Noynoy Aquino’s legacy, in his own words

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President Noynoy Aquino on his legacy: "I think there’s been a tremendous change of attitude from being, in a sense, a defeated people who have given up on their country." Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Judging by Rodrigo Duterte’s unassailable lead in this week’s national elections, the majority of the voting public wants the old “yellow” regime out, leaving its anointed one, Mar Roxas, trailing far behind with around 6 million votes between him and the presumptive president-elect. A few days before May 9, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was calling for an alliance among the other presidential candidates against Duterte, a last-ditch stand against the specter of revolutionary rule that would allegedly begin once he takes over the presidency.

It’s been a crucial hundred days for everyone who’s running for president — or vice president even. But it’s also been a similarly crucial time for the outgoing president, his legacy looming after a six-year run that has seen its fair share of triumphs and failures.

noynoy aquino CNN Philippines's chief correspondent Pia Hontiveros with President Noynoy Aquino. Photo by JL JAVIER

On a humid Friday afternoon, his itinerary involves two road inaugurations: the NAIA Expressway Phase II and the CAVITEX road that will connect C5 to the southern arteries of the city. Along the way, news of the aforementioned call for alliances break. But despite the political tension surrounding the last several campaign days before the elections, he appears calm throughout his interview with CNN Philippines’s chief correspondent, Pia Hontiveros.

He talks about some examples of the products of all “the hard work,” as he puts it, that his administration has put in: a cold storage plant, a rice-making facility, and a new fish port in Camarines Sur; a pumping station to address flooding in Legazpi City, part of the recently inaugurated P380 million’s worth of infrastructure improvements in the area; and the two aforementioned road projects.

noynoy aquino President Aquino at a holding room during the groundbreaking of the C5 Cavitex South Link. Photo by JL JAVIER

But for him, the biggest shift is the change in attitude of the people from being powerless to being empowered and being able to affect the future. It is his legacy that he is proudest of. As another example, he cites the apparent decline of brain drain in the country. “Now, I think in one of the broadsheets, two or three days ago, they had a story above the fold to talk about the preference of finding jobs in the country that are comparable or that can compensate enough that [people] are not as tempted to go abroad,” he says. “At the very least, there’s something like 600,000 out of our estimated 10 million countrymen who have returned to the country and have found employment, as evidenced by the lowest unemployment rate in the last three years.”

One of the major hurdles that he had to face was the constant wave of criticism in his every action — or as the popularity of the term “Noynoying” posited — inaction. “I don’t know if it’s me or it’s the system but I have engendered a cottage industry of critics who have very closed minds,” he says, “who will always look for the missing 5 percent or 10 percent and neglect the rest of it.”

noynoy aquino President Noynoy Aquino gives a rare one-on-one interview with CNN Philippines. Photo by JL JAVIER  

He admits that is something about which he could have done better. “Perhaps [I should have] devoted more time to media management,” he says, “or even just the idea of being able to get our message across and not depending on fairness by all parties concerned.”

Having the interview close to a major road and the country’s biggest airport has its failings. Planes rumble overhead every five to 10 minutes, arriving at the airport that bears his father’s name. The sun sets and the road is slowly being filled with cars slogging through rush-hour traffic. These are two things that somewhat represent the Aquino presidency, but it’s the planes zipping by that make the most noise, echoing a sense of urgency and waning as Aquino readies himself for the transition to a new government and his return to his old life.

What does he want people to say after he vacates the presidential seat? “That I fulfilled a promise,” he says, “that I will leave something a lot better than what I found.”

noynoy aquino President Aquino on his critics: “I don’t know if it’s me or it’s the system but I have engendered a cottage industry of critics who have very closed minds who will always look for the missing 5 percent or 10 percent and neglect the rest of it.” Photo by JL JAVIER  

In spite of  it all, President Aquino is proud to have had the opportunity to serve the country. “I heard it from my dad, it’s really such an honor to serve our people,” he says. “When we were in the opposition, sometimes you felt so alone and you couldn’t feel the tremendous honor. But now, looking back what the challenges, both internal and international, that we’ve had to face, from seeing the change of attitude, both locally and how others in the world look at us, how did we do all of that? I was always confident to this day that people were behind me because I was doing right by them. In that sense really, having that people who will never abandon you, no matter how severe the challenge, is really such a privilege. That’s why I keep saying it is truly an honor and a privilege to have served such a fine people such as ours.”

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Watch an excerpt of the interview below or catch the complete interview on CNN Philippines on the following dates: May 13, 10:30 p.m.; May 14, 5 p.m.; May 15, 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

 

Noynoy Aquino Interview