The courage of President Aquino

[Photo: CNN Philippines]


By Joe America

President Aquino was a stubborn man in some respects. He knew what was right even if the rest of the Philippines disagreed with him. So he did right.

He chose not to bankrupt Social Security, gave the okay to kill a terrorist bomber at Mamasapano, relied on people he trusted even if their names were Abaya and Purisima, turned PPP into an engine for infrastructure development, and invested to defend the Philippines by ordering planes and ships and filing for arbitration with the UN court to try to get China to back off from her ridiculous sea claims.

The United States has just cited this arbitration win in it’s latest policy statement about the Pacific territorial disputes. The US has called China out, saying her claims and developments are illegal based on the Philippine arbitration finding.

This signaled what many have wanted for about a decade now. For the US to pivot to Asia to stop China from her imperial aggressions.

President Aquino did not say “if we fight China, we’ll lose and Filipinos will die”. He didn’t need excuses. He knew there would have to be a way other than guns. So he took China to arbitration. Other ASEAN states did not have that kind of courage.

The laws were President Aquino’s weapons, and a fine, stubborn . . . let’s call it courageous . . . sense of right and wrong.

And he won.

For the Philippines, and for the world.

Courage is not found only in words. It is found best in deeds.

Viet Nam and Malaysia for sure appreciate what President Aquino did. So does the US. So should every other nation facing off against China’s aggressions.

Let the Philippine historical record be accurate, not defined by trolls or propagandists or political bitterness. Let the record show that President Aquino was a man of courage, of justice, and of achievement.


55 Responses to “The courage of President Aquino”
  1. Philip Vasquez says:

    I agre 100% on this. Thanks Joeam

  2. kapayapaan_1900 says:

    Pnoy is not perfect but he’s my kind of President.

    • Ye, mine, too. If anyone can point to a perfect President, I’ve not seen him or her identified.

      • gprmi5075 says:

        True, but there were who really made a difference and who in their imperfection tried hard to serve the interests of the country and its people.

        • That is the case, isn’t it. I think of the 60,000 classrooms built. No one ever got credit. Try counting from 1 to 60,000 to appreciate the achievement. Thanks for raising the point.

    • Jojo M says:

      P’noy may not have been a ‘perfect’ president but he was a good president. Besides, historically there never was a ‘perfect’ president of the Philippines (or anywhere else) ….. only terrible ones (like marcos and duterte).

      • The idea that there should or could be a perfect president is very destructive. It turns good presidents into bad and gives people the idea that a jerk would be better. A President does a million things. He’ll miss on a few. Look at the totaliy.

  3. chris c says:

    Thank you for this post, Joeam

  4. NHerrera says:


  5. Joe, tagalog lang ito ha? Nakakaunawa ka na rin naman sigurado ng tagalog sa tagal mo na rito sa Pilipinas. 🙂

    Si PNoy na binansagang “Abnoy” ng mga DDS na siyang tunay na Abnoy. Para sa akin, kung pagkukumparahin ang mga naging performance ni PNoy at ni Duterte sa iskor na 10, si PNoy ay 9 at si Duterte ay 2 lang. Nakakalungkot nga lang dahil nangyari ang 7-hour glitch ng SmartMagic kaya hindi nakalusot si Mar na makakapagpatuloy sana ng magagandang programa ni PNoy.

    • I think your scoring is about right, and indeed voters blew it big time by wanting whatever it was they thought they were getting. And failing to see that Mar Roxas was ‘Mr. Integrity’, not a batch of photos out of context.

  6. Karl Garcia says:

    Well put! Very nice as always.

    Though I often notice that Pnoy always hits GMA in all his SONAS as time goes by I think he is very justfied in doing so.
    Look at how Arroyo cronies and minions are responsible for many things not so good.

  7. isk says:

    Some gambled their future, this regime is what they got.

    Thank you Sir.

  8. P’noy’s image was tarnished by MRT, Mamasapano and lag-lag bala. MRT could have been solved via reverse engineering. Lag-lag bala is taking action against perpetrators. Mamasapano is more PR issue to me. WW II with all the botched military operations didn’t get that much scrutiny like Mamasapano. It was a CIA operation. Lack of knowledge of Pinoy ‘pintakasi’ mentality.

