Skip to main content

Thoughts from Manila about remarkable people

Even to me, a foreigner, here in Manila the significance of President “Noynoy” Aquino’s government having made today a national holiday to mark the 150th anniversary of José Rizal’s birth is obvious. Rizal was a man of many talents and republican convictions who opposed colonial rule until executed by Spanish firing squad in 1896. The current President’s father Benigno (“Ninoy”) Aquino was the Liberal Party leader who returned from exile in 1983 to oppose US-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, only to be assassinated as he arrived at Manila airport. I suspect that for ordinary Filipinos both murdered men have hero status bearing comparison with President John F Kennedy for Americans.

The current President took a little time off from affairs of state to welcome Liberal delegates from around the world to his palace last Saturday and give the keynote speech of Liberal International Congress. He seemed to me an unassuming man, and my impression is reinforced by reading that when asked what he would wear at his inauguration he is said to have replied: old glasses and a watch, a new fountain pen, a new barong [type of knife], old pants, decent underwear. But the words of his speech on Saturday were steely. He reaffirmed his intention to follow the “straight path” and to root out the Philippines’ notorious corruption. Not just words: news reports here during my short visit have daily confirmed that Aquino appointees are investigating scandals surrounding powerful figures during his predecessor Gloria Arroyo’s presidency, and recommending prosecutions.

He needs all his resolve. As popular uprisings plunge the Middle East into uncertainty, I am reminded that the first “people power” revolution – certainly the first in recent times – was in the Philippines. In 1986 millions of unarmed people poured into the streets and with courage and faith stayed there, facing down the army, until the rapacious and hated Marcos was forced to flee into exile. The murdered Ninoy Aquino’s widow, Corazon (“Cory”), was elected President and brought in a new constitution. But the interests that supported Marcos were still there, subsequent presidencies have been scandal-ridden, and currently the country is looking to Noynoy Aquino for real change. He was swept to power by popular vote; the first anniversary of his inauguration comes up on 30th June.

According to reports, Noynoy Aquino campaigned - wearing a trademark yellow shirt, which will resonate with UK Liberal Democrats - on the pledge “no corruption, no poverty”, mixing with the poor and listening to them. The painful memory of his father’s fate on the airport tarmac in 1983, as well as the torture and injustice suffered by friends and colleagues at the hands of Marcos cronies, are surely the motivation for the President’s decision to follow his father and mother into public life, although he is wealthy enough to live in comfort and safety. I admire his resolve, and wish him all the very best with the two enormous tasks of tackling corruption and poverty.


Matthew Harris said…
That's a very interesting post about a country from which I don't hear a lot of news

Popular posts from this blog

My #Remainer's Diary Day 300: constitutional crisis is coming

My #Remainer's Diary Day 300: I mull over a joint statement from the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland, Carwyn Jones and Nicola Sturgeon about the repeal bill. It says: “We have... put forward constructive proposals about how we can deliver an outcome which will protect the interests of all the nations in the UK, safeguard our economies and respect devolution.  “Regrettably, the bill does not do this. Instead, it is a naked power grab, an attack on the founding principles of devolution and could destabilise our economies.”  So a constitutional crisis that was latent ever since 23rd June 2016 is due to be thrashed out in Westminster debates.  A spokeswoman for the Maybot said she was not aware of a contingency plan for what might happen if Scotland or Wales refused legislative consent.  That is apart from the rows there will be about the bill's Henry VIII clause powers and putting human rights in doubt.  As the clock ticks, businesses act to protect themselves.  EasyJet announced…

My Remainer's Diary Day 299

For 298 days I have kept my #Remainer's Diary on Facebook. Two nights ago my FB account became inaccessible without explanation. So I'm back on Blogger.
Diary Day 299: the UK's Office of Budget Responsibility published its first Fiscal Risks Report, a 312-page tome, in accordance with a requirement introduced by Parliament in October 2015 that the OBR must produce a fiscal risks report at least once every two years. It is freely downloadable by anyone.  Fiscal is a fancy word for pertaining to government finances. Derivation: 16th century, from Latin fiscālis concerning the state treasury, from fiscus public money, the public purse. It is about government income and spending.  The Fiscal Risks Report refers to a wide range of "fiscal pressures", and says that the risks posed by Brexit "do not supplant the possible shocks and likely pressures that we have already discussed, but they could affect the likelihood and impact of many of them."  It states that imp…

Iran: the minority that will not let go

I am thinking about places in the world where women are oppressed. Iran for example. There, I gather, militia roam the streets intimidating and attacking women who behave or dress in ways of which they disapprove. In my country, such militia would be arrested and tried for public order offences. It is not that the British have no opinions about what is acceptable dress or behaviour in public and what is not. Of course we have opinions. But individuals behave in a way that is their own choice, provided that it does not contravene a specific law, and it may be a poor choice, but it is the individual's and not imposed. Live and let live, and mind your own business, are mottos here. And gangs who roam the streets trying to impose their own ideas on others tend to get arrested.
So what essentially is different about Iranians? I suspect, nothing is. A minority of society suppose they have a superior social and ethical code but that is normal in any society. The trouble is th…