SAN JOSE, Tarlac – President Benigno S. Aquino III defended himself on Thursday from criticisms that he lacks empathy, especially during crisis situations, saying he has always acted as a true Chief Executive who thinks of restoring calm and putting things in order.
During an interview here, the President cited two examples – the onslaught of typhoon “Yolanda” and the Zamboanga siege.
He recounted that he went to Tacloban City two days after typhoon “Yolanda” struck Eastern Visayas to check the situation there and assure the people of government support.
“‘Yung dinaanan naming kalsada ang daming tao na naglalakad, ‘yung pabalik-balik. At siyempre alam na natin ‘yung balita na nagkaroon na ng mga looting doon. So, parang wala akong nakitang LGU (local government unit), walang kapulisan na nagsasabing: Bakit ba tayo gala nang gala dito kung namomoroblema (problema) na tayo kung saan tayo kukuha ng tubig, pagkain, et cetera,” he said.
“So, ano ang ginawa ko doon? Bumaba ako at pinakiusapan ko lahat ng makausap ko doon, may nagkumpol-kumpol na grupo, sabi ko sa kanila… Alam ho niyo, parang interes ko kailangan mabigyan ng feeling of calm na may parating na ayuda na, at talaga naman may parating na,’” he added.
Meanwhile, during the Zamboanga crisis, he related that there were those who insinuated that the hostages be sacrificed.
“Dumating ako, dinalaw natin ‘yung sugatan, pinuntahan natin… Tiningnan natin ‘yung ibang sites, may briefing ‘nung tactical situation, pero ang isang hindi ko makakalimutan doon, hinarap ko ‘yung mga representante ng komunidad ng Zamboanga City, meaning ‘yung local government unit, ‘yung civil society, meron pang mga relihiyoso, maraming – nasa ulo ko ho ‘yung mga mukha at saka pangalan nila, hindi ko na babanggitin,” he said.
“Bottom line, ang hindi ko makalimutan na bitaw na salita: ‘Alam ho niyo matagal na itong kaguluhan sa amin at iyong interes ng mahigit 200,000 mamamayan ng Zamboanga City ay dapat mangibabaw doon sa interes ng 200 hostages.’ At sabi nila doon sa dulo, doon ako medyo nagimbal nang kaunti: ‘Kailangan tapusin na ninyo ngayon ito. Sobra na ang molestiya sa amin,’” he said, adding that his mind was on how to calm the people down and come up with a reasonable solution.
The President said he refused and this resulted in the rescue of many hostages.
More than 200 people were taken as hostages by members of the Moro National Liberation Front and only two were killed – those who tried to escape before the rescue operation, he said.
“Parang hindi bababa sa 16 sa ating kasundaluhan at kapulisan ang yumao sa pagliligtas ng mga tao pero na-achieve ‘yung pangunahing mission: Pangalagaan ang interes ng ating mga mamamayan,” he pointed out.
“May mga lumusob, nabawi natin ‘yung hostages, hindi tayo gumawa ng panibagong – pwede nating masabing mitsa para lalong lumaki ang gulo doon,” he added.
President Aquino emphasized that he is not play-acting his role as Chief Executive of the country.
“I perform my role as President. And I’d like to think every minute and every second of my presidency to include even the sleeping moments,” he said.