Transcript of Sen. Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino’s answers during the Makati Business Club (MBC) open forum, following his delivery of “A Philippines That Works: Economic Vision and Platform“, January 21, 2010
Four-part video of the open forum, courtesy of NoyTV on YouTube:
Question: In governing you will need the cooperation of Congress, what’s your strategy for getting their cooperation particularly in a situation where you do not control either or both of the houses?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: Well sir I think you will agree with me that the tradition for the past congresses has been that the dominant party becomes the party to which the President belongs to. If I’m elected president, we already have our Liberal Party, we have our allies in other aggregations and party-list groups but more importantly, the vast majority will always want to be siding with the administration, whoever it is, so cooperation with congress doesn’t seem to be a problem at this point in time as we foresee.
Question: South Africa, after apartheid, formed a Truth Commission. De Klerk, Mandela, wound up winning the Nobel Prize. In South Korea, a similar search for the truth landed … in jail. Given the sustained unpopularity and perceived excesses of the present leadership, will there be priority given by your administration if you win, to ferret out truths about the GMA years? You talk about Garcillano, you talk about Pidal, Peter Wallace and his Wallace 11, ZTE and the like of transactions. What is your administration going to do in this regard?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: The job of the Chief Executive is to enforce all of the laws; recovery of ill-gotten wealth, if it exists, is not a proscribed activity, meaning there are no time limits to it but it has to be a priority. I’ve already made a public statement that I want closure on all of these issues if elected president. That means that one of the four platforms, the top four in the agenda is judicial reform. There has to be certainty of conviction and punishment if you do commit crimes in this country.
A sad fact is that all of the cases that are filed by the prosecutors, only about 18% wind up as convictions. As you know our system says that a prosecutor, before he introduces a case, should be convinced about the validity of the case, the preponderance of evidence at present. But after having undergone that process, it only results in 18% and those are official statistics. 33% are dismissed; we lose all of these cases. Therefore, adherence to the rule of law seems to be honored more in the breach. Now so, in direct answer to your question, there have never been answers to all of the issues that you have mentioned, be it Hello Garci, be it ZTE. For instance in ZTE, there was a board meeting by the NEDA, there were clear-cut instructions on sovereign guarantees on a BOT basis. This was reversed. Those were orders of the head of NEDA and also who happens concurrently to be the head of republic. Who can supersede the orders of the president of this republic? That has to be settled. What are the loopholes that were exploited so that the NBN-ZTE deal almost became the nightmare? But fortunately the people rose up to oppose.
Again, let me reiterate, it will be one of the priorities that will happen within the first 6 months; I guess within the first month we will already be tackling all of these issues under the Department of Justice and to ferret out and move the investigation, and if so warranted, to file the necessary charges.
Question: Will you or will you not form a Truth Commission?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: In the Truth Commission, was something I’ve always been studying ever since I became a congressman the first time in 1998. I thought that the model and the idea of closure for a lot of things. One question that I wasn’t able to answer then was, as you know, in South Africa, a necessary component of availing of the privileges was to reveal everything you knew about crimes that you had committed during the apartheid regime, by both sides, which included very vivid descriptions of various tortures employed. I was asking myself, in the Philippine context, if a father were to revisit a crime committed to a child, who was tortured by government forces in the martial law years, will that not in turn, foster a new cycle of violence? I’ve never really been able to answer that question. But in terms of reviewing this past decade and the lost opportunities in what are the systemic loopholes that were exploited that got us to this point, yes, but in terms of filing charges against those who are guilty of committing crimes that I think should be left to the Department of Justice, in the very capable hands of a very active and proactive Secretary of Justice, who I will not name at this point in time lest he be persecuted for that.
Question: Over the last decade or so the Philippine economy has not done well in manufacturing, it has not come out competitive in the world, and agriculture has not developed as you mentioned the way it should, and the country has moved more and more toward being a service industry, very successfully in some cases, call centers, BPO, tourism beginning to pick up, this is an area which I think there is a great potential for the Philippines. But it requires one thing that the two other sectors don’t require, education. And the educational system in the Philippines has deteriorated dramatically and alarmingly. We only have a ten-year primary/secondary school system where everywhere else in the world has 12. as you mentioned only 14% graduate from college level. We don’t have enough classrooms, books full or errors, all the things you know. What specific things will you do to correct the situation? And where and how will you get the funds?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: There are various solutions to the problem, and first of all let me agree with you Mr. Juarez with all the things you’ve said previously. What are solutions? How much will it cost to…there is an estimated twenty to forty thousand classroom need in this country. If our main focus will be to pump prime the economy and generate employment, then we will build the schools.
