By ANDREO CALONZO
(Updated 7:08 p.m.) Faced with mounting criticism and eroding approval ratings, President Benigno Aquino III on Monday turned emotional in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Towards the last part of his SONA, Aquino’s voice broke and he appeared close to tears while recalling the memory of his parents, slain Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late President Corazon Aquino.
“Mga boss, binigyan ninyo ako ng pagkakataong pamunuan ang transpormasyon… Kung tinalikuran ko ang pagkakataon, parang tinalikuran ko na rin ang aking ama’t ina at ang lahat ng inalay nila para sa atin. Hindi po mangyayari iyon,” he said.
A reluctant candidate, Aquino was a senator who was propelled into the 2010 presidential race following the outpouring of grief when his mother died the previous year.
“Hangga’t nagsisilbi tayong lakas ng isa’t isa, patuloy nating mapapatunayan na the Filipino is worth dying for, the Filipino is worth living for, at idagdag ko naman po, the Filipino is definitely worth fighting for,” the President added.
Part of the phrase—the Filipino is worth dying for—comes from the President’s father, Ninoy Aquino, who was gunned down shortly after his arrival in 1983. The assassination ignited protests against the dictatorial Marcos regime and led to the 1986 EDSA uprising, which swept Mrs. Aquino to the presidency.
Aquino delivered his speech amid unresolved questions about his administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which has been declared partially unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The executive branch has already appealed the high court’s decision on the spending mechanism.
The President is facing three impeachment complaints before the House of Representatives, two of which cited DAP as basis.
Pollster Pulse Asia earlier reported a significant drop in Aquino’s trust and approval ratings based on a survey covering the period when certain acts under the DAP were struck down by the high court.
PNoy turns personal
In a rare reflective mood, Aquino recalled how he almost died during a failed coup attempt against his mother in 1987 and said the spectre of getting killed during his incumbency has crossed his mind.
“Pangalawang buhay ko na po ito. Hindi po natin maiiwasang mag-isip, may araw kayang pagsampa ng entablado, ito na ba ang huling araw? May nagtagumpay bang magtanim ng bomba? Magtatagumpay ba ang may maiitim na balak?” he said.
Aquino said if anything happened to him, he would have been satisfied with what he had accomplished in his more than four years as the country’s top elected official.
“Kapag dumating nga ang panahong iyon, masasabi ko bang okay na rin? Sasabihin ko po sa inyo, mata sa mata, sa lahat po ng inabot natin, ako po’y masasabi kong kuntento na ako,” he said.
The President’s sisters also became emotional during the speech. His youngest sister, actress Kris Aquino, was seen crying at the gallery while her brother was talking about their parents’ legacy.
After his speech, President Aquino received a standing ovation and rousing applause from Congress members, most of whom are his allies.
Earlier in the speech, Aquino had been in a combative mode, criticizing his “desperate” detractors for supposedly stepping up the campaign against him.
“Habang nakikita ang pagbabago sa lipunan, nangyayari na nga ang ating inasahan: lalong dumadalas, lalong umiinit, at lalong tumitindi ang pag-atake nila sa atin… Desperado na po sila,” the President said.
“Sanay na tayong sinasalubong ng negatibong komentarista sa almusal, pang-aalipusta sa tanghalian, insulto sa hapunan, may intriga pa bilang midnight snack,” he added.
The President sought to rally the public against his critics, saying the latter are out to deprive Filipinos of government services.
“Ang totoo po, hindi naman ako ang kinokontra ng mga ito, kundi ang taumbayang nakikinabang sa tuwid na daan,” Aquino said. “Mga Boss, kontra po sila sa inyo,” he added, referring to his constituents using the terminology he introduced in his first SONA in 2010.
Aquino also openly threatened rice hoarders and corrupt officials at the Bureau of Customs.
“Kumikilos kayo kontra sa mga Pilipino; kami naman, isinusulong ang interes ng bawat Pilipino. Tingnan natin kung sino ang mananalo,” he said.
A substantial part of the President’s speech, which lasted for an hour and a half, focused on the Aquino administration’s achievements.
He also cited the supposed benefits of DAP in the first part of his speech.—KBK/YA/NB, GMA News