    • distant observer says:

      Yes, not everything went perfectly well during PNoy’s term, but his image wasn’t tarnished critically due to the issues you mentioned while he was in office. It was only after the China-backed candidate became president in 2016, and the Marcos family and their sycophants decided to crawl out of their holes to undertake a disinformation and smear campaign of epic proportions. At least we know now where some of the stolen Marcos money goes…

      I never cease to be amazed by the perseverance and profoundness many Filipinos display in going after PNoy and everything that “smells like dilawan”. If Filipinos would even just be half as committed to actually build up the country, well the Philippines would look almost like Singapore by now.

      • Thanks for the perspective, DO, which saved me the trouble of writing it. The ‘fault’ with President Aquino rests mainly in the minds of an ignorant public who were not in his shoes and did not have the intellectual reach to get there. They persisted in demanding some kind of ridiculous perfection that would have President Aquino serving their whims rather than the nation’s needs as he saw it, from his shoes.

  9. Norma Hernandez says:

    Benigno Aquino Jr. made mistakes as then President. who cannot? YET, I believe he is not corrupt, he is not mayabang and he does not cling on to power as so much power corrupts absolutely. He did not even made himself ä little god.” Not like what the “present” one is doing. Likewise; he is not bad mouthing every one; unlike what the elected by 16 M filipinos is doing every now and then.

  10. djac says:

    History will be kinder to President Aquino

  11. Filipinos will judge those different from themselves the way they hear strangers at the karaoke, always something out of tune, and those similar to themselves the way they hear their friends.

    Since the Ateneo/Makati crowd of Aquino is small, more strangers than friends in the country.

    More people waiting for the sour notes while Duterte can sing out of tune at midnight and people will still root for him like for their drunken uncle who likes to give tall tales and tell dirty jokes.

  12. karlgarcia says:

    We talk of PR nightmares of FPinoy, look at we have now. If you are a PR practitioner you would be in denial if you tell me that Duterte is an ideal client. His spokesmen mixes PR, with troubleshooting,lawyering, deception, perception management blah,blah

    Who could be worse?
    Maybe the onion skinned assistant I mean senator

  13. Micha says:

    Focusing on personalities won’t get us anywhere. Engaging in political football between the post EDSA Yellow Brigade and the Marcos Revivalists is not going to move the country anywhere because our problem is, at its root, systemic.

    Sure, Noynoy is a decent fellow but he operated within the bounds of a very corrupt socio-economic system controlled by oligarchs who are narrowly interested only in their personal well-being. Witness the ongoing drama in one of the Lopez oligarch’s crown jewels, the ABS-CBN franchise. Is their TV station really crucial for the economic well-being of the country or crucial only for their own profit generation?

    The mass insurrection of the proles by voting for a fascist maniac from Davao is the result of the failure of trickle down neoliberal approach to economic development.

    Noynoy only paid lip service to his own slogan of “Walang Mahirap Kung Walang Corrupt” because he did not dare confront the corruption that mattered most – the corruption of our economic system.

    • The arbitration case was a presidential decision that took courage. No other nation took the step. The result was a clear delineation of rights to sea features that is the basis of US efforts to knock down China’s illegal adventurism. You muddy the issue by switching the argument and finding flaws to pick at. Sorry. The Philippines led the world. President Aquino led the Philippines. I’m proud of that even if you can’t get there yourself.

      • Micha says:

        Taking the case to the international tribunal is the only sensible thing to do when a militarily weak country such as ours is facing off a big bully. That does not require a special kind of courage.

        If anything, we should also cite the important work of a group of crusading lawyers and gov’t officials who did the research and argued our case before that tribunal.

        Bigger point, while Noynoy is clearly a league ahead from the current criminal palace occupant in terms of being decent, we need to minimize the personality cult in our politics and focus instead on reforming our corrupt and inefficient socio-economic system. Stop venerating a person, because more often than not, that person is going to disappoint one way or the other.

        Our failure to do system reform in the decades following the EDSA uprising is the reason why we now have this malignant aberration heaped and imported from the lawless jungle of Davao.

        • The Philippine personality cult is one thing, a problem that gives us Duterte and Dela Rosa, but the flip side of it is an easy sneering at elite but capable people, like Aquino and Roxas. There is some lunatic idea that a leader should be perfect and people strike out with a vengeful bitterness when a good person makes a mistake, in their eyes. You seem to equate praise with personality cult, which is a reflection of the flip side, a need to criticize the successful, those assholes.