Our experts tell us within a year, maximum of two years we can complete the twenty to forty thousand, even at the cost of a million per classroom, although at this point in time the average is at about 500,000, and where will we get the money? As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are so much leakages in our revenue collection efforts. The 150 billion, we can allocate a portion of the 150 billion towards meeting at least part of the 40 billion necessary, if pump-priming was the necessary goal.
On the other hand we want a more effective use of the resource, we can contract private schools. I’m made to understand that middle-tier schools have a tuition in the 5,000 to 8,000 bracket. What does that mean? For a class size of 50, that translates into Php400,000 cost per classroom of 50. When we build classrooms, the shell, the basic shell lacking, the chairs, the blackboard, electricity, the books, the teachers, etc., just the basic shell is already on average nation-wide Php500,000. So if we are to send these children, there’s an existing program using a voucher system called “Gasbi.” If we send these children to private schools but in a direct contracting basis so that there are no abuses in the system, we can save about Php100,000 per classroom. That translates into, or we can utilize that resource into supplemental feeding programs, into a better book development program, into a scholarships for college, into scholarships for teachers, benefits, so on and so forth.
So, the plan is, transform it from 10 to 12, there is a bridge program, it’s already in the books, that’s why my theme is always “there are no secrets.” The plan is a good plan, it’s already there, it’s really just a question of implementing the same. Now, I think it is unfair for our students to, to expect rather, our students to be able to absorb 12 years’ worth of education in a 10-year program, further compounded by the desire to be solving the problems by saying we have no more classroom shortages, and this was done basically by shifting. Shifting is making 2 or 3 classes utilize 1 classroom. And I would just like to emphasize because that really angers me every time I think about it. You’re a Grade 1 student, which is the entry level, in our public school system, you have a class supposedly for English, to which Science and Health have been included. So, the child who probably doesn’t understand English, is tasked to understand scientific concepts taught in English and together with health. To further compound it, as if he didn’t have enough problems, he’s given a textbook that has errors known only to the teacher, who is in possession of teacher’s notes. The Grade 1 student, I think no, by the DepEd is expected to be able to discern what is right and what is wrong at Grade 1, in a language he doesn’t understand.
Therefore the investment is a guarantee of problems down the line. People who cannot be employed think, limitations as to what we can do given the talent that is there before us. So we want to get to the 12-year program, we want to have a pre-school level where they are taught or conditioned to be able to study. And of course those textbooks will really have to be corrected and people who accepted the same and contracted for the same should be liable.
Question: Could we encourage Congress to spend its pork barrel on education?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: Pork barrel will be limited to national priority programs, and of course one of them will be school-building programs.
Question: Mr. Senator, there are a couple of questions that deal with governance issues, particularly corruption, and I’d like to read them and maybe you can answer them as a whole. How will you handle the Lucio Tan cases of tax evasion and the Marcos wealth? Second, you talk about how different you will be from the present administration, what exactly will you do to make GMA, FG and all pay for their crimes? What will you do with the tong of all congressmen? There’s another one that has to do with encouraging whistle-blowers. So maybe your strategy with dealing with corruption?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: Can I start with how do I deal with whistle-blowers? It’s a sad fact no, I learned this close to about 3 decades ago, if you catch somebody smuggling, you’re supposed to entitled to, I’m talking about at this point in time, to a reward of 20% when you give information to catch the smugglers. If you facilitate smuggling, I was told by my informants, you get a 10% fee. So I asked this person, why will you participate in something illegal to get 10% when you can go legal? And point the authorities towards the commission of this crime and get a double reward? And the simple answer was: the 10% is kaliwaan, I get it right away, the 20% I will get when I retire and probably 5 years after that. The explanation is you go through so many processes, the seizing, the goods, for instance, of smuggling, the appeals process, auctioning, etc., I don’t think it’s that difficult point for government to advance this reward system to make it an effective reward system, point one.
Point 2, as I keep saying, the judicial reform is so essential. We cannot have a situation where a criminal is not deterred from committing a crime basically because even if he gets to trial, he doesn’t even have a 1 in 5 chance of being convicted. It seems you are the most unlucky individual to be convicted in this country. Now we have so many leads with regards to the first family, statements of assets and liabilities are there, there are dramatic changes in the statements of various members, and obviously, there are various provisions already with our laws, unexplained wealth, is presumed to be ill-gotten. And in that situation, they are tasked to answer for that.
