H.E. BENIGNO S. AQUINO III
The 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, has come to stand for Filipinos’ reinvigorated passion to build a nation of justice, peace, and inclusive progress.
Aquino—the only son of democracy icons Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and President Corazon Aquino—has in different junctures throughout his life responded to the challenge of acting with and serving the Filipino people.
In 1983 after the assassination of his father, he returned from exile to the country to help show the way for the EDSA People Power Revolution—the nonviolent and prayerful revolution by ordinary people that toppled a dictatorship and restored Philippine democracy.
In 1998, Aquino entered public service to make sure that the democracy his parents fought for would bring changes in people’s lives. He served as Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac from 1998 to 2007. In May 2007, he joined the Philippine Senate, wherein he worked to bring about legislative initiatives anchored on the protection of human rights and honest and responsible governance.
The most despondent days perhaps in Aquino’s life took place in 2009 when his mother passed away from cancer after suffering for nearly a year. Her demise prompted mourning from all over the country. And yet it also awakened a remembrance of the values she stood for. It stirred up the people’s yearning for a leadership that is honest and compassionate, and a nation that trusts and works with its government.
Immediately after her wake, people began to call on Aquino, urging him to run for presidency in the 2010 elections to continue his parents’ work. Signature drives and an outpouring of support through yellow ribbons and stickers went full blast, convincing him to run. Moreover, candidates for president such as Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio, and Isabela Governor Grace Padaca gave up their presidential aspirations to support Aquino.
After a spiritual retreat at the Carmellite Monastery in Zamboanga City, Aquino responded to the call to make the people’s passion for change the driving force behind a new government. On September 9, 2009, the 40th day after former president Cory Aquino’s passing, he officially announced his candidacy for president at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan—where his mother took oath on the final day of the EDSA People Power Revolution. “I want to make democracy work not just for the rich and well connected but for everybody,” he said.
On June 9, 2010, the Congress of the Philippines proclaimed Aquino as the President Elect of the Philippines. In his inaugural address on June 30, 2010, he told the Filipino people: “We are here to serve and not to lord over you. The mandate given to me was one of change. I accept your marching orders to transform our government from one that is self-serving to one that works for the welfare of the nation.”
The presidency of Benigno Aquino III has been marked by a hardy dedication to bringing about shared progress by doing things the right way. Aquino’s determination to lead the government and the nation towards the straight path has been the catalyst for unprecedented economic growth, which has trickled down to the margins of society through improved government services, reforms in the education system, and conditional cash transfers for the poor; an inspired campaign for good governance and justice as evidenced by the prosecution of corrupt and abusive government officials; and the empowerment of every citizen so that they may participate in building a nation of hope and opportunity.
“My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have traveled far on the right path, and that we are able to bequeath a better future to the next generation. Join me in continuing this fight for change.”
President Aquino was born on Feb. 8 1960. He studied from elementary to college in the Ateneo de Manila University, and finished a degree in Economics in 1981.
Aquino’s classmates remember him as a “quiet” yet “friendly” student. Gene Manalastas, a batch mate in grade school, said: “He could not go to parties with us on weekends because he was always visiting his dad in prison.”
His father, then a senator and opposition leader to President Ferdinand Marcos, was incarcerated after the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972. In confinement, the senator wrote his son a letter, asking him to continue the family legacy of working for the good the every Filipino:
“The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience.
“There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength.
Son, the ball is now in your hands.”
In 1980, his father was allowed after a series of heart attacks to receive medical treatment in the United States. Aquino joined the family in a period of self-exile until 1983—when they had to return to the Philippines after the assassination of his father.
Following his return to the Philippines, Aquino served as assistant of the Executive Director of the Philippine Business of Social Progress, an institution that coordinates the efforts of private companies to help struggling Filipinos. He was also Assistant Retail Sales Supervisor of Mondragon Philippines, and was the Assistant Promotions Manager of Nike Philippines.
Aquino continued to work in the private sector even during the presidency of his mother. He was the Vice President of the Intra-Strata Assurance Corporation all through her term.
In August 28, 1987, Aquino was wounded by five bullets when rebel soldiers assaulted Malacanang Palace in an unsuccessful coup attempt. One of the bullets remains embedded in Aquino’s neck—an enduring reminder of the sacrifices one must make to defend democracy.
THE PUBLIC SERVANT
“I will be there because of the people and I will stay there because of the people and hopefully, I will be true to my word to serve the people.” Aquino’s response to a reporter’s interview after announcing his candidacy for president illustrates his approach to public service.
As the Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac, and legislator in the House of Representatives, he worked to pass a number of bills and resolutions to uphold public accountability and address the people’s pressing concerns. These include: House Bill No. 4251, which grants annual productivity incentives to all workers in the private sector; House Bill No. 4397, which strengthens the regulatory power of the Department of Trade and Industry to effectively enforce consumer laws; and House Resolution No. 788, which creates a Congressional Oversight Committee to check and study the use of intelligence funds by government agencies.
Aquino served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He, however, relinquished the post after calling for the resignation of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the Hello Garci Scandal was exposed.
In the Senate, Aquino worked to make sure that accountability processes in the government were at work. He spent long hours examining the General Appropriations Act of 2009, and proposed key amendments to make sure that public funds were prudently spent. Aquino vigorously participated in Senate investigations on the abuses of government officials, and fought for justice for victims of human rights violations.
Aquino, then chairperson of the Senate Committee on Local Government, introduced substantial amendments to the Cooperative Code to make it more responsive to the needs of the people for which the code was enacted. Among his proposed measures were: Senate Bill 2035, which seeks to raise standards in the construction of all public infrastructures by penalizing contractors of defective infrastructures; and Senate Bill 2160, which seeks the amendment of Government Procurement Act. Although Aquino was elected president before these bills were passed into law, his efforts to make sure that government acts to bring about fairer outcomes for all Filipinos continue today.