Clinton doesn't disappoint Manila audience
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Former US President Bill Clinton paid a courtesy call on President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday and expressed his support for the Philippine government's various programs, particularly on anti-poverty.
The "social call" happened past 3 p.m. at the Premier Guest House inside the Malacañang compound. The meeting was also attended by several Cabinet members, including Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Abad.
"The discussions were casual, they were very friendly, and they focused primarily on anti-poverty programs of the Philippine government," Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang told ANC's Top Story.
Carandang noted that the former US president was most interested about the Philippine government's efforts in alleviating poverty, which is also at the core of programs carried out by an organization he set up in 2005.
The Clinton Global Initiative is a non-partisan organization that convenes global leaders to devise and implement solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
Carandang said President Aquino shared with Clinton his plans to expand the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program from 1 to 2.3 million households, and several long-term investments in education and healthcare.
"President Clinton said the CCT was a good idea and it's been known to work in other countries and he said he supports that program," he said.
Aside from anti-poverty efforts, Clinton and Aquino also discussed the Philippines' rice self-sufficiency goals, and plans to build new capacities in the power sector.
"President Clinton seemed to be interested in the Philippines' rice production. He is also particularly interested in geothermal power because it's a renewable energy source."
Carandang noted that the discusssions were "general," and "no specific thing [was laid] on the table because it was just a courtesy call."
President Aquino earlier said Clinton's visit was a vote of confidence for the Philippines despite supposed terror threats.
Last September, Aquino met Clinton's wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during the signing of the $434-million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant in New York.
The MCC grant would fund infrastructure and rural development programs in the Philippines to reduce poverty and spur economic growth.
On a lighter note, Carandang said Clinton asked for a Diet Coke during the meeting. President Aquino is known to be fond of regular Coke.
Praises PNoy, GMA, Ramos
In his speaking engagement at the Manila Hotel, Clinton said President Aquino possesses the qualities of a good leader, and though he had met him only briefly, he said he saw that Aquino has a clear idea of where to take the country and the energy behind it.
Clinton also praised the two former presidents in attendance, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo and former President Fidel Ramos. He made special mention of the corporate social responsibility bill filed by Arroyo in Congress.
Clinton said he sees the Philippines finally reaching its potential if only there was a relentless focus on the future, and if there was a capacity to abandon grievances the way Rwanda in Africa had done despite its harrowing past.
He also acknowledged that the colonization of the Philippines by Spain and the US has not been good for the Philippines.
He praised the Philippines' effort to maximize domestic sources of energy, and singled out the country's development of geothermal energy as something other countries can emulate.
Sustainable growth, light moments
Clinton also spoke about the need to change the world's economic way of life, and predicted how the 21st century could be the most progressive and excited period in history if there is a common effort to minimize the negatives.
He also warned of calamitous prospects if the world continued to cling to the past, citing the need to minimize the generation of greenhouse gases.
Clinton had several light moments in the question and answer portion, saying the vast power he once possessed made him realize he wasn't quite as smart as he thought he was.
He also joked he was free to speak his mind now and be much more open. But, he added, not much people pay attention to what he says until he says something that may be embarrassing to his wife, now US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and, her boss, US President Barack Obama.
Clinton doesn't disappoint
Clinton did not disappoint those who paid between P10,000 to P25,000 each for tickets just to listen to his speech at the Manila Hotel.
Big names in politics and showbiz gathered for a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to learn from one of the most powerful leaders the United States has offered the world.
One of Clinton’s most striking messages, according to former Senator Richard Gordon, was when the former US President mentioned how leaders should treat power, money, and responsibility they have.
"One of his most powerful messages was about the powerful leaders who should use their power with humility," he said.
Sen. Loren Legarda shared the same sentiment. She said: "He says it's not all about power but it's about quality of service. Ito ang malaking naging pagkukulang hindi lang sa Pilipinas kung hindi sa buong mundo, na ang power ay panandalian lamang."
Neophyte Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado, for her part, said she was awakened upon hearing the words from formerly the most powerful man in the world.
“Sabi niya hindi dapat power hungry, iniiisip dapat na we are hired by our constitutents," she said.
For others, it was not the message about politics that struck them the most.
Sen. Pia Cayetano said she can’t forget the story of Clinton putting up his own foundation to bring the cost of medicine down to an affordable level, especially to a developing country like the Philippines.
"Nababaan presyo ng gamot para mas marami ang makinabanag, yan ang pinakamagandang sinabi niya," she said.
TV personalities impressed, too
Even showbiz personalities were impressed by how Clinton discussed the issue of governance and social responsibility under a single theme.
“Mr. Pure Energy” Gary Valenciano said he thought he would be listening to a pure political discussion but Clinton proved him wrong.
Valenciano said: "He kept on stressing, look at the future, forget about the past… that's a hindrance to a lot of people, to society itself."
TV host Johnny Litton was also all praises for the former US President. "The approach was beyond presidency, it's continuation of his belief even if he is not anymore the most powerful president in the world,” Litton said.
Despite the tone of Clinton's speech as more of making politicians realize their ineptness and lack of humanity in serving a developing country, US Ambassador Harry Thomas said the former President saw what is good in President Benigno Aquino III when they met at Malacañang Palace.
"He enjoyed how the President Aquino wants to do things, the president's energy, and how he is taking care of his job," Thomas said. -- with reports from Willard Cheng, Ces Drilon, Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News