Aquino still silent despite lapse of self-imposed yearlong moratorium
His supporters have been wondering if they would ever hear his voice again. His critics would rather that he would fade into oblivion.
The self-imposed yearlong moratorium of former President Benigno Aquino III lapsed on June 30 – and nothing was heard from him.
It could either be a disappointment for those looking for him or a non-event for those who’ve written him off, but a political analyst said former heads of state like Aquino do not really have any appointed role in the country after they step down from office.
“Perhaps in times of extreme crisis, the nation could summon past presidents as moral guardians of democracy and government,” Edna Estifania Co, a University of the Philippines (UP) public administration professor, told the Inquirer.
Aquino’s spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said she herself “never understood the moratorium as if he [Aquino] was waiting for June 30 to arrive.”
“Knowing the former president, he will speak out on issues where he feels he needs to add his voice,” Valte told the Inquirer. “My impression was, it never was going to be a daily issue response sort of set up.”
“Typical of him, he would save his voice for when he thinks he needs to add to an issue,” Valte added.
Aquino has made himself scarce since stepping down from office a year ago.
His only public speaking engagement was in September last year at St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City, a school run by Immaculati Cordis Mariae nuns, some of whom provided support and counsel to his parents when his father, opposition Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was in detained by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
With former presidential candidate Mar Roxas, Aquino joined a prayer rally and concert organized at the Luneta to call on Supreme Court justices to vote against the Duterte administration’s pledge to inter the late dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November.
The Supreme Court allowed the burial. A few weeks later, the dictator was interred at the heroes’ cemetery.
Aquino also joined the celebration of the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution in February at the People Power Monument. He was also seen at other smaller gatherings.
At these events, Aquino may have given interviews, but he consciously avoided answering questions that were directly related to his successor’s policies.
He has not said anything yet about the bloody war on drugs, or Duterte’s decision to reject the humanitarian aid given by the European Union to the Philippines. He declined to comment on his successor’s martial law declaration in the entire Mindanao to quell the terrorist threat.
But Aquino did address Duterte’s dig at him in the Mamasapano carnage and the Supreme Court’s decision to junk the plunder case against his political nemesis, former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
When the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines case against China in the South China Sea dispute in July last year, Aquino issued a statement saying: “It was a victory for all.”
Valte said for all these exceptions, Aquino first “weighed… if his voice can add something to the discourse.”
“He is always after that. So in those instances, I can tell you that in his judgment, he wanted his thoughts added to the discourse,” Valte said.
Aquino addressed his successor’s attack on him on Mamasapano not because he was defensive. He merely stated the facts and set the record straight, Valte said.
Aquino’s fellow Liberal Party member, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, told the Inquirer that the former president’s opinions still matter at this time.
“Let us remember that PNoy (Aquino’s presidential nickname) ended his term on a high note, with a high trust rating, the highest average trust rating throughout his/her term for a Filipino president. So yes, his opinions matter,” Baguilat said.
“He should, however, choose which issues he should give a commentary to. The frequency must be calculated and shouldn’t appear that he’s trying to upstage the incumbent president,” he added.
For Co, it may even be good if Aquino does not speak – yet.
“Mr. Duterte’s ratings are still high and his [Aquino’s] voice may fall in the wilderness if he creates noise at this point,” Co told the Inquirer.
Those who have seen Aquino throughout the 12 months he has been a private citizen would say that he looks relaxed, now without the burden of day-to-day governance on his shoulders.
Valte said the former president has been spending his time resting and catching up with family and friends.
“But I can also tell you that he had more time to read the paper in fine. So, he’s been monitoring the news. He continues to talk to people. He continues to be in touch even if he is away from office or the limelight so to speak. He is just quietly watching what is happening,” Valte said. /atm
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