MANILA, Philippines??You are the boss,? the country?s now most powerful man declared Wednesday in Filipino (?Kayo ang boss ko?), addressing the people who, he said, echoing his constant campaign remark, were his ?true strength.?
Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III was sworn in as the Philippines? 15th President under bullet-gray skies but in sweltering heat, applauded by an adoring crowd estimated by police at 500,000.
He spoke briskly but forcefully, pushing all the right buttons in a 23-minute inaugural address delivered mainly in Filipino.
He promised to lead by example in fighting corruption and living up to the legacy of his famous parents, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. and President Corazon Aquino; he said he was willing to forgive personal hurts but not the abuses committed against the people.
It was a speech without the usual abstract platitudes but replete with must-do things.
He directed Leila de Lima, his justice secretary, to deliver ?true and complete justice to all,? and Proceso Alcala, his agriculture secretary, to do away with middlemen and, in the process, stamp out ?opportunities for corruption.?
?No more wang-wang,? Mr. Aquino said, referring to the blaring sirens that announce the passing of vehicles bearing personages rushing with self-importance.
?Today, the dream starts to become a reality. To those among you who are still undecided about sharing the common burden, I have only one question: Are you going to quit now that we have won?? he said.
Mr. Aquino promised to bring about a bureaucracy that would be sensitive to the plight of the common folk.
?You are the boss, so I cannot ignore your orders. We will design and implement an interaction and feedback mechanism that can effectively respond to your needs and aspirations,? he said, adding:
?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.?
He stressed that his campaign slogan??If no one is corrupt, no one will be poor??would define his stay in power. ?To our impoverished countrymen, starting today, your government will be your champion,? he said.
The new President, a scion of a landed clan, drew fervent applause when he told his listeners that, like them, ?I know and feel the problems of ordinary citizens.?
Mr. Aquino also said the nation?s ?silent suffering? was about to end.
?Have you ever been ignored by the very government you helped put in power? I have. Have you had to endure being rudely shoved aside by the siren-blaring escorts of those who love to display their position and power over you? I have, too. Have you experienced exasperation and anger at a government that, instead of serving you, needs to be endured by you? So have I,? he said.
Things will be different under his rule, Mr. Aquino said.
?No more junkets, no more senseless spending. No more turning back on pledges made during the campaign, whether today or in the coming challenges that will confront us over the next six years. No more influence-peddling, no more patronage politics, no more stealing. No more sirens, no more shortcuts, no more bribes. It is time for us to work together once more,? he said.
The new President continued to be self-effacing despite his landslide victory in the May 10 elections:
?My presence here today is proof that you are my true strength. I never expected that I will be here taking my oath of office before you, as your President. I never imagined that I would be tasked with continuing the mission of my parents. I never entertained the ambition to be the symbol of hope, and to inherit the problems of our nation. I had a simple goal in life?to be true to my parents and our country as an honorable son, a caring brother and a good citizen.?
Unlike former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who sought to dazzle her audience with a 10-point economic and social legacy in her 2004 inaugural speech, Mr. Aquino merely pledged honest and effective governance as the key to reducing the ranks of the poor, with himself as a ?good model? and the members of his Cabinet an example of ethical, honest and true public servants.
On the search for peace in troubled areas in Mindanao, he said his government was ?committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflict, inclusive of the interests of all [be they] lumad, Bangsamoro or Christian.?
Mr. Aquino outlined his strategy in his priority areas?education, health, quality infrastructure, housing, fiscal stability, food security, and the military and police.
He said he would prioritize the construction of more classrooms and educational facilities; raise the standard of education, specifically vocational courses for those who could not afford to go to college; improve the quality of transportation, tourism and trade infrastructure, with zero tolerance for mediocre work and contractors held accountable for their projects; and revive the emergency employment program initiated by his mother to provide jobs in local communities.
Mr. Aquino said he would also boost the collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and fight graft in the Bureau of Customs; broaden public health services under Philhealth within three years; build a home for every family in safe communities; assure food security through irrigation, services and marketing support; and strengthen the Armed Forces and Philippine National Police by recruiting more and providing them more perks.
He added that he would uphold the right of the people to public information and improve the process of consultation and feedback.
Mr. Aquino likewise cited his campaign promises to level the playing field for investors, cut red tape and maintain stable economic policies.
He said his ultimate goal was to develop an economy strong enough to sustain its population and negate the need for Filipinos to search for jobs abroad.
?We will be a predictable and consistent place for investment, a nation where everyone will say, ?It all works,?? he said.
Mr. Aquino expounded on his policy on reconciliation:
?To those who talk about reconciliation, if they mean that they would like us to simply forget about the wrongs that they have committed in the past, we have this to say: There can be no reconciliation without justice. When we allow crimes to go unpunished, we give consent to their occurring over and over again.?
He said he was happy to report that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide had accepted the invitation to chair a Truth Commission that would ?shed light on many unanswered issues that continue to haunt our country.?
He warned Arroyo?s ?midnight appointees? that he would review their designations granted through ?unlawful means.?
?Let this serve as a warning to those who intend to continue the crooked ways that have become the norm for too long,? he said.
Carrying the torch
Mr. Aquino also expressed profuse thanks to ?you who have brought me here???old, young, celebrity, ordinary folks who went around the country to campaign for change; my household help who provided for all my personal needs; my family, friends, colleagues at work, who shared, cared and gave their support; my lawyers who stayed up all hours to guard my votes and make sure they were counted; and the millions of Filipinos who prevailed, kept faith and never lost hope.?
He pledged to be true to the legacy of his late parents who, he said, he would ?not be able to face? if he did not fulfill his promises.
?My parents sought nothing less, died for nothing less, than democracy and peace. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward,? he said.