BENIGNO Aquino III was sworn in yesterday as the 15th president, leading a nation his late parents helped free from dictatorship and which he promises to deliver from poverty and corruption.
Inaugural address of President Benigno Aquino III
An estimated 600,000 people, many of them clad in yellow, applauded and yelled his nickname “Noynoy” as Aquino took his oath at the Quirino Grandstand.
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“Today, our dreams start to become a reality,” Aquino said in Tagalog. “It’s the end of a