Bureau of Customs, for instance, telling me about it and reporting it or even submitting a formal report. And I still have to talk to—I have to ask them that question. But I think what is important there is assuming I have a friend who tried this, there is also another friend in the person of Jess Dellosa who is in charge of that field that assuming it happened, thwarted the thing. There is no damage to the state.
President Benigno Aquino III. Photo by Jonathan Cellona
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But this kind of friendship and we don’t know whether you actually are a friend of her so they say that you are friends. I mean, how do you maintain a relationship with these people that you have appointed and then all of a sudden fell from...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The definition of friendship is that, ‘di ba, ito ang landas ko e. Kapag gagawa ka nang salungat sa landas ko, hindi tayo magkaibigan. Kapag i-importahan mo ako na gumawa ng hindi ko kaya or hindi ko nagawa, or ikaw gumawa ng alam mong hindi ko gagawin, hindi na tayo magkaibigan.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Ano nabigla ka 'nung nabasa mo? All along these years hindi mo akalain na meron siyang ganoong business? Tumutulong sa mga...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Pero parang… Just on what was in the paper, she is supposed to be sugar planter. She has leased land in Tarlac after her stint in the LTO. Does it make sense for her to facilitate sugar smugglers that will depress the prices of the product that she has invested in? That is the only thing na off-hand, parang hindi yata logical ito.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: She is a sugar planter...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: A new sugar planter.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: A new sugar planter. Ilang ektarya po ang...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I don't know but this was after her LTO stint.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And she has not tried to call you to explain, “Boss...”
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There was a text message in all honesty to one of my assistants, and said: "Sobra ito, to think of showing people, et cetera..." I haven't talked to her about it.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: You haven't talked to her about this case. You define friendship again, sir. What is your definition of friendship?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: If our friendship is based on your ability to use me, well therefore, we are not friends. If your interest, your aims are contrary to what I want to do, then we also cannot be friends. So, the friendship aspect there is, 'di ba, two-way street. Iyong you can count on me because I can count on you. And when I count on you, there are certain parameters that these are—'this is okay, this is not okay.' Smuggling definitely is not okay. Influence peddling is not okay.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Okay. Vice President Jejomar Binay has always been a friend to you all these years...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: But under my watch, I have yet to see anything that he did as head of the housing sector.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Again?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There are no allegations about him doing anything while serving as a housing czar in my Cabinet.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Nothing.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Knock on wood.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Have you ever been to hacienda, the hacienda that they speak about in Rosario, Batangas?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: You are unaware of all of these things that have come out in the course of the hearing of the sub-committee?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: You know, through the years there have always been rumors but this is the first time that we've seen—parang evidence, it seems (-unclear-) to support those allegations.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Opo and one of the things that I have thought was very candid and honest when you were asked about what you thought of what you would tell him and you said: 'You know all he has to do is tell the truth. He knows what the truth is.' What did you mean by that?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I don't remember the context but...
Ms. Monzon-Palma: The context is...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Before the True State of the Nation I think, ano?
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Opo, opo. What are you trying to say? 'Just say the truth.' Parang lumabas ka na at magsabi ka na nang totoo.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, in that context 'yung the True State of the Nation, for instance, I remember one part of the speech that says: 'O lumaki raw ang ating foreign direct investment,' which is true from 1 to 6 billion US dollar. Compared this to Singapore to Indonesia to... In a sense that's true but where were they coming from versus from where were we coming from? Parang we were nowhere in the investment horizon or radar of so many investors, and our point now was 600 percent growth is nothing to smirk about.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: How are we doing as of now? I understand Vietnam in terms of growth is on the top?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, Vietnam was ahead of us in terms of opening up their economy, in terms of being a land of so much potential, et cetera. All I was saying is, in the past five years, these are the changes. I think, all of these things.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Yes, please... No, we will begin with that because that is really very important I think to what we wanted to also talk to you about and this is the legacy as far as the financial structures are concerned and the...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Can I go into this?
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Yes, sir.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: This is a table of BIR collections—I'll show it to you—but the summary is in the post it. Now, basically, it says in Mrs. Arroyo’s time, they have a collection average—what is it?—500 something...
