MANILA - His spine-chilling rendition of “Bayan Ko”, a song that depicts the Philippines as a beautiful land that has to be freed from the shackles of colonialism, became the anthem of the first People Power Revolution in 1986. Thirty-three years after that moment in Philippine history, folk singer Freddie Aguilar believes the country is in good hands under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte, whose violent rhetoric, war on drugs, and push for the lowering of minimum criminal age of responsibility have courted criticism here and abroad, has heaped praises on Aguilar for his “nationalistic” songs. The President has particularly praised Aguilar's song "Anak", arguably his most popular song, which tells the story of a child who gone astray, and “Mindanao”, which tackles the plight of innocent civilians in the restive south.
Despite criticisms against Duterte’s policies, Aguilar is fully supportive of the firebrand leader, saying the country is in a much better situation now more than ever.
“Kung mapapansin n’yo, 3 taon pa lang si Duterte, ang ating pangulo, iyung di nagawa ni Marcos hanggang sa panahon ni PNoy, nagawa niya sa loob lang ng 3 taon,” Aguilar told ABS-CBN News.
Aguilar is one of 11 senatorial bets President Duterte is endorsing in the 2019 elections. An endorsement from the still popular leader could boost Aguilar’s chances, as the folk singer continues to trail in polls.
“Ang pinaka-matinding tulong sa akin ni Presidente ay 'yung ini-endorse po niya ako lagi kahit saan siya nagsasalita. Lagi niyang sinasabing bigyan natin ng isang boto ang nationalist na si Freddie Aguilar,” he said.
Kokoy Aguiluz, Aguilar’s chief of staff, said the folk singer is also banking on his prominence.
“We are very confident. Kasi ‘Freddie Aguilar’, nakatanim na iyan 40 years ago sa bansang Pilipinas, lalo na sa mga masa. Lahat ng puntahan namin talagang nangako sa amin na iboboto siya,” Aguiluz told ABS-CBN News.
The folk singer’s sudden interest in politics runs counter to his position a decade ago, when he told entertainment news website Pep.ph that he was not interested in running for public office.
Aguilar said it was the "ordinary people", the masa who pushed him to run for senator.
“Ako po ay galing sa tao. Pinatakbo ako ng tao. Wala po akong dahilan para traydurin ang taumbayan kasi ‘di ako gumastos ng milyun-milyon para makilala ako,” he said.
“Ang mga kandidato they spend millions of pesos just for their names to be remembered by the masses. Ako po wala akong ginastos na ganoon. Ang nagbigay ng kabuhayan ko, kung sino man ako, ay ang masa. Ako ay galing sa masa at ibabalik ko po ang serbisyong hinihingi nila sa akin.”
Aguilar said he is employing a “bayanihan” strategy since he does not have enough funds for the campaign.
“Bayanihan ang campaign namin. Ibig sabihin noon, iniimbita kami ng mga kandidato na pareho ng aming programa. Sila po yung laging nagii-sponsor ng tinatawag naming music caravan,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said his song “Katarungan” best represents the theme of his campaign and platforms.
The folk singer is pushing for a shift to the jury system in some criminal cases, a major change in the country’s justice system that will require an overhaul of the Constitution.
He said a jury system would make justice more accessible to the masses, unlike in the current system where he said only the judge handles the fate of an accused.
“Kapag ang isang ordinaryong mamamayan nagnakaw ng P2,000, dere-deretso na ito sa kulungan. Wala na pong imbe-imbestiga,” Aguilar told the attendees of the proclamation rally of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino - Lakad ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) in Bulacan.
“Sa kabilang banda naman po, kapag nagnakaw ka naman ng 200 milyong piso, aba eh hindi sa kulungan ang deretso niyo. Kapag sinwerte kayo eh baka makulong lang kayo eh air-conditioned 'yang kulungan niyo at binabantayan pa kayo ng mga pulis para walang gumalaw sa inyo at walang manakit sa inyo. Iyan ang 2 mukha ng hustisya sa ating bayan.”
Duterte described Aguilar as a nationalist whose songs “carry a social message” that strike a chord among ordinary Filipinos.
“Freddie is running for senator. Wala akong hiningi sa inyo kung hindi just consider. He is a brilliant man. Of course he can talk in English. But he is a singer, that is [his] profession,” Duterte said after the inauguration of the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) in November last year.
“Kaya ako nakikiusap. Tutal dose (12) man ‘yan. Ibigay ninyo sa isang nationalist, ‘yung isang tao nagmamahal sa bayan. And the protest of his songs are there. Makikita na ninyo for the next generations and generations to come.”
Aguilar had composed a song for Duterte titled “Para sa Tunay na Pagbabago,” using the rhythm of another popular song of his, “Ipaglalaban Ko.” This song is always played whenever Duterte arrives at events.
The President, in jest, said Aguilar “has several messages for the Filipinos to remember. Kaya ako, kasali kayo, ‘pag hindi ninyo binoto ‘yan, bantay kayo sa akin. Isa-isahin ko kayo.”
“Tulungan natin si Freddie because he is one exemplary nationalist guy. And do not ever think that Tagalog lang ‘yan. He is my friend. He is a brilliant guy. He can talk and he can help the country.”