MANILA, Philippines — An emotional Philippine President Benigno Aquino III called his opponents desperate Monday and expressed confidence that many people will carry on his reforms even if he is stopped by a bomb.
Aquino said in his annual state of the nation address before Congress that he could not avoid thinking somebody may make an attempt on his life because of the kind of people he has crossed in his effort to fight corruption and reform his poor Southeast Asian nation.
Aquino’s father, an opposition senator who fought dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was assassinated at Manila’s international airport while under military custody in 1983. The current president was wounded but survived an ambush by restive Filipino troops during a failed 1987 coup attempt against his mother, then-President Corazon Aquino, at the presidential palace.
“I can’t avoid to think that because of who we are colliding with, that there may be a time when we climb the stage and it can be the last day. Will somebody succeed in planting a bomb?” he said in his nationally televised speech.
“Will my opponents with dark plots who want to bring us back to the wrong path succeed?” Aquino asked, adding that he is confident that even if the time comes when his “second life” ends, his reforms would not end.
“I am content because I am sure that when I’m gone, many will take my place and continue what we have started,” he said.
He did not say who he feared could threaten his life.
Aquino won the presidency with a wide margin in 2010 on a promise to fight corruption and poverty.
But problems have persisted in a country where nearly a fourth of the 100 million people remain mired in poverty, and left-wing groups dwell on perceived threats to democracy 28 years after a largely non-violent “people power” revolt ousted Marcos.
Under Aquino, his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has been detained on vote-rigging charges, allegations she has denied. Three powerful senators, including a former defense secretary who helped enforce Marcos’s 1972 imposition of martial rule, have been detained after being indicted on charges of economic plunder. And the Supreme Court chief justice was impeached for allegedly not properly declaring his assets.
Opponents and left-wing groups have accused Aquino of targeting political rivals but coddling allies linked to corruption. The criticism grew after the Supreme Court declared recently that Aquino and his budget secretary’s enforcement of a major economic stimulus program in 2011 partly violated the constitution.
Aquino strongly criticized the high tribunal and appealed the decision, which prompted left-wing activists to file an impeachment complaint against him.
More than 6,000 left-wing protesters burned his effigy Monday outside the House of Representatives, where he outlined his reforms and projects that have benefited the poor and earned the country an investment grade from major international ratings agencies.
As his reforms succeeded and took root, Aquino said his critics grew desperate and intensified their attacks.
“My bosses, they are working against you,” Aquino said, using his term for the Filipino masses. “But I have firm resolve to stand up to these opponents because I know there are only a few of them and there are simply so many of us.”
Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.