Ms. Monzon-Palma: 568 trillion po ito?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Billion.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Billion.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: It averages 1.2 trillion in our case.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Trillion na?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Trillion.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Opo.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: And that's the average for the five years. That's 500,000 on average for the nine years. Now, what does that mean?
Ms. Monzon-Palma: What does that mean?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We didn't raise taxes except for sin tax. We improve what they call the tax collection—or tax administration, the collection efficiencies from 12 to 13.6. Bottom line is government... And then you watch how it is spent and therefore you are able to produce all of these things throughout the country be it infrastructure, be it basic services. Basic services, what does that mean? Increase the enrollment in PhilHealth. You have the bottom...
Ms. Monzon-Palma: That is one sector that I think there has been significant improvement and impact, the social services po.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, some of that. The schools that will build... Sorry, I had to remember all the... We started out with 66,000 as a backlog. I think we will finish something like 180,000 classrooms to take care of the old, the damaged by all of the disasters, the K-12 requirements and so on and so forth. So again, all of the basic services, all of the social services, without increasing any taxes.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: CCT.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: CCT (conditional cash transfer)—thank you for reminding me—780,000 households to 4.4 million households, then expanding it to high school. We had the first batch graduate last year. Over 300,000 and over 13,000 ‘yung honor students.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But in the area of agriculture, sir, has there been a significant improvement?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We will wind up with very close to 100 percent in terms of food security for rice. It's 90-something, I don't recall the exact figure but we will not... We are not confident that we will have 100 percent.
President Benigno Aquino III. Photo by Jonathan Cellona
Ms. Monzon-Palma: So you do not have that kind of a target as far as rice sufficiency is concerned?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Was a target. Was a—and still a target. Now, so many questions, for instance, things that you know now that sana you knew then. For instance, sa NIA (National Irrigation Administration). We actually asked our appointee...
Ms. Monzon-Palma: NIA? Irrigation.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Irrigation. They had an anniversary and they invited me as a guest speaker. And then when I got there one of the things that really got my attention was when it comes to performance of that agency, for repair and maintenance, they would do it 200 percent of target. Actually, more than 200 percent. When it comes to new, it was a higher 60 percent and why is that significant? Iyong when you came to dredge a canal, when you go and say 'the depth is only like this, it should be this much,' then there is, 'sir, rains came in continuously last month that's why there are desilting, suddenly silted up again.'
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Oo.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Pero 'pag new, is there a canal or there is no canal? Now, to highlight that so I did point out, sabi ko: 'You know I wasn't born yesterday.' And there is parang warning bells already are telling me that look into these figures. I assume it was Monday or Tuesday. The following day there was probably a NEDA Board meeting and he came in again, he had a presentation and he bothered to explain. Sabi niya: 'Sir, for that—the year that you were questioning or this period or for this year in particular, 40 percent of all our works were for Mindanao. And, unfortunately, Pablo came in and that's the cause of all of the delay.' Kasi 60 percent, or 40 percent, ano. So sabi ko 'Pablo,' and in the back of my mind Pablo was December so I did check. So it was something like… Probably, it is either first or second week of December, probably the second week.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Pablo was December, sir, I remember.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: December and probably second week.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Mga December 10, ganoon around that period because we were traveling there during Christmas.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: So this NIA administrator in front of the entire Cabinet says 40 percent of what they were going to do was going to happen in the last two weeks of the year.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Yeah.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: That includes Christmas and New Year.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Opo.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I almost bodily carried him out of the Aguinaldo... Fortunately, there was so many female executive assistants around that reminded me to be a gentleman. So I just accepted his resignation.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Talking of female, now we are into the topic of female. You gave me the opening so I pick it up. Is there a female in your life? A woman in your life now? Whatever?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: My mother is a constant inspiration.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Yes and your sisters. Is there some companion there that you have a nice drink and coffee and some chat?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Not regularly.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Not regularly.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Which means there is no single individual and not even a regular interaction like that.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Really? How long are you able to… Is this a crazy question? Can you have actually a date? Do you go out? You used to go out you know. I was in a restaurant, let me tell you, I was in a restaurant—
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Sometimes.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: In Metrowalk and it was a Korean restaurant so I was having my dinner with my family and I saw this picture on the wall with you and—
PRESIDENT AQUINO: And somebody.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: No, no, no. There was no girl that you were going out with. Just all the people, the waiters and the busboys, et cetera and I called the girl and said: 'Sino ang kasama ni Pangulo?' Of course they gave me the name but you did go out and… I see you go out.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I won't say naman na I had zero.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Ano po?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: It's not zero.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: It's not zero but—