          I’m not Filipino. I raised my kids with a mix of discipline and praise, as earned, and follow the same pattern with adults. President Aquino laid the groundwork for a law-based peace in the Pacific. If you and China wish to piss on him for it, that’s a reflection of your values, not his. I think the world owes him a thanks. Many call his act courageous. Whatever it is called, it was good.

          • Micha says:

            Former chief justice Carpio seems to be more vocal and courageous in his defense of our rights in the West Philippine Sea. How about giving him a shout out too?

            • Definitely. He has also been courageous, speaking uncomfortable truths to PH China-loving power. He was a part of the arbitration team, too. A truly distinguished man. I hope he gets a cabinet post in 2022 so he can apply his thinking to results.

              • Micha says:

                See, that’s the point. It’s a collective effort.

                Scholars, lawyers, academics, public officials, fishermen who provided testimonials of harassment – patriots all – working together to deliver the win. It was not a one man crusade.

              • No, Justice Carpio did not make the decision to file. The President did when leaders of Japan, Viet Nam, Malaysia, and Taiwan could have, but did not. Some sent people to sit in the back of the room as evidence was presented. Shall we therefore give these nations credit as well?

              • Note that ASEAN states appreciate what the US is doing, that is anchored on what the Philippines did.


              • NHerrera says:

                Thanks for the exchange. I particularly love the strong defense of what PNoy has done as well as the tribute to Justice Carpio in the Arbitration Case compared to the timidity of the ASEAN neighbors. A contrast to “discretion being the better part of valor.” When the audacity is powered with what is right and surplus of facts — compared to the flimsy and invented ones in support of the Nine Dash Line.

              • Yes. Well, the proof is in the US statement that referred specifically to the arbitration ruling as defining on the matter. President Aquino, I’m sure, was simply working to anchor the Philippine position in law. He ended up defining the global rules. I can’t imagine trying to take this achievement away from the nation as inconsequential, or the President’s action as being no big deal. I’d expect China’s trolls to do that.

        • distant observer says:

          Always appreciate your systemic perspective Micha, and I agree with many points you raise.
          Yes, focusing on personalities won’t get us anywhere. But it is just a fact that the Marcos family stole billions of dollars from all Filipinos, and this money continues to haunt Philippine politics, as for example in this huge smear campaign against former President PNoy. How are we supposed to ignore that?

          You say that PNoy only paid lip service in terms of fighting corruption. Fact is, during PNoy’s term, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index decreased steadily each year after reaching an all-time high during Arroyo’s term ( Needless to say that since Duterte, this corruption index is on the rise again. The Philippines – and the world for that matter – is a huge mess in many aspects. If one wants to improve things, one needs to start somewhere. I thought that PNoy did a decent job in “starting”.

          You call Duterte an “malignant aberration”, but is he really? Is he not, as you allude to, the logical consequence of a blind trust in neoliberal “trickle down” economics and in the same ranks with America’s Trump, Brazil’s Bolsonaro or Turkey’s Erdogan?

          • Micha says:

            Duterte is a malignant aberration of what a just, civil, and decent society is supposed to be.

            And yes, you are correct, his is the kind we will get after decades of neoliberal trickle down looting.

            That era covers the time right after EDSA when we could have rather made a reset and opted to reject the IMF formula for development.

            Cory, Ramos, Arroyo, and yes, Noynoy all embraced the neoliberal chutzpah.

            Only Estrada made a tentative attempt to breakaway so our Makati elites destroyed him with jueteng payola and kicked him out midway through his term. Apparently, Herman Tiu-Laurel’s nationalism is just too much for the Makati crowd.

            • chemrock says:

              I think you are right Erap made great efforts at redistribution ….. into a special bank account of one Jose Velarde..

              • Micha says:

                Estrada made baby steps towards nationalism wherein, as a senator, he was one of the signatories in ousting the US military bases. He made movies with nationalist theme and his political party (PMP) appealed to the sentiments of the masses. Some of his main advisers are also ardent advocates for economic nationalism.

                These characteristics set off a flashing red danger signs for our local elites who are the main beneficiaries in a neoliberal order. And so, they decided, this creeping nationalism has to be nipped in the bud.

                Anti-Estrada forces from the Makati Bussines Club and the Fil-American Chamber of Commerce became politically involved during his impeachment and eventual ouster. The ease with which they were able to find witnesses to pin him down was astonishing.

