A week before stepping down, Aquino says he's 'all smiles'

MANILA, Philippines – Exactly 7 days before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office, he attended the 118th founding anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Before starting his speech, Aquino took the chance to joke in front of diplomats and government officials about his return to normal life.

“Nakangiti po ako dahil pitong araw na lang po bababa na ako sa puwesto,” Aquino said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

(I am smiling now because in 7 days, I will be stepping down from office.)

Aquino also took the chance to impart his last words before officials and employees of the DFA. He urged them to continue improving the country and the lives of the people.

“Isang linggo na lang nga po, at matatapos na ang aking termino. Patibayin pa sana natin ang pagkakaisa at nawa'y patuloy nating itaguyod ang ating ambisyon: Ang iwan ang bansa sa di hamak na mas magandang kalagayan kaysa sa atin pong dinatnan. Hanggang sa huli, isang malaking karangalan para sa aking paglingkuran ang Pilipino at ang Pilipinas,” Aquino said.

(Only one more week and my term will be over. Let's strengthen our unity and to continue our ambition: To leave the country in a better state than it was in when we arrived. Until the end, it has been my honor to serve Filipinos and the Philippines.)

Meanwhile, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Aquino has already started packing his bags in Bahay Pangarap, in preparation for his transfer to the Aquino family home in Quezon City.

"Ang batid ko ay matagal nang naumpisahan ito at handang-handa na siyang lumisan sa araw ng Huwebes, ika-30 ng Hunyo sa susunod na linggo," Coloma said in a chance interview with reporters after the event.

(As far as I know, he has long started packing his stuff and he is ready to leave on Thursday, June 30, next week.)

All thanks to Del Rosario

In his speech before diplomats, Aquino did not mince words when he recalled how he found it difficult to deal with senior DFA officials then, especially on crises situations.

“Sa totoo lang po, kung ganito ang kalibre ng tutulong sa akin sa pangangasiwa ng ating ugnayang panlabas, talagang kinabahan po ako. Baka ito pa ang uubos ng aking lakas at enerhiya. Ano ba naman ang karanasan ko sa foreign affairs noong panahong yun – ako na hindi mahilig bumiyahe sa labas ng Pilipinas?” Aquino said candidly.

(To be honest, I thought then if this is the quality of the people who would help me in our foreign affairs, I really got nervous. This might the cause of my losing strength and energy. What was my experience in foreign affairs at the time? I don't even like traveling outside the Philippines.)

But this, he said, changed with the arrival of former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario. He recounted how Del Rosario, despite his old age, personally went to Libya to evacuate thousands of Filipinos.

He also profusely thanked the former member of his Cabinet for his role in shaping the agency and the country’s foreign policy.

“Totoo nga po: Kapag magaling ang timon, nagiging mahusay din ang ahensyang ginagabayan nito. Si Albert, hindi tagapasa ng problema, siya ay taga-tugon sa problema, at minsan nga, lampas pa sa inaasahan sa kanya. Hindi kailangang sabihan, dahil agad siyang kumikilos at talagang nakatutok sa kapakanan ng ating kababayan,” Aquino said.

(It's true: If the leader is good, the agency he is guiding will also be good. Albert never passed on problems to anyone. He solves the problems and, sometimes, exceeds expectations. You do not have to tell him because he immediately acts and focuses on the welfare of our countrymen.)

“Sabi ko nga, hindi ko kailanman pinroblema ang pag-motivate kay Albert; at kung may stress man siyang ibinigay sa akin, yun ay ang pag-awat ko sa kanyang pumunta sa pinakamapanganib na lugar sa mundo,” the President added.

(Like I said, I never had a problem motivating Albert. If ever he gave me stress, that was from my having to stop him from going to the most dangerous place in the world.)

Aside from the DFA event, Aquino spent the day meeting with US-Philippines Society co-chairman and former US ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte in Malacañang Palace.

After this, Aquino is set to attend the 118th anniversary of the Department of Health at the Manila Hotel. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.

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