PNoy also answered questions about his meeting with Vice President Jejomar Binay and about Facebook
This portion of the transcript of President Benigno Aquino’s forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines was kindly provided to me by Rey Marfil, the presidential assistant secretary for media relations.
I’m still rushing my South China Morning Post article for today so I can’t write in detail right now.
but I’m sure you all would like to read this portion of the raw transcript.
Ms. Robles: With all the investigations and arrest of high-profile personalities your government has undertaken, your critics have openly said they intend to charge you and have you arrested, especially on PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and DAP—I mean, on DAP—the moment you step down from office. How do you feel about such threats? And are these threats what is behind getting you a new term of office as president?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Are the threats behind the moves to get me a new term?
Ms. Robles: Yes. And how do you feel about such threats? That they are going to jail you and arrest you once you step down.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The threats come with the job. Meron namang physical threats. They’ll remove me before I even end my term or that they will file all of these charges. They have the right to file a complaint, I guess. I have the right also to file complaints against them for malicious lawsuits, which I can do when I’m a civilian and no longer in this position, as opposed to now that I have to tolerate all of the insults and cynicism because I have to rise above the fray. Siguro… We were abroad and there were our leftist friends who said Butch Abad and I stole the people’s money. So I think I will… I will… The only answer to that is ‘look at the people who benefited from DAP and ask them if they agree with the proposition that the benefits they enjoyed from DAP should have been delayed, or should have been foregone, and they will I think be the best testament to the effectivity of the program, and to the sincerity of the intentions there.’ Now, with regards to the threats, the critics are the same. I don’t think they are multiplying. I think that they’re even, in certain sense, diminishing. And even before I got into this office, I guess one day they will probably say I am somehow related to the people who executed Jose Rizal. But, you know, that’s part and parcel of the territory. So—
Ms. Robles: You said your attitude, sir, is ‘be prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.’
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes.
Ms. Robles: But what if a, you know, a new government comes up that is not allied to you? Are you prepared to go to jail for that?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Am I prepared to what?
Ms. Robles: To go to jail. I mean, to be arrested.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I guess the best way to answer that is all the decisions I made were never spur of the moment. They were well studied and arising from the best advice I could get from various sectors. Now, at the end of the day, I think I can defend all of the decisions that we did make. That doesn’t mean that all of the decisions were perfect. No, that will be incorrect to say. It will be an impossibility for an imperfect being to come up with perfect decisions all the time. So all I’m saying is we can defend each and every decision that we have done, and if there is an underlying question to that—that I was vindictive in the previous administration—no. There has… There was a wrong…
There is a difference between wrong and right, and if we do not fight that which is wrong, then we allow it to exist and we might even be nurturing it to continue its harmful effects on our people. That is the thing that we are trying to do. People that were brought up on charges have their corresponding evidences before and these are for the appreciation of the courts. So these are not… It’s not a question of sloganeering or semantics. At the end of the day, we committed to doing the best for our people and ‘yung the truth will be our greatest shield if and when we are called to action or we’re called to address any and all of these supposed issues against us.
Ms. Robles: So you are prepared to go—to be arrested and jailed if ever?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: If that is a… If there is a situation where we’re back to an unjust judicial system, then that is a necessary consequence.
Ms. Robles: I see. Sir—just last—Vice President (Jejomar) Binay’s spokesperson Jonvic Remulla said the President had asked about Binay’s family and the Vice President replied the family was hurting from all the lies and baseless accusations, especially against his wife. And then, Remulla is being quoted as saying ‘at this point, the President asked, how can he help or paano ako makakatulong.’ Sir, is this true? And what other requests, if any, did the Vice President ask of you that evening?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: ‘Yung I asked of his family, I think ‘yung… The rec[ord]—Well, there’s no record, there were two of us talking. Pero he mentioned… It was… He stated the fact that Dra. (Elenita) Binay was hurting from all of this. I didn’t ask about the family. He volunteered the information. The person who did what, I guess, with all due respect to the person, I think he had it reversed. He had it in reverse.
Ms. Robles: Please clarify, sir.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, let me go back to you question. I inquired about his family? No, the Vice President told me about his family. What was the second part that he was being quoted on?
