Like most of the Filipino people, I was shocked to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of former President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, last week.
The first reports said that he was found in his bedroom at the Aquino residence on Times St., Quezon City, around 4:30am and was unresponsive. He was not lying on his bed but was rather seated unconscious at his work chair, a plate of barely touched food on the table in front of him.
His aides rushed him to the nearby Capitol Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 6:30am.
It was a sad series of events that led to his untimely demise. Noynoy had reportedly been depressed of late, feeling unappreciated for all the work he had done for the country. He was supposed to have a kidney transplant, but was not totally sold on the idea.
He even intentionally missed two consecutive dialysis treatments.
There was some loose talk that he was concerned about the cost of a transplant, which would have easily reached more than a million pesos. But even before he became president, Noynoy was already a wealthy man by virtue of his shareholdings in the family owned Hacienda Luisita.
And because he was both a beloved and respected former president, one who was able to maintain his reputation for honesty and integrity, any of the country’s billionaires would have gladly footed the bill, considering how Noynoy set the stage for the Philippines’ impressive economic growth during his six-year term.
Yes, he made some mistakes. But ALL Philippine presidents have committed grievous errors in judgment. Noynoy or PNoy as he is also called also did something that no other president had done before or since.
He led the country to investment grade status, which it had never reached before. The term used on the country under his watch was a rising tiger.
That says a lot. As Bill Clinton told George H.W. Bush in one of their debates, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
The only other Philippine president who approached PNoy’s achievement was Fidel Ramos, under whose watch the country attained tiger cub status.
Obviously, being a rising tiger is much better than being a tiger cub.
If Benigno Aquino III will be remembered for anything, this should be it. He took the “daang matuwid” or the straight and narrow path, and he made sure every Cabinet secretary of his followed his standing order. “Do the right thing,” he said over and over, and for the most part they did.
Allow me this small vignette: A couple of my close cousins have been dealing with the government for years. As such, they have experienced first hand the level of corruption of the various other administrations.
The worst admin, they told me, was during the time of Gloria Arroyo, when the SOPs or kickbacks reached an all-time high of 50 percent.
I can vouch for this. I came close to being victimized by a very powerful person in the GMA regime myself. I had been contracted to write a book, a project that I would have enjoyed. A series of meetings followed, and that’s when I was shocked to learn that the powerful person was demanding a 50 percent cut of the total project price.
I backed out, of course.
As for my unnamed cousins, there were some instances when they had no choice.
But when PNoy took over, they were surprised to learn that the second President Aquino was always on the lookout for corruption within his administration. Thus, most of his Cabinet secretaries kept their noses clean.
There was still some corruption during his six years in Malacanang, of course. Mostly, it was in the government bureaucracy. But when PNoy was chief executive, the SOP was slashed to around 20 percent.
This is how President Benigno Aquino III should be remembered. He showed us the way. He showed that a government bureaucracy that works for the people can result in great things.
Too bad he was only allowed one six-year term. A few more years of his presidency and the Philippines could now be a developed nation.
I will not pass judgement on the horrible Duterte presidency. The proof that he is the worst president the country has ever had is clear to all. The prices of most consumer goods have reached scary heights, and there is no end in sight.
Oh, and the current president has also sold the country down the drain to China. But that’s another matter.
See, Aquino not only led the Philippines to developing tiger status, he also had the balls to take China to court over its ridiculous claim of owning the West Philippine Sea. And PNoy and his team won.
In my book, the second President Aquino was the Philippines’ best president, bar none. FVR was a far second.
He made a difference in the lives of millions of Filipinos, and for that we should be eternally grateful.
As for the worst president, the jury is still out but so far it’s a tie between Duterte and Marcos.
We were lucky to have Benigno Simeon Aquino Cojuangco Aquino III as a president. He showed the world what the Philippines could accomplish with one good man at the helm.
Whoever is elected president next year should be reminded of that.