A friend of mine from the Noynoy Aquino camp in Manila emailed me last week, right after the initial election returns came out, to request that I prepare a draft for the president-elect's inaugural address. He told me to write whatever I want, and he'll take care of bringing it up with the new president. Here's the draft I sent back.
Mga kababayan, magandang araw po sa inyong lahat.
Today marks a new dawn for all of us and for our country.
When asked what one can do for his country during the darkest hours of martial law, my father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., said that each of us has been assigned a role to play. That we must keep lighting the beacon-light of unity for those who have lost their way. That we must articulate the fervent hopes of a people who have suddenly lost their voices. And that we must stand with courage in the face of seemingly hopeless odds so that hope, no matter how dim or distant, will never banish from sight.
On August 21, 1983, my father fulfilled that responsibility when he gave up his own life so all of us could be one again. So that our voices could be heard again. So that we could rise from the ashes of hopelessness and from the dark abyss of repression.
It would, however, take our country three more years before it could stand up again and assert its rights, through the sheer power of the people, when you installed Corazon Aquino, my beloved mother, as your president.
Now as I stand humbly before you and our entire nation, you have once again rekindled that hope which my parents always wanted to preserve, to fight for and to prevent from banishing from our sight.
Yes, we can hope once more. Yes, we will always keep our hopes alive.
At first, I refused to be drafted as your candidate for president. The problems our country is facing today are enormous. I was afraid I would take over a government that is ridden with so much graft and corruption that is beyond redemption. People distrust the government and its leaders. Our people have lost their hope.
I was grieving when key members of my party approached and asked me to run. My mother Cory had just passed away. I told them to give me time so I can reflect. As I ponder whether to accept the challenge, I thought of my parents. What would have they done?
My father came home on that historic day only to spill his blood on the airport tarmac. Full of courage, without fear, he faced his destiny. My mother, who had always been the calming presence in our family, without the savvy and experience of a seasoned politician, answered the people’s call for her to lead our nation in its darkest hour.
This is their legacy: a selfless love for our country and our people.
How could you not accept the challenge to lead your country? When the two closest people, your very own role models in life, left you with the right and moral choice when it is your time to decide? So, I accepted your challenge, and here I am on the threshold of this political journey. You and I, together, we shall march forward to greatness. Greatness not for our self-gratification, but for the empowerment of our people.
During the election campaign, I have said that I will not only steal, but I’ll have the corrupt arrested.
The first thing I will do as your president is to establish a Truth and Redemption Commission which will investigate all corrupt practices of the previous government. This Commission will identify those who were responsible and will recommend their prosecution in our court of law. No one will be spared. Every guilty person will be held accountable. That is what our people want our leaders to be — to be accountable for their actions. If they did anything wrong, then they must suffer the consequences of their illegal deeds.
But this Commission will not stop there. I will instruct this Commission to develop and implement the standards upon which our government will be measured. There will be a code of ethics for all those in government, whether you are elected or appointed. This code will supplement all existing laws and regulations governing the conduct of all government officials. Every elected or appointive official will be subject to this code of ethics. You violate it, you are gone. Strike one, and you are out. There is no second chance.
In my government, there will be no room for corrupt behaviour. It is about time for us to redeem ourselves from a nation of corrupt leaders, to a nation of honest and responsible leaders. This is our time to shine.
Good and honest governance is the foundation of a strong government. This shall be the guiding principle for my administration, and hopefully for all succeeding administrations.
In the first two years of my presidency, I am committing my administration to use all resources available in the pursuit of the following goals:
We are committed to the achievement of effective and meaningful economic reforms that will benefit the people, through job creation and policies that encourage and promote investment in all sectors of our economy.
We will strengthen our educational system that will prepare our young for the technological demands of the future, not to export our new graduates and skilled workers abroad because there are no jobs for them in our country.
We will foster equal rights for men and women, embrace our cultural and religious differences, and respect human rights.
We will provide opportunities for our Muslim brothers in the south to exercise self-determination and political autonomy in their region.
We are committed to end all armed conflicts, between our military forces and rebel groups. We will continue our quest for genuine peace, for this is the only way we can achieve prosperity.
During one of the military coups staged against my mother’s administration, I was hit by bullets from the soldiers who participated in the unfortunate coup. I sustained injuries in the neck and hips, but that’s past now. I learned and picked up a principle from my father that we must respect the rights even of your enemies. Because this makes democracy shine. As for me, genuine reconciliation is democracy in action.
Lastly, we will continue the legacy of comprehensive land reform started by my mother during her presidency. As a testament of my good intention, I have instructed the members of the Cojuangco family to withdraw its opposition to the redistribution of the farmlands covered by Hacienda Luisita to its farmers and tenants. We will ask the Supreme Court to vacate the temporary restraining order which has stopped the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council from parcelling out Hacienda Luisita to its workers.
My opponents and critics during the election campaign said that Hacienda Luisita is the bane of my candidacy, the litmus test of my competence for the presidency. I want to prove all of them wrong.
I have invited to this momentous occasion Mr. Lito Bais, the head of the farm workers’ union at Hacienda Luisita along with some of their members.
Ka Lito once believed that as long as the Cojuangcos are in Hacienda Luisita, they’ll never give up the land. To which his answer was, “And as long as we’re here, we’ll never give up the struggle for this land.”
Well, we can now bury the past. The future is now. Hacienda Luisita is now the farmers’ land!
My fellow countrymen, today we start a new journey. I will not be able to be the kind of president you want me to be, unless we do this together.
You think this is really going to happen? This is just a made-up speech of president-elect Noynoy Aquino. Maybe, all these wishes will be fulfilled — in your dreams.