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Approaching lang.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But you have to have something more lasting and you can't be lonely, sir.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: After this.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: After this?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: After 281 days.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Yeah, I checked today, 281 days.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Or 280.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But that one is something that you have prepared for, you think that you will still go for it, have a chance to settle down? It's in the back of your mind or do you pray for it?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There are many variations already, parang through the years, if it's my destiny can you give it soon. If it's not, then you make me understand why not.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Mahirap na 'yon because you are President. How can you move around with the PSG beside you?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: They are very nice.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Very nice in what context?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: They remember I am the commander-in-chief.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: They just follow orders.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: I think that part of your life, the thing that’s also in the news, much news these days, is the ongoing hearings of the Senate Electoral Tribunal about the citizenship and the residency issues hounding Senator Grace Poe. What to you is a Filipino? What is a Filipino to you?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, traditionally, by our laws it says, ano e, a natural born citizen is somebody who never did anything to complete the process. That is the traditional—the way all the lawyers that I’ve talked to from the time I was in the House telling me about it. One would hope that Senator Grace gets the opportunity to be judged by the people to secure the mandate. Vox populi, vox dei. That's a personal opinion.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Yes, you are looking for a favorable ruling from the Electoral Tribunal that she is a natural born and not a naturalized Filipino as Justice Carpio is saying?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Hopefully, I assume, ano, it might get elevated to the Supreme Court that there is decision that is timely, that it happens… There is clarity and it happens soon rather than to be decided after the elections or something like that.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: I'll go back to an earlier thought of mine about shifting political alliances among your Cabinet members and the stories that we hear— correct me if I am wrong—is that there are those who have openly declared to you that they are not for your anointed one Mar Roxas? How are you dealing with that political alliance shift not just in the Cabinet but even in Congress? You have a Feliciano Belmonte, the Speaker, who—
PRESIDENT AQUINO: He claims he was not accurately quoted.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Really? So what he did say? What did he mean?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I am trying to recall what he said over lunch yesterday, and I don't know if it was somebody else who said it…
Ms. Monzon-Palma: For him?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: And he was... I'll have to ask him exactly what the situation was.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But he... The story going around is that he is in fact supporter of Grace Poe and not Mar. Is that true? Is that something that… Do you go on validating now that there is this window between now and October 12 to 16?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Speaker Belmonte was present yesterday when we were having a political dialogue with other members of the LP hierarchy as to how to advance Secretary Mar's campaign.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Opo.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There was no question that he's fully onboard.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: No, but there is—from the little review that I had of the Liberal Party there are just 20 of you who are solid Liberals and the rest come from different—Lakas and PDP Laban. Does that actually put at risk the possible total Liberal Party back up of Secretary Roxas? Is that going to affect…?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Assuming there were those that will… You cannot please everybody. The value of the individual is so important to the Liberal. Again, we don't have a... We don't impose, shall we say, decisions unless... The party takes a stand and at one point in time the requirement was if you cannot in all conscience support that party stand, you have to state a party stand first then you can state your individual stand.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And what happens to his membership?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We still agree on so many other things. So we can depend... When everybody says that we are with you, we can count that that is as is and where is. That is the complete statement.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: One of the things...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Can I just add that there were those who were never with us who have experienced what good governance is and want the perpetuation and the continuation of the same. And even at this early stage, the power blocs in different provinces and areas, we are having to decide which group to accommodate, in a sense, did they say exclude the other side if you want us with you. As oppose to, we are desperately searching for new supporters. Most of the time is how to manage that there is no dissension amongst both contenders.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And you are successful so far?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Nothing is perfect.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Nothing is perfect. The other thing that I wanted to ask you about is people talk about your handling of the China dispute and you have made a very strong case for the Philippines and, in fact, got the support of your key allies. Do you think China will ever retaliate one way or another like support a candidate other than your anointed one?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: That would be I think a violation of our laws, number one. Number two, perhaps, I should ask this question, is there any other option for me to do at this point in time? When we started out, there was a joke—and hopefully this will not strain our relations with them further—but there was a joke early on while the first incident happened off Reed Bank or Recto Bank as we call it. We were given a service contract, they were exploring the area, they were shooed away. This was a year before Scarborough Shoal.
