The following is a copy of a post published on Facebook by Rafael Alunan III who served as Tourism Secretary under former President Corazon Aquino from 1987-1989 then as Interior and Local Government Secretary under former President Fidel Ramos from 1992-1996. Alunan refers to the speech delivered by President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III before Pope Francis during his holiness’s courtesy call to Malacanang on the 15th January 2015.
I would have wanted to hear these opening remarks before Pope Francis:“A happy good morning everyone. Your Holiness, in behalf of the Filipino people,we welcome you with open hearts to Malacanan, the people’s palace. It is truly a blessed palace, having hosted two of your holy predecessors – Blessed Paul VI (once) and St. John Paul II (twice) – when they visited our shores in 1970, 1981 and 1995. It is our fervent prayer that this will not be the first and last time you will bless us with your charismatic presence Your Holiness.”That would have upheld the well-known tradition of Filipino hospitality – warm, courteous and welcoming.
And the speech could have proceeded to touch on the beautiful legacy of the Christian faith to the Philippines; the boundless need for moral and spiritual guidance to address the obstacles to nation-building, especially corruption; and gratitude for his visit to shine the light of Jesus Christ on the Filipino people.
He could also have provided a brief history of Malacanan Palace, and if he wanted to talk about himself, he could have touched on that dangerous period in the life of the Repubic wobbly from 21years of malgovernance where he almost lost his life. And he could have publicly thanked the Pope for the ancient maps and cite its significance to our current geopolitical realities (pahapyaw lang).And he could have ended on a high note about moral recovery and social transformation, with the buzzwords – integrity, social justice and inclusivity – to signal alignment with the Pope’s advocacies. Plus a gracious gesture of placing the State’s resources at his disposal to ensure a pleasant, safe and secure visit.That would have been appropriate for the occasion. Takes the high road and comes across as presidential that would make the Filipino proud of the representation. And common sense that personal matters are best delivered in private, not before the world stage that diminished the nation.Sorry, but as a citizen I did not like what I saw and heard, totally unlike what I personally experienced up close during the time of Presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos.
Aside from Alunan, many Filipinos have expressed similar dismay over the un-presidential manner with which BS Aquino failed to step up to a level of statesmanship that honours his esteemed guest. Renato Reyes, secretary general of activist group Bayan said that Aquino “turned the event into a gripe session” and mounted “a conscious effort to regulate what the Pope can see,” presumably over the course of his visit.
Opposition Senator JV Ejercito reportedly described the speech as “uncalled for” and lamented how Aquino “could have acted more statesman-like.”
Malacanang, not surprisingly, defended the speech. According to Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr, “It is a personal testimony of someone who experienced the events he was talking about. It was a truthful statement and there was no other purpose for that speech except to tell the truth.”
[Photo courtesy Noynoy Aquino Facebook Page.]