Aquino thanks everybody except Binay
In his final State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, President Aquino thanked so many people, acknowledging everyone, from his house helper Yolly Yebes and all his Cabinet members to the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, for their contributions to his administration.
Everyone but Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Instead of thanking Binay, the President took potshots at the Vice President, who resigned from the Cabinet last month to become the leader of the opposition.
In a striking contrast, he devoted a minute to thank and encourage Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the presumptive standard-bearer of the ruling Liberal Party in the 2016 general elections.
Roxas, Aquino said, proved the adage, “You can’t put a good man down.”
“Like the trust given by my mother and father, trust that the people know who are truly serving the nation first before themselves,” Aquino said, addressing Roxas, who was in the gallery of the House of Representatives.
For Binay, Aquino only had mocking words.
Speaking about the gains made by PhilHealth by doubling the number of beneficiaries to almost 90 million Filipinos, Aquino said as large as 40 percent of the poorest population could now be treated for free in public hospitals.
“This is the kind of care that others call bumbling and insensitive. My answer is, as Aiza Seguerra used to say: ‘I thank you, bow,’” Aquino said.
This was clearly an allusion to Binay’s remarks in recent weeks criticizing what he called the ‘inept’ and ‘insensitive’ ways of the Aquino administration.
Aquino used two other colloquial expressions to poke fun at Binay.
“They said we are slow. If they become President, perhaps, their lives will improve. To those of age, they will answer: ‘Really?’ and raise their brows. For the youth, their answer to this statement: ‘OK then,’” he said.
The phrase “your lives will be better” is a reference to Binay’s TV ads extolling the virtues of living in Makati, the city of his political origins.
Shortly after the President delivered his speech, Binay made a hasty exit from the session hall, but he had to walk to his waiting van to avoid a phalanx of reporters trying to get a comment.
Surrounded by escorts, Binay was chased by reporters out of the main lobby.
“In due time,” was his curt reply when pressed to comment on the President’s speech.
He was whisked away in his black Ford Expedition bearing the plate No. “2,” exclusively for the Vice President’s use.
“And to Cherry Reyes who does my hair and who could very well be a practicing economist as she fills up unlimited wants with limited resources,” the President said.
Aquino also thanked the other unheralded members of his Palace and personal staff: social secretary Susan Reyes, his stylist Paul Cabral, and his private office staffers, undersecretary Rochelle Ahorro and assistant secretary Jun Delantar.
He referred to them as “karamay ko sa stress (companions in stress).”
The President asked his longtime “yaya” (personal assistant) Yolly Yabes to be sure to watch the Sona so he could thank her. “Thank you for all you’ve done for me,” he said.
And to his sisters Ballsy, Pinky, Viel and Kris, he said: “Even when Mom and Dad were still around, you were always there for me.”
“The day is nearing when I will no longer need to involve you in making any more sacrifices,” he said.
He thanked his spiritual advisers, including Fr. Catalino Arevalo, Sister Agnes Guillen, Fr. Jett Villarin, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Iglesia ni Cristo leader Eduardo Manalo, Bishop Jonel Milan and Bro. Eddie Villanueva, among others.
The President also gave thanks to a certain blogger who calls himself “Joe America” who wrote: “If the President were in my foxhole, I’d watch his back. That’s because I trust that he is watching mine.”
He also praised singer Noel Cabangon and other Filipino musicians for sharing their talents in the administration’s campaign for change.
Aquino described Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz as the “conductress” of the Cabinet.
He referred to Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson as the “prayer leader” of his official family, and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez as “one of my most trusted voices in the Cabinet.”
On Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., the President said he was lucky to have known the so-called “Little President.”
Aquino also lavished praise on Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Health Secretary Janette Garin, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, and Joel Villanueva, the head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Significantly, the President did not mention Binay, whom he had put in charge of the government’s housing agencies and the overseas workers. Binay, who has declared his candidacy for the presidency in 2016, resigned from the Cabinet last month and declared himself the leader of the opposition.
The President saved for last Roxas, the presumptive administration standard-bearer in 2016, with words of praise that was practically an endorsement of Roxas as his anointed.
“Because you count for much, because you have something really significant to contribute, they are trying their best to bring you down. Because they are not capable of achieving anything themselves, they want to pull you down. With their continuing vilification of you, your critics are themselves proving that they are scared of your integrity, capability and readiness for the job,” he told Roxas.
“Mar, you are proving it: You can’t put a good man down. Like the faith that my father and mother had, trust that the people know who truly puts the country’s good first before his own,” he added.
Roxas, now understood to be Aquino’s chosen presidential candidate, dodged questions about his plans for 2016.
Asked if he thought the President’s speech was short of an endorsement for his candidacy, he said: “I don’t want to preempt the President. I have high regard for him as the father of ‘Daang Matuwid.’ I thank him for the trust he has given me.”
Roxas said the President’s recognition of his achievements as head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government was a “validation” of the policies he had introduced as overseer of the Philippine National Police and the local governments.
Roxas also declined to comment if the efforts to convince Poe to run as his Vice President had fizzled out.
“It’s not for me to say,” he said. “For me, I’m focused on helping the President to spread the benefits of the ‘Daang Matuwid’ and continue the principle we held that if there’s no corruption, there’s no poverty.”–With a report from Nikko Dizon