Hail to the chief
From his third level position, VERA Files photographer Mario Ignacio captured the atmosphere at yesterday’s proclamation of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Jejomar Binay as winners for president and vice-president respectively of the May 10, 2010 election.
For more of Mario’s photos, click here (VERA Files)
by Wendell Vigilia and Peter Tabingo
President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino is open to extending the hand of reconciliation to all his political opponents – including President Arroyo – but this does not mean that he will bend backwards to bail them out of their crimes, if any, against the Filipino people.
“My mother proposed reconciliation with justice. I have had a lot of promises in the campaign especially the idea of change. It cannot be business as usual,” he told a press conference.
Aquino said he would create a special commission to investigate the excesses of the Arroyo government with the end in view of prosecuting those who have committed graft and corruption.
Aquino said he would strive to do his best to finally put a closure to the issues against the Arroyo administration.
“If we are going to just replace people like in a game of musical chairs, I think I would have disappointed everybody who made this victory possible. Therefore there has to be closure on so many issues,” he said.
Aquino said he will do his best to bring about justice because he ran on a platform of change and good governance.
“We will really strive for it. We have been striving for it even before we decided to run. As president, we will be in a position to effect the necessary changes. With the backing of the people I don’t think anything is impossible,” he said.
Aquino said he would meet with Arroyo in the next few days for a dialogue on various issues, especially transition of power.
He also said newly elected Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos also congratulated him in a text message on Tuesday.
Aquino said he told Imee he is ready to work with the Marcoses for the common good.
“So long as we are working for the betterment of the people, I don’t see where we should be engaging in conflict that does not produce tangible positive results for the people. In that connection Governor-elect Imee Marcos texted me yesterday and I did tell her they can count on me to do right by her and especially by her constituents so long as it redounds to the benefit of the people,’ he said.
Aquino also welcomed former President Joseph Estrada for recognizing his victory and for offering to help in his personal capacity. He said he is open to tapping talents who belong to his political opponents if they will be able to help effect the change he envisions.
“At the end of the day I think I am after the benefits and uplift of the conditions of the majority of the people,” he said.
“Pinasasalamatan ko si Presidente Estrada na handa siyang makipagtulungan at pinapasalamatan ko siya. Doon sa iba pang nag-concede at nag-alok ng tulong, malamang ita-tap natin ang kanilang experience at kakayahan tungo sa pagmamadali ng solusyon na kailangan ng sambayanan,” Aquino added.
The President-elect said reconciliation with his rivals in the presidential race should be done because of the “bruising” and “below-the-belt” nature of the campaign.
Aquino slammed “some people who will not want us to succeed.”
He said some members of the Arroyo administration, particularly Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, have vowed to be his critics.
“I would have wanted to say ‘honorable’ secretary (but he) has already promised to become a critic,” he said in jest.
Aquino also assailed some militant groups for attacking him when he has yet to assume the presidency.
“There are those quarters who are saying they are itching to mount a rally against me when I have not assumed the position. When I have not done any action they can criticize they already want to criticize,” he said.
Aquino said he welcomes “criticisms especially if it is constructive criticism because I am humble enough to admit I do not possess perfect knowledge all the time.”
“But at the end of the day we really are focused on doing the best we can for the majority of the people. And if the people are half-open and half-reasonable they will help us breed success, success will breed upon success. Those who refuse to join us will be shown for what they are, self-centered and selfish, and they will be left by the wayside,” he said.
On where he plans to reside, Aquino said, “definitely” not at the Malacañang Palace.
“Tingnan ko ang possibilities tapos after that may recommendations, desisyunan ko,” he said.
Asked on whether he has decided on where he will take his oath and before who, he said: “We are leaning towards Quezon City at the present time. We want to examine the costing and expenses and the Memorial Circle does not have all the facilities necessary for it. Kung kanino, I think it will be with Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.”
Even as he stressed that there is no miracle cure-all to the ailments plaguing the economy, Aquino said addressing unemployment and the runaway budget deficit he is inheriting from the Arroyo administration are his top priorities.
Among the first positions in his Cabinet to be filled is that of Secretary of Finance whose department will be saddled with the problem of plugging gaping holes in revenue collection.
However, he declined to name who he is considering for the position, saying he prefers to unveil his whole official family in one sitting.
The President-elect noted that the outgoing government is predicting a P400 billion budget deficit which he acknowledged as the first “crisis” facing his administration.
Despite this, Aquino underscored the importance of injecting economic assistance to the poorest families through the continuation of cash dole-outs but first removing the ‘political dimension’ from system.
In addition, he said that his economic team will work for a 100 percent PhilHealth coverage, expanding from the current 38 percent.
But in an apparent turnaround from his original stand not to impose new taxes, Aquino said enacting tax measures will simply be a last resort.
“(New) taxes will be a last step if we have done everything and the deficit is still unmanageable. But again I firmly believe the analogy of the pail full of holes, and new taxes are more water added to it does not add to the water. You have to plug the leaks first before you even think of imposing new hardships,” he said.
However, he clarified that he is against any tax that will hurt the poor.
“Philosophically, I am against regressive taxes like a tax on text for instance, which affects those who belong to the lower classes rather than those with the wherewithal to pay more taxes,” he added.
On the question of attracting more investments, he said the focus will be on improving infrastructure, lowering the cost of electricity, removing red tape and ensuring political stability.
“There is a lot of interest indicated by the various ambassadors we have met in investing in the Philippines, they want to see the details how we will address these problems often cited. For a salesman’s job, taking away the last vestiges of concern for somebody who already wants to buy your product is an ideal situation. So we believe that a clear plan that addresses all these concerns, that gives a timetable of what they can expect and when, will open the floodgates to their investments in the country,” he said. – With Peter Tabingo