President Aquino Speech at the 112th anniversary of the Manila Bulletin


Speech
of
His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the 112th anniversary of the Manila Bulletin
[Delivered at the Manila Bulletin Annex Building, Manila, on February 2, 2012]
Magandang gabi po.
President Fidel V. Ramos; President Joseph Ejercito Estrada; Don Emilio Yap; excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps; Secretary Sonny Coloma; Mr. Hermogenes Pobre; Governor Casimiro Henares, province of Rizal; Representative Zenaida Angping, Third District of Manila; Commissioner Rick David; Mayor Alfredo Lim; officers and directors of the Manila Bulletin; other local government officials present; fellow workers in government; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen; mga minamahal ko pong kababayan—sa relo ko po: Magandang gabi na sa inyong lahat.
Exactly one year ago, I stood in this same room and celebrated the 111th anniversary of your publication with many of you. Today, I extend my congratulations to all of you once more. [Applause]
The Manila Bulletin headline of Aquino's assas...Image via Wikipedia‘Pag mayroon na po tayong nakakausap at tinatanong kung ano ang diyaryong binabasa, sabi po nila, Bulletin. Akin pong tinatanong, bakit Bulletin po ang binabasa n’yo, at ang sagot po nila, ‘pag nagbabasa raw ho ng ibang diyaryo, masyado raw po tumataas iyong blood pressure nila. [Laughter] Kaya kailangan po sa Bulletin raw para kumalma. [Applause] Kaya pinutol ko iyong headline. [Shows the clipping from Manila Bulletin] Nakita naman po n’yo, hineadline [headline]—January 29, noong Sunday—‘yung pagkapanalo ng Pilipinas bilang Natural Wonder of the World. Siyempre po, ikinagagalak natin na hineadline ‘to, lalong-lalo na dahil iyong pagkapanalo dito ay nagmula sa pagtutulungan nating mga Pilipino para naman po makilala ang kagandahan po ng ating pong bansa. Kaya lang nga po, itong araw na ‘to, kailangan ko rin po magpakalma; nagbasa po ako ng Bulletin rin. Ang nakalagay po eh “Fishing Expedition.” Tila ho batikos doon ho sa ating mga prosecutor. Iyong kabila naman po “Corona Lawyers Slam Prosecution.” Sabi ko, nasaan kaya dito ‘yung “Prosecution Magaling” naman? [Laughter] Siguro ho bukas iyon. [Laughter] Noong araw ho kasi, parang kabilaang side parati nakikita natin sa Bulletin, tama po ba?
It is my fervent hope that, as you celebrate your 112th anniversary, the Manila Bulletin adheres to the calling proclaimed in your masthead: to be the exponent of Philippine progress. I couldn’t help but notice—and I’d like to repeat this—how your front page today was not very consistent with the masthead. On the other hand, the last one that I showed you, on the 29th, the front page headlined positive news that some, unfortunately, of your other competitors did not pay much attention to. As the oldest English language daily in the country, you are an ambassador of the country to the world; what you headline is read not just here, but also globally.
I am told, for instance, that the Thai media are keenly aware of the perceptions created by what their English-language media reports. I hope that the Bulletin will take this into account, as you consider not just the bottom line, but also how you serve as the country’s front-page, in presenting the stories by which we are judged.
After all, as a paper with a long history, you have the institutional memory to recall how the media before martial law presented many different views, but managed to do so while retaining their credibility. I am glad to say that at least, you’ve never gotten my height wrong–for the record, my father measured it; he said it’s 5’9 and three quarters—which is a tiny detail but precisely one that should be easy to confirm. I am asking of you nothing more than what I ask of the people who I work with: which is to be absolutely accurate and authentic about measurable, and quantifiable facts. I ask you this not for myself, but also for yourselves, so that you can maintain the credibility that you have built up for more than a century.