And at the same time, my father was a very…one of my father’s most important advocacies was human rights. Therefore I will ensure that their rights are also protected. Because again, from my father, the true test of a democracy is not your ability to defend the rights of your friends, but more importantly those of your enemies. Because if you allow one group to be oppressed, you are setting up the situation for your group to be oppressed at some point in time. So they will be afforded all of the rights, they will be given all of the opportunities to answer the charges, and like any other citizen, they will be presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
Now with regards to the Marcos and Lucio Tan cases, and these are subjudice, I will be entering the situation, what, at the second or third decade of litigation? One would hope that there is closure to all, even to those issues. When you go into this country, you can expect adjudication of cases to happen in a timely manner. One of the sad facts, and that’s why judicial reform, again, our stake, has to be improved, is that on average we understand that it takes 6 years to adjudicate a case. Again, it leads to, a condition where it moves everybody not to follow the laws, and that has to stop.
Question: 2 quick questions, Senator. the heart of the Cory Constitution is social justice. The phrase is not anywhere in your platform, as advertised. What are the specifics of your social justice program? And related, that is the question of what will you do June 30, 2010, we do not have a president or vice president who can be proclaimed and we wake up on July 1, 2010, GMA is still the ruler of this country in one form or another?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: I take exception to the fact that social justice is not in the platform, it is actually embodied in practically all of the 16 points of the platform that we have published on the site. For instance, we want to have the provision of opportunities for everybody to improve themselves, that’s why job generation is first in the list of priorities. What does that mean? I think a father wants best, provide me the job and I’ll take care of my children’s education and health. Education is the second factor, again empowerment, again, opportunities. If you are not educated enough, there are you know, what jobs actually can, what skills do you have, and what jobs can you acquire? Therefore, to have meaningful job generation, the educational support should be there, hence our drive for the 12-year program and even the inclusion of a nursery stage prior to the formal education program.
The ecology, the platform on ecology is very, very simple. We want to translate it so that there’s no confusion among anyone. If there are no forests, there are no watersheds. No watersheds, no water. No water, no food, no food, no people. Are you aware that we have an 8% remaining primary forest cover? But what is more criminal, is up to today, we have not delineated the forestry lines. So when you talk about preserving forests, you don’t even define what the forests is obviously, we are not preserving anything, and that is there also. I’m sorry, I’m missing the second question.
Question: The second questions asks what you will do come June 30, 2010 when we have no elected president and vice president…
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: Number one, the laws on succession are very clear. But can I just tell you, instead of telling all of you our plans, people, let’s not be naive, no? There are talks that certain quarters want to exploit that situation. There are talks of failure of elections or non-proclamation, no-el, so on and so forth. Now, does it behoove me to reveal publicly the plans that we are contemplating at this point in time, and to make our job of preserving this democracy harder by telling our enemies precisely what we will do. I think I will leave my plans close guarded at this point in time and we assure you we are not babes in the woods, and we are ready, as much as possible, we are getting all the necessary info, intelligence and alliances in place, to forestall the grabbing of power by people with purely vested self-interest.
Can I just add, sorry, this has to be really laid in the minds of everybody. We in the Liberal Party say that we are espousing platform-based, issue-based politics. And I am very, very confident that even if I were not in the seat, this occupation is fraught with dangers. I have in the person of my partner, Mar Roxas, somebody who is exactly of like mind, somebody who will pick up if I am unable to finish the job. Therefore, we can assure everybody that will join us, there is a continuity of expectations that are realistic. This is not person-based.
