I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege, and to sponsor Senate Resolution 765, to honor the life and legacy of His Excellency Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III, the 15th President of the Philippines, son of democracy icons Senator Ninoy Aquino Jr. and President Cory Aquino.
While his father famously said, “The Filipino is worth dying for” and his mother, “The Filipino is worth living for,” PNoy served us all exceedingly well by living the mantra, “The Filipino is worth fighting for.”
One of President Aquino’s most significant fights for the Filipino is the fight for Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea against our giant neighbor. And we won. Like the country’s first Olympic gold medal from Hidilyn Diaz, the historic victory lifts the spirit and inspires us to continue to fight for one another and to fight for our country.
Another important battle is the one against poverty. Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. By the end of PNoy’s term, 7 million Filipinos were able to cross the threshold from poor to non-poor. This is in large part thanks to his administration’s continued and ramped-up coverage of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program from only 786,523 poor households when he took office June 2010 to a whopping 4.4 million poor households and displaced families when his term ended in 2016.
PNoy also fought against hunger by increasing rice sufficiency from 81% in 2010 to 95% in 2016. With more investments in agriculture, average palay production rose by 21% from 14.92 million metric tons from 2001 to 2010, to 18.05 million metric tons from 2011 to 2015.
His administration also wrestled for good governance. The victory in this aspect became manifest in greatly improved tax effort — from 12.1% in 2010 to 13.7% in 2015. Noteworthy is that this was achieved by efficient tax collection, consistently going after tax evaders, AND, with the exception of the Sin Tax Law, without imposing new taxes. The Sin Tax Law which caused PhilHealth coverage to dramatically expand from 51% in 2010 to cover 92% as of December 2015.
So together with victory after victory:
– Net foreign direct investments, long-jumping from US$1.07 billion in 2010 US$5.74 billion in 2014, nearly a five-fold jump, a phenomenal 436% increase and the highest ever recorded level since 2005;
– Public-private partnerships, worth P194.87 billion and double those awarded in the preceding three administrations;
– Infrastructure development, and
– Reduced cost of doing business, among others,
The Philippines won a round (so to speak) against unemployment, when PNoy’s government recorded 5.6% unemployment rate in October 2015, the lowest in 10 years, and the first time in history that it dropped below 6.0%.
And this is the gold medal for good governance, transforming the Philippines from being the “Sick Man of Asia” to being hailed as one of the fastest-growing economies in the entire world. The economy grew by an average of 6.2% from 2010 to 2015, the highest six-year average growth since 1978. In the first quarter of his last year in office, the Philippine economy grew by 6.9% — the fastest among the ASEAN-5 and even surpassing global economic powerhouse China.
Other significant battles PNoy won for the Filipino included those for responsible parenthood, reproductive health, and for lasting peace and development in Mindanao.
PNoy won the good-governance bout, encapsulated in the slogans “Walang mahirap kung walang corrupt” at “No wang-wang” policy by
– improving the budget process,
– making participatory governance a key strategy,
– opening up government transactions to the public,
– incentivizing good local governance,
– leveling the business playing field, and
– intensifying the fight against graft and corruption.
This caused the Philippines to overtake its competition in rankings in various internationally-recognized third-party assessment reports.
At the end of these tests, ‘ika nga, the Philippines emerged as honor student who received the following awards:
– In the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, the country ranked 95th in 2015 from 146th or 51 places up from 2010.
– Our World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking rose to 103 in 2016 from 144 in 2010 or 41 places up;
– Our World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index 2015-2016 ranking jumped to 47 from 85 or 38 places up; and
– In the Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Index, the country ranked 70th in 2016 from 109th in 2010 or 39 places up.
As he set out to do, PNoy undeniably left office in 2016 better off than he found it.
And what better way to honor PNoy’s life of service, the best we can, than be guided by his deeds especially in the crucial days ahead as the country continues to battle with the Covid pandemic and its devastating effects on the Filipino family.
Nabanggit kanina ni Senator Joel Villanueva, magkasama kami sa gabinete ni Presidente Noynoy Aquino. Ang hindi ko isang makakalimutan ay iyong isang meeting bilang Food Security Secretary para maaprubahan ng NEDA ang mga big-ticket projects.
