Aquino: 'I hope I showed best face of PH to the world'

MANILA, Philippines – With less than a month before he turns over Malacañang to his successor, President Benigno Aquino III expressed hope that he had presented the "best face of the Philippines" to the rest of the world during his watch.

Aquino made the statement in an exclusive interview with Rappler's Maria Ressa at the Palace Music Room on Tuesday, June 7, while responding to questions on how the presidency had changed him, and shaped him as a leader.

"I think I've grown as a person. I hope I've presented the best face of the Philippines. And made the case that our causes our legitimate and we are a worthwhile partner, we really are sincere when we say that when we look at growth, we want growth not on a one-sided basis but on a multidimensional basis for all parties concerned," he said.

He recalled that as a newbie in the community of leaders representing the Philippines in international meetings, he felt that some of his fellow leaders talked to him out of a sense of obligation and not because they just wanted to.

"A lot of times in the early part [of my term], I felt they talked to me because they had to the talk to me as opposed to they want to talk to me," the President recalled.

He cited his initial experience with a fellow leader, whom he did not name, to illustrate the changed image of the Philippines, which he represents.

"I won't name the leader, but thing was I think the first time I met him – he's from the other hemisphere – he was kind of delivering  a soft key sermon. Transformation: 4 to 5 years later he was earnestly asking us to visit his country on a state visit," Aquino recalled.

The President also said that the Philippines had some "credibility" problems left by the previous administration.

"Initially, there were problems attributed to my predecessor in terms of credibility of the Philippines especially in ASEAN, to now where we have ASEAN listening to us, trusting us that we'll stand by on our words on the issues that affect us commonly," Aquino said.

The previous administration was rocked by scandals and corruption allegations, one leading to the arrest of former president now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She is under hospital arrest for plunder charges in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds when she was chief executive.

Under the Aquino administration, the Philippines received a series of credit rating upgrades because of its improved fiscal policies, and the country's movement up the government transparency ladder.

The Philippines also became more vocal against incursions made by China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and brought its case before a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal – moves backed by the international community, especially its key allies such as the United States and Japan. – Rappler.com