It was a moment of glory for President Benigno Aquino III, but the honor of landing in Time’s 100 most influential people of the world in 2012 belongs to the country, the Chief Executive told reporters in an interview in Lapu-Lapu City.
Mr. Aquino said he was merely the “face” of Filipinos, who have always been there for him.
“First they gave me the chance to serve, and they continue to support me. I’m accepting that honor on their behalf, rather than for myself,” he said.
“This is a recognition of all our countrymen, of the whole country, more than anything. And I’m just the face; by way of speaking, I’m the first to respond to a problem. That’s fine by me. But if we achieve success, this is the success of everyone,” he said.
The President landed second on the Leaders’ List, behind Rand Paul, junior US senator from Kentucky, and ahead of US President Barack Obama, who is No. 3.
The list is categorized into five—Titans, Leaders, Artists, Pioneers and Icons.
In his article for Time, writer Howard Chua-Eoan cited Mr. Aquino’s courage in pushing the reproductive health (RH) law despite opposition from the Catholic Church, and brave stance in the regional confrontation with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Mr. Aquino rallied lawmakers to approve the measure aimed at moderating rapid population growth, reducing poverty and cutting down high maternal mortality, and signed it into law last December. In March, the Supreme Court issued a 120-day status quo ante order against the RH law.
Rebuking Cambodia PM
At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Phnom Penh in November last year, Mr. Aquino rebuked Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for claiming that member-countries had reached a consensus against internationalizing the West Philippine Sea conflict.
On his intervention, the Asean issued a joint communiqué excluding Hun Sen’s remarks.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the article recognized “the true grit which characterizes his (Mr. Aquino’s) leadership, and the optimism, dynamism and renewed pride which has restored the standing of our nation in the eyes of Filipinos and the world.”
“We take pride in how the ideas of good governance and inclusive growth that are the major thrusts of the Aquino presidency resonate not just with Filipinos but with the entire world. This is especially relevant today, as countries all over are trying to become more inclusive economically, politically, and even culturally, President Aquino is already doing it in the Philippines,” he said.
Impossible now possible
In his speech at the groundbreaking of the Mactan Circumferential Road in Lapu-Lapu City, the President announced that the backlog of 66,800 classrooms would be erased by the end of the year.
Initially the backlog seemed daunting, he said. In the six years of his administration, the government could only fund the construction of 8,000 classrooms a year or 48,000 classrooms in six years.
“Solving this problem seemed impossible, but there’s cooperation. DepEd (Department of Education) promised that by 2013, there won’t be any classroom backlog of 66,800,” he said, but did not explain how the department would go about this. “This will be matched by 60,000 teachers.”
Such reform became doable because of the Filipino people’s solidarity, Mr. Aquino said.
“The impossible is now possible. What our predecessor has failed to do in nine years, we’ll accomplish in three years, and this will even be fast-tracked. But could Noynoy do this on his own? Of course not. We’ve been given the chance to serve because of you. If reforms are taking place, that’s because of you. If these are going to be carried out sooner, that’s all because of you,” he said.
First posted 12:45 am | Saturday, April 20th, 2013