Hinanda ko ang sarili ko para maprisinta ang mga proyekto ng National Irrigation Administration bilang Chairman of the Board. I was warned by the Cabinet that PNoy, contrary to the “Noynoying” tag was very, very meticulous especially about how it was to spend people’s money. Although feeling ko, sanay na rin naman akong magdepensa ng mga bills sa Senado.
Ang hinihingi ko lang sa NEDA noong araw na iyon ay iyong approval ng P15 billion Balog-Balog High Dam Project sa kanyang probinsya ng Tarlac sa San Jose municipality.
So nag-umpisa ang meeting ng mga 11 a.m. at matatapos pala ito 1 a.m. sa susunod na araw.
I was one of the firsts to present. PNoy asked me the type of dam to be constructed. Whether it ought to be a high dam or a series of cascading dams. Ano ba ang mas appropriate? Sinabi ko, high dam. Kinumbinsi ko sya. Prinesenta ko ang pros and cons nguni’t hindi sya nakumbinsido sa aking presentation. Ni-reject ang proposal ko at sabi nya, hanggang hindi nasasagot yung ilang mga katanungan niya, ay isantabi muna iyong proyekto sa susunod na meeting.
Akala ko aprubado na iyong project. Ang feeling ko napahiya ako at sa harap ng mga kapwa ko Cabinet members. Eh iyong iba pa pinapatawag ko sa Senado noong ako ay Senador. Kaya naisip-isip ko, sa kahihiyan, eh magre-resign na lang ako.
But then, as the meeting progressed, I realized that PNoy was equally exacting and demanding of everyone else. Sa meeting, PNoy also denied the approval for the project presented by DPWH Secretary Babes Singson. And then iyong proyekto ni Secretary Butch Abad ng DBM, disapproved din.
Dahil na-reject mga project ni Babes at Butch, sabi ko, nagkaroon ako ng appreciation nung katagang, “Hindi ka nag-iisa.”
Nag-iba ang aking pakiramdam. Hindi na ako magreresign. Hindi na ako masyadong napahiya. Misery loves company dahil lahat pala kami, regardless kung malapit sa kanya o hindi, walang personalan, trabaho lang. All the presentations throughout that 14-hour meeting were subjected to PNoy’s incisive questions. Doon ko nakita ang tindi ng pagsusuri at pagbubusisi ni PNoy dahil mahal nya ang Pilipino. Mahal niya ang ating bayan. Ayaw niyang masayang ang pondo ng gobyerno sa mga proyektong hindi tama
ang paghanda. Gusto niyang tama ang proyekto at maging tiyak ang benepisyo sa taumbayan.
Ito ang halimbawa ni PNoy bilang isang mabuting tao at mahusay na lider at masinop na ama ng bayan.
Sa pagtatapos, naulila kami sa Partido Liberal nang pumanaw ang aming Chairman Emeritus na si Presidente Noynoy Aquino. Subalit ang alam namin, bilang nakasama at nakatrabaho si PNoy, ayaw niyang pinagkakaabalahan sya. Ang nais lamang niya ay tuloy lang ang ating trabaho.
Kaya sa ilalim ng pamumuno ng ating Bise Presidente na si Vice President Leni, tuloy lang ang trabaho sa pagtugon sa mga problema dito sa Covid. Tuloy lang na makikipag- ugnayan at makikiisa sa pagtulong at sa pagharap ng problema ng ating bansa.
In the end, it is this spirit of PNoy that inspires us to continue to plod on.
He fought for democracy. His parents fought for democracy. He made democracy real and vibrant. And if, I would like to think, he is asked today what we should do now that he is gone — in our party and among us in public service, is that: we continue to fight for democracy and make sure that democracy is transformed into a better quality of life for our people.
It is in this spirit and hope that we move for the adoption of our Senate Resolution together with other Senate Resolutions “Honoring the Life and Legacy of His Excellency Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines”.
Download: PSR 765 Sen Pangilinan