                All that of course does not negate the fact that he is indeed corrupt which made the effort of finding his achilles heel seemed like baby munching a chocolate.

                He was replaced by an equally corrupt Arroyo but since she, unlike him, can dance perfectly well to the neoliberal tune, she was allowed to reign for the whole nine yards even if, in the eternal words of Susan Roces, she stole her way to the presidency, not once but twice.

          • Micha says:

            “The International Monetary Fund has its four commandments,” complained a prominent Chilean economist in 1988: “Get your prices right, balance your budget, open up the economy and privatize everything. All at the same time”

            These market-oriented policies were the most important economic policy norms exported by the IMF to the Global South in the 1980s.

            The vehicles for the diffusion of such policies were the organization’s conditional
            loans: in order to access IMF resources, developing countries in economic
            trouble had to pledge to implement a steadily lengthening list of market liberalizing reforms, including privatizing state-owned industries, liberalizing trade, and deregulating domestic economic activities.

            • chemrock says:

              Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, even Vietnam, opened up and followed IMF and world Bank guidelines in many areas, and we are all doing pretty OK.

              As an outsider looking in and having the opportunity to be there during Pnoy’s time, I was really gratified to see an administration that was much different from precedents. They had a managerial approach to solving problems sans the sickening Filipino ethos of machismo. Sure there were mistakes, but overall they did well in my eyes. The tragedy of Philippines is the inability of many Filipinos to see a good thing when they have one.

              • Micha says:

                The Philippines is more like Thailand and Indonesia in many respects with an entrenched corrupt oligarchy which welcomes the opportunities made mainly available to them in a neoliberal order.

                Malaysia under Mahathir imposed strict push back on IMF conditionalities and he also advocated for economic nationalism.

                Vietnam of course has achieved a most favored status emerging as it does from the trauma of war; more like an eager teenager enamored by the spotlight of globalization. Remains to be seen how it does in the long term. Maybe their French influenced norms in bureaucratic governance can be a plus factor. To say that it’s doing pretty OK can be qualified by the fact that the Philippines is also doing pretty OK depending on what matrix you’re looking at.

                Your tiny Singapore has very minimal foreign debt and your LKY is also an ardent nationalist protecting the interest of the country from the predation of international financiers by, ironically enough, turning Singapore into a financial hub of Asia.

      • kasambahay says:

        so true, the philippines led the world. and by it, south china sea/west phil sea is open to maritime navigation despite china’s foolish 9dash claim. and president noy will forever be remembered for our unclos win and china will forever be called to heel because of it. president noy has given the world a gift, communist china can only lament. and no amount of communist bullying can change that fact.

        during president noy’s time, pork queen janet napoles was brought down, sentenced and jailed. gloria arroyo was on house arrest sa veteran’s. as well, senators enrile, jinggoy and bong revilla were also jailed for fraud and monetary misdeeds. because of corruptive practices junjun binay vacated makati mayorship to sister abi. their father the elder binay was also similarly tainted and lost when he ran for congressman. erap’s dynasty, erap himself lost manila mayorship, as well his sons jinggoy and jv ejercito both lost their bid for public office.

        the man that came president noy undid most of what president noy had done. those jailed on corruption charges were set free: jinggoy, enrile, arroyo, etc. and those jailed rebels, extortionists and terrorists were also freed and even had dinner at malakanyang.

        president noy was only one man and what he has accomplished was quickly unaccomplished; even the clemency given to senator trillanes was rebuked and rescinded.

  14. Karl Garcia says:

    Carpio on protecting our sovereign rights in WPS
    More than 1 hour. Very informative and enlightening.

    • sonny says:

      Great, thorough & legal provenance sleuthing; the grateful beneficiary of Judge Carpio’s work: generations of Filipinos to come. Great post, Karl. Thanks again.

      It is the fate of a great civilization such as China to be the cultural protagonist and victim. An additional note: it took the work of the Italian Jesuit polymath, Fr Mateo Ricci, SJ who pointed out:

      “This was the most useful work that could be done at that time to dispose China to give credence to the things of our holy Faith. … Their conception of the greatness of their country and of the insignificance of all other lands made them so proud that the whole world seemed to them savage and barbarous compared with themselves.” — NYTimes – “A Big Map that Shrank the World”

  15. Omon Maravilla says:


  16. Nino says:

    I reckon mate it is not courage but being stubborn. It is like Duterte to Duque, Duterte against US and Duterte with loan debt trap from China.

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