"We pay our respects to a president who led our nation through difficult times."
Former President Benigno Aquino III died Thursday morning of complications from multiple illnesses. He was 61.
During the six years he was in Malacanang, Mr. Aquino faced numerous controversies and had his own mistakes and omissions. Insiders said he had a fluid work ethic and found odd ways to unwind after the pressures of the day. He was chided for merely stumbling into the presidency, without the experience, credentials and grit that are normally demanded by the office. He was imperfect, at times appearing insensitive to the plight of others, and sometimes himself failed to live up to the standards he had set.
Nonetheless, it was his leadership that impressed upon Filipinos to hold their leaders into account for their decisions and actions. He encouraged transparency in government transactions and participatory governance, recognizing the need to listen to and consider the voices of the marginalized. He pushed for peace in Mindanao, even though the process was beset with numerous challenges and festering issues.
We remember Mr Aquino best for his words during his inauguration. “Kayo ang boss ko, (you are my boss)” he told the nation, reminding the people that government officials were not lords but servants of the public whose interests they must champion, first and foremost.
He picked a most concrete example of entitlement—“wang wang,” or the siren of a vehicle that allows it to evade traffic rules and get ahead of everybody else—to show the inherent wrong even in our age-old tolerance of it.
We pay our respects to a president who led our nation through difficult times and who inspired many to take up government work, not for the sheer glamor or benefit of it but for the opportunity to serve—and serve without agenda.