Now because it’s your 112th anniversary, let me give you my gift. Here’s the scoop: I am happy to share with you that we have made progress in a much talked about issue. Earlier today—and actually this afternoon—we formally submitted to our coalition partners in the House of Representatives a substitute Freedom of Information Bill, [applause] which we believe addresses stakeholders’ desires to have more transparency and more access to information in government.  We want every other administration voted into power to work under the same standard of transparency and accountability that we have set for ourselves. This is a significant step toward achieving that goal.
Let me close my remarks for tonight with a reflection. Today is also the anniversary of how, 25 years ago, the Filipino people ratified a new constitution. Since then, the 1987 Constitution has faced numerous challenges; it has weathered many storms, and yet somehow, it has remained the foundation of our ideals and aspirations as a democratic, sovereign nation.
Thinking of our constitution today reminds me of an old saying: when the guns speak, the law falls silent. All of us, perhaps most especially the media, learned the truth of this during Martial Law. The wisdom and learning of the men that my father called “our founding fathers,” those who crafted our 1935 Constitution, were never able to write into it a defense against a President who wanted to be a dictator, a congress afraid even to convene to assert its powers, and a judiciary afraid to stand up for the law for fear of losing their positions.
Recent experience has also showed us that the law remains vulnerable in the wrong hands, when those in office subvert it for political survival and selfish gain, instead of using it as a guide in the fulfillment of their mandate, and in fostering our nation’s progress.
As media practitioners, you have reported the strides we have taken in governance; and you have communicated to us in government the aspirations of the Filipino people. In your pages are accounts of how we have endeavored to strengthen our institutions, and how we have pursued the idea that the letter of the law must be used to uphold the spirit of the law. In fact, the entire nation is seeing that process unfold on a daily basis, and it is heartening to see how our people have understood the importance of what we have set out to do.
Why are we doing this? Why do we insist on justice? During the campaign, people often asked me about my vision for my presidency. I told them that it was composed of three ideals, all of which I stand by to this day: the first is that, as President, I must ensure the efficient allocation of resources. The people should be given their due; their taxes should go to services that will allow them to live a dignified life. The second is that no one should be left behind. We must ensure inclusive growth: opportunities to bridge the gap between rich and poor do exist, and economic policies and projects must redound most especially to the benefit of those in the margins.
And the third is the idea that serves as the foundation for the first two: for there to be equity, there must be accountability. Every action must have consequences; this breeds predictable outcomes and a stable system, which eventually leads to a stable economy. These, ultimately, result in a society where people—investors, workers, ordinary citizens—buy into the system and contribute to moving the nation forward. Simply put: justice is the foundation of equitable progress.
Our Constitution is the bulwark of our freedoms–including the freedom of the press. With that freedom comes the corresponding responsibility of the Fourth Estate to be balanced and fair. In your editorial pages, the freest interplay of opinions can take place; your lifestyle pages are full of new trends; and your ever-reliable classifieds are full of job opportunities for our countrymen. All I ask, then, is that in the news, you cover our continuing efforts to achieve success on the three broad fronts I have described.
The Manila Bulletin has its fingers on the pulse of the people, and, ultimately, it is to them that we—our administration and your publication both—are accountable. I hope that the Manila Bulletin continues to flourish for the next century, as you remain true to your mandate of providing accurate and unbiased information to the public, without being sidetracked by the selfish agenda of some.
During martial law, the mainstream media had largely been reduced to a vehicle for government propaganda. No one, we in government included, wants a return to that era. But while we welcome the media’s role as a check and balance to the abuse of power, we also thirst for news and views that do not ignore the positive transformations taking place in our nation today, and that always serves to elevate the level of public discourse.
I hope, all of this, you do not take this as criticism, but as a gentle reminder of our responsibility to work together in strengthening the country and its institutions: by identifying what needs to be improved, but also by acknowledging that which is already right—so that it can be continued, and built furhter upon.  
Once again, my congratulations. Thank you, and good evening.