Ms. Robles: You said… The spokesperson said quoting you… I mean—
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Sige, I remember na—
Ms. Robles: He said ‘at this point, the President asked how can he help or paano ako makakatulong.’
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, baka naman the reverse is actually true. The Vice President was saying, you know, ‘yung… He was asking advice, for instance, on what to do. So I didn’t offer to help. He asked for advice on what—how to handle the situation amongst other things.
Ms. Robles: So you didn’t offer to help him?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: It was the Vice President who actually initiated the meeting. He texted me and asked if he could see me and I said ‘yes.’ I readily agreed, and to put the matter correctly on the record—there have been so many speculations—we never had a meeting in Malacañang. We had a meeting in Bahay Pangarap where I reside. This at night—about 9:00, 9:30, or thereabouts—lasting past midnight.
Ms. Robles: Just curious, sir—the other question that I had—did he make any other requests? Because what has come out in the news and what you said was that he apparently requested that you talk to the Senate President. But where there other requests that he made?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: In fairness, with regards to the Senate, he was saying ‘yung the normal processes are the Ombudsman investigates and if there evidence—if the evidence so warrants, then the Ombudsman brings it to the Sandiganbayan. So he was saying, ‘is it possible for the Senate to terminate their inquiry in aid of legislation, given the fact that the proper forum would be the Ombudsman’s office?’ And I said, we’ll inquire from the Senate President. I think the things that I mentioned more or less encompass everything that was discussed, except perhaps to reminisce about the times when we started our relationship during the snap elections.
In case you don’t know, the Vice President and I worked together at the start of EDSA. We were in Makati thanking the volunteers who tried to guard the ballots in Makati. That’s where we first heard the news. He actually escorted me back to our residence in Times where I got my siblings and brought them to a safer location. Present in all of the coups, in defending my mom’s administration as mayor of Makati, and then parang philosophies also—how to govern, et cetera.
So he actually stated a point, and I hope I am not violating any confidence, where he stated the… ‘Yung—I’ll say it in Tagalog first—‘tanggap ko na magkaiba tayo sa pulitika pero magkaibigan tayo.’ ‘Yung perhaps the way we handle our politics and our styles, et cetera, might be different; our routes towards that which we want to attain will also be different; but, at the end of the day, he still acknowledges that we are friends.
Ms. Robles: Sir, do you ever go on Facebook?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I have staff who handles the Facebook. If you remember, my phone was supposed to be hacked a while back, and to be honest, parang… In a space of minutes, there 500 or a thousand messages coming in. Parang I couldn’t read the message that was—we were trying to read because there were so many notifications and everything else. I would want to be able to go and answer directly on Facebook or on Twitter. Manolo Quezon here handles it for me, in the sense that he gets general guidelines on these are particular trends, these are particular questions that are being asked, how would you like us to answer it? Pero ‘yung just answering each individual, you know, is kind of impossible.
Just to give you ano… I tried to play around with it when they halved the full. There were some messages that I felt really needed action, but I was wondering if my answering them will lead to, you know, a lot more text messages and not all of them were worth reading. If, for instance, merong text na: “Hai.” So, sabi ko, ano kaya ‘yung ‘hai’? So I guess that’s a stylized ‘hi.’ Now, just to clear it out, one percent of our population is one million; then even, ‘di ba, 10 percent of that 100,000; times one minute to answer each one of them, ‘di 100,000 minutes kaagad ‘yon. So, at the end of the day, parang hindi (ko) yata kayang sagutin lahat ito. So that’s how we tried to handle it both on—Manolo, we’re on Facebook; we’re on Twitter. How about the other one? ‘Yung favorite ni Sonny—Instagram.
Ms. Robles: Sir, just an observation, 25 million Filipinos are on Facebook now. I mean, I was asking, do you surf? I mean, you don’t have to answer, but do you look at what is on Facebook?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: They actually provide me hard copies of various comments—both positive and negative. Do I surf? Sometimes… Actually, it’s my assistant, si Jun, behind me—Asec. Delantar—who I ask to research particular topics. For instance, yesterday we were talking about lighthouses that are needed in the country. So I asked him to research on the ferry mishap in South Korea. So, basically, yeah. I tend to ask the staff to do the surfing for me to get the relevant data that I’m looking for.