They keep saying 'let's have a bilateral dialogue'. And our position is, Spratlys is multilateral foreign ASEAN alone, plus Taiwan, plus China, there are six of us. How can two bind the other four into any agreement? It has to be a multilateral fora so that we have a lasting agreement amongst ourselves.
Now, the joke then was it seemed like China was saying 'what is ours is ours and what is yours, we share.' And I was like of course, I laughed at that time. Sometimes when they say 'let's have a joint venture,’ and said, you know we have—our laws recognize that we can have foreign investors, for instance, in an oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea. I think the discussions bogged down in terms of conflict resolution. Assuming there is a disagreement between the joint venture partners, whose laws apply? And that becomes again laws apply for sovereignty. So do we keep saying… You know, sometimes personally, when they say historical precedents gives them the right.
Somebody once said during the time that Spanish colonized us, the Chinese were not allowed inside Intramuros, they had to set up their own community outside Intramuros. So would they be able now to say that they colonized the Philippines at the same time as Spain and if we get our rights from Spain therefore they have the rights that were accorded us Spaniards at that point in time. Is that a possibility? And I think they claim historical basis for their ownership of so many features.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Where do you see Japan's role expanding its military might in the region? Is this going to be a proxy war in behalf of America and the rest of the people who are supporting of their own claims?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The Japanese were explaining it to us, whether it was an engagement in the Middle East. At one point in time, their forces were not allowed to engage and they had to be rescued by a third country. They tell us that in a convoy and they can be part of a convoy of an allied convoy, if certain ships of that convoy get attacked, their lost at that point in time did not allow them to come to the defense of the people that they were in a convoy with.
In the Golan Heights, there was a period in time when we were all together there, and we depend on each other for various—transport, communications, mutually reenforcing as peacekeepers. If suddenly some of our peacekeeper fellows are not authorized to come to our aid and practically we didn't have any allies to begin with. So we think that to revisit the interpretation of their Constitution makes them a more abled partner in various activities like peacekeeping.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Will it be more peaceful then with that kind of stance of the Japanese or is this going to put the region more at risk?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I don't think that should be seen as a provocative move. The church that I belong to says self-defense is a legitimate exercise, is sanctioned in certain circumstances. Laws around the world I think recognize also the idea of self-defense. So should they be afforded less rights because at one point in time they were very aggressive? I'll make a distinction between our experiences with them in the World War II and post World War II. Post World War II they have been one of our staunchest and most reliable allies and friends, be it in disaster relief, be it in economic development and so on and so forth.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But you have done everything that you as President together with the Congress to be able to state firmly about our rights?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes, yes. I think I would say 'yes' to that question. Arbitration, I did consult with then Senate President (Juan Ponce) Enrile and Speaker Belmonte. I think we invited the judiciary also if they wanted to join in just to have a sense of the whole government as to if whether or not this was the proper move for us to do given the inherent risk. And the judiciary said, ‘We think we cannot participate, cases might be sent our way down the line. We want to have that neutrality or maintain that neutrality.’
But both then Senate President Enrile and Speaker Belmonte, they were fully in consonance with what we were trying to do of settling the matter. Now, the disputes there I think flared up in the '70s when I was still in the Grade School. In 2002, they tried to come up with a Code of Conduct, they failed, they only produced the Declaration of Conduct, which is a set of motherhood principles.
In 2012, in Phnom Penh, we did raise the matter that this is the 10th year and we have not had a single meeting towards the culmination of the Code of Conduct. The DOC said ‘yung we will craft the COC in time. So, there were preparatory meetings, I think two, perhaps another one scheduled leading up to the formal meeting to come up with that binding Code of Conduct. But in the interim, there are so much things that have been happening, then we were just asking the arbitration to determine whether or not this nine-dash line has any basis. Whether...
Ms. Monzon-Palma: That's the arbitral. Will the decision come around during your term po? October or…?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: They haven't I think settled the issue of jurisdiction first. After jurisdiction that's when they decide.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: BBL? Do you think it's going to be passed within your term, by June 30 of 2016?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We are pushing in all directions. Yesterday I met with retired officers of the PNP and the AFP and we clarified.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And did they...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, I'd like to say that I gave it a very big push.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: And are they now more convinced that it needs to be pushed regardless of what...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Let me see what were the objections, constitutional grounds, the... For instance, the decommissioning aspect. They wanted a firm timeline and they said that, you know, they can stop if we don't meet—there are certain performance parameters from our end and there are certain performance parameters from the other side. So they wanted within six months from the ratification of this law, all of their firearms should be decommissioned and render useless. There should be no more international decommissioning body, they should just surrender it to us then we render them useless.
Sabi ko, 'How is that fair?' You are asking a party that has been belligerent. The idea of is the trust between the two sides. That has to be developed. What is clear to me is even before the BBL is there, they have already actually started with the initial group of decommissioning weapons, 75, if I am not mistaken and several of those are crew-served weapons, their heaviest armaments, as a sign of goodwill.
How do we ask… If we promise them ‘X’ budget, and all the other things that have been part and parcel of the package. We meet 10 percent of this, we want a 100 percent of their commitment. Do you think there is any transaction between two parties that are negotiating...
Ms. Monzon-Palma: What is the act of decommissioning going to signify...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: They changed from fighters to ordinary citizens.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: But that same gun that they used cannot be used by other armed forces...
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The decommissioning says once the whole process is finished you render them useless.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Hindi na puwedeng gamitin para hindi na tayo bumili pa ng baril? Hindi ganoon? It is not proper.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Marami nang… The symbolism actually is that we are putting an end to that particular phase.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Are you happy now that you are about to enter your end of your term or what?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I will be lying if I say no. Just the idea of, ano—
Ms. Monzon-Palma: No, parang you were reluctant when you started e. But now that you did a good job as far as you are concerned and many people are concerned, are you now saying that “Buti na nga I served na nga e.” Hindi naman ganoon, ano? You accepted is willingly and you did your best... I mean people don't think you did your best. How do you deal with that?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: For the bulk, I think they will say that we went beyond expectations. And when we say bulk talagang overwhelming majority. But I submit that there is a contrarian group that exists anywhere in the world now and then of course the cottage industry of my critics. Regardless… Hindi bale sana half-full, half-empty, almost empty when they describe it. And the declining readership, viewership but the people know the truth. When my numbers rebound whenever they go down I think supports the case that most of the people think that I have done a good job.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Iyong change of attitude that you said in the opening did you have a change of attitude now about the politics? Have you seen the dirtiest part of politics and the…?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We have been victims of the dirtiest before, the campaign, et cetera.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: Have you seen it more closely now, now that you are President? Are you still a victim of it?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Of course. How many times somebody will report on something and attribute it to a third party so that they are not subject to any libel case? You know, there was a lady from another network that we had a forum and I asked, sabi ko: 'Why is that it seems a times that it is a sin to report positive news?' And she actually told me that 'We are a business, it's not our job to report the positives.' Parang it's their duty to report the negatives. She didn't say it exactly that way. Pero, ‘di ba, negativism sells and positivism does not. And I guess that's what, this is a business, it's not a—how should I say it—altruistic concern. But just to highlight, I have said several times it is really an honor to serve the people.
Anything that I… Any institution, any challenge that I have to face, I managed to face squarely and 'yung with all the tension and all of that, I have supreme confidence that the people were behind me. That enabled me to make the right decision. In the midst of temptation to play it safe, one of my colleagues said it best: "the tension will always be doing the hard right over the easy wrong." They keep saying na this is not (-unclear-) to do that. And then sabi ko, 'the people deserve to know the truth' and let us say the truth as far as we can unearth in any and every instance.
Ms. Monzon-Palma: I think I will end on that. Thank you so much for this opportunity to interview you for the second time around. Maraming, maraming salamat po.