Question: That highlights a weakness in the political system in the Philippines. When we elect you, we don’t automatically elect Sen. Roxas because you’re voted for independently—so it has to be as a team. In the papers recently there was a two-page ad put in by the government claiming all kinds of things: that this president has achieved. It has numerous faults in it. One of the things is that they are very proud of the fact that this economy had been stimulated and helped by the OFWs and their remittances to the Philippines. Those OFWs are Filipinos who have had to leave their families. So society has been hurt badly by it. It’s in fact an economic failure. A failure of government to provide the jobs that they should have had here. What would you do to reverse the situation, to be able to provide the jobs here for Filipinos instead of overseas?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino:: Well, number one, I think I will be lying if I told you that we will have comparable jobs within six years. That I think is an impossibility. But there is I think an obtainable objective of having compensation for people who have skills that have been improved. We can get it to a certain level whereby the increase in wages—although not the same as working abroad—together with the family being in tact, and together with the idea of being a first-class citizen in your own country will be enough to win people away from seeking the greener pasture elsewhere. We believe that the people who have left and who are opting to leave, primarily have no choice. They are political refugees, they are being forced, not for improvement—where it was 20 years ago—but rather even just for survival. And again you’re right. The opportunities have to exist here. Now, when I go around the country, when I go around Metro Manila, the opportunities are so abundant, and all it takes is to do the right thing. For instance, in Surigao City, the table you’re using right now was about the length of this fish—I don’t know what breed of fish that was. But that particular stall in the public market in Surigao City had three of it. The next stall had five of the same size. And the Media asked me in that point in time—this was the senatorial campaign—”Can you raise it up for a photo op?” And of course I’m very macho, and I proceeded to raise it by the head. And the only thing I raised was the head. It was that heavy. And I was saying: “How much would it cost to set up a blast freezing facility here? How much would it cost to turn these things into steaks, train the people to marinate it into that, and export it to countries like Japan or elsewhere, where they’d be thanking us for sharing the bounty … ” Mar Roxas’s home province of Capiz, you go to the beach at low tide, you have a rake, you rake the sand, you get clams. In Metro Manila you get [the fry] of the clams. Why can’t we even get it from Capiz to Metro Manila?
I’m sorry, sometimes I can’t stop, because really, the absurdity, the simplicity of the solutions that are not being implemented really gets to me. The fertilizer scam: The greatest sin is 723 million pesos at least could have started a chain of improving productivity. And for those of you who are not aware, when you plant rice in irrigated lands—and that was the hybrid rice program, that was the fertilizer input program —you can double to quadruple your income for our farmers, especially if it’s irrigated. You can have five harvests in two years. But this current government made the program in 2004 and really turned it into a disaster. We had ten cropping cycles that we lost an opportunity in. But the biggest sin is that even in investigating this alleged crime took four years. That’s why I said ten harvests were lost. So, again, from Masagana ’99 we had a hundred kabans per hectare. Commercially we are already now growing 240 to 320 kabans per hectare. I am told, but I’m still validating this, that UPLB and IRRI are even working further than that. And again: a true fertilizer input program, adequate monitoring, serious credit facilities, can undoubtedly at least make us self-sufficient in rice. We teach agriculturists worldwide. At the end of the day, we import food. That has to stop also.
Question: I think you will welcome this next question. It says: do you already have enough money for the campaign?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: I will be lying if I tell you we have enough money. But, there is adequate … but of course, it makes the process that much simpler. Can I just share with you this bit of information that was given to me yesterday? I understand there was a tsinoy who went to our headquarters in EDSA the other day. He proceeds to donate a certain amount of money, I was not told how much, but he had a simple request. I’ll say it Tagalog cause it really was… I really made my day that day. He said: “Ito yung pera, bumili kayo ng commercial niyo. Naiinis na ko dito sa isang ‘to.” That by the way is not a joke. It really did happen. At some point in time we will have to report that contribution to Comelec. We’ll have all the details then. But it really made my day.
Question: Two quick questions again, Mr Senator. What will be the roles of your sister Kris and your uncle Peping if you become president? Can you give us a specifically categorical answer on your stand on the Reproductive Health Bill?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: Kris I think will still be my fashion adviser, which means if she does not like what I’m wearing, she will not keep quiet. I think she even had this barong made. So if she complains I’ll tell her you’re the one who designed it. And that will be the extent. Most of my sisters, and Kris included—Kris is a very busy individual … Anything I ask her, I ask her to attend some ribbon-cutting thing if I become president, that will be an imposition on her time. The three are eagerly looking forward to regaining their anonymity. In fact I’m not even sure if I celebrate my birthday, in the period of incumbency, that they will be present, since it will be a Media event. The role of my Tito Peping: I would be foolish not to seek his wisdom, because of his experience; but at the same time, I will be the one holding the fort. The buck really has to stop with me. I am responsible ultimately for all my actions. Therefore any or all of my decisions will be based on discussion with all the stakeholders as much as possible, but in the end of the day it will be something I can live with in conscience, in what I believe is right regardless on who propounded it.
On reproductive health: Of course, somehow, the secretariat at the senate made it appear that I was an author of the Reproductive Heath Bill. Unfortunately I never authored such a bill. And I intend to interpolate the proposed version before us. The portion that I want to interpolate on is: In government when you have a budget, you don’t use it, you lose it. And there will be provisions of the reproductive health for artificial means of family control. And I want provisions that will ensure that if government hospitals—by cunning, by deceit, by misinformation, etc, are able to expend these budgetary items so that they are replenished, then there’d be penal sanctions for the same.
My position is more properly called Responsible Parenthood; and basically it says, “The state has an obligation to remind parents each child you bring into this world carries with it a certain set of responsibilities: to clothe, to shelter, to educate, etc. That is the extent of what the state should do. So there will be educational programs, campaigns, seminars, symposia, to which we will invite all of the churches to put in their two-cents worth. At the end of the day, the state, in preserving the family, mandated by the constitution has to remind everybody that they will and that they should have these set of responsibilities. The state cannot force as to size, the state cannot force as to method. Now, in fact we will oppose any attempt to do so, because a democratic state has to proceed from individual freedoms.
Question: President Arroyo has intervened in a number of industries: power, oil, cement, pharmaceuticals, food—particularly, sensitively, rice. In state of belief, it was necessary to give people relief from otherwise excessive prices. What would be your policy and action?
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: Mrs Arroyo when she was my professor said that there should be minimal government intervention (Questioner: “She’s got a poor memory …”), because distortions are created in the marketplace. But then again, given that … you know, it proceeds from a governance of survival there’s no logic used except “will it help me retain power or not?” Therefore every decision is faulted from the onset because of that perception. We are hoping that we will get our mandate clear: clear and clearly won, therefore we will have the confidence to embark and ask our people. At this point in time we will have to sacrifice by X amount to get to this level. We want to be transparent in all of the dealings. At the end of the day I assume, god willing we have an intervention for instance in agriculture. You had that 723 million debt really bought fertilizers that were correct. That were delivered at a timely manner at an appropriate price. And perhaps even the, as I mentioned, the purchasing aspect of it be reformed. Things will work out on themselves because we made the right decisions on every aspect. When I pass EDSA, and I guess everybody who passes … can I just a question? When was the last time you remember EDSA as being a smoothly paved road? And this is the premiere road of our National Capital Region. I think most of you will say Highway 54, those who are honest. But when we export our construction companies, our engineers, our designers elsewhere, hindi ba world class? How many of you are aware that in this recent tragedy in Haiti, there were so many Filipinos in a professional basis. And I was surprised that even in Bermuda, the same situation holds: Accountants, lawyers, etc. I always assumed that Bermuda, beneficiary of the British Civil Service System, would have a very efficient bureaucracy, and an efficient professional corps. But it turns out it is again it’s again another area for Filipino expertise to shine. So again, they can do it there, undoubtably they can do it better here, so long as the milieu is present that opportunities for everybody are extant. Nobody is excluded, hence our phrase is “Walang iwanan at walang maiiwan.”
Question: I was told that we have to wind this up after two final questions, that I’d like to read. One is: “How will you handle the issue of pagbabago the Filipino people dreamt and longed for” and “as a transformational president, what key qualities would you bring to this task?”
Sen. Noynoy Aquino: Well, number one, you will have to lead by example. I think in fairness to my mother, at the onset of her term she inherited a government that was corrupt top to bottom, for the most part because the top set the example. Something as cop on the street who was being bribed for a minor traffic violation: he used to demand for his bribe. At the onset of my mom’s term, the phrase was, “Teka, hindi ko hinihingi yan a. Binibigay mo yan, pinipilit mo.” There was a recognition that that was wrong. And after that, something as simple as … I complain about traffic, and Mar in I already have an agreement. If we win, and if traffic isn’t solved, we’ll participate in the traffic. We will not ask of anybody that which we are not ready to do ourselves first. Hopefully we will not talk as much, because we are trying to put a spin on something that is indefensible. And siguro the biggest ambition is in the fourth year, it will just be Mar and I talking because everything is working and it’s boring.
Sana po ay hindi na naming kailangan tutukan minut-minuto, dahil nga maayos na ang systema. E ngayon palang ho nagiipon na kami ng mga kwento just in case magkatotoo po yan. Diba? Lahat naman ng magulo sa mundo nating to ay dahil nga yung systema, hinayaan na kung saan interes ng isang tao, isang grupo lang ang importante. Yun ang gusto naming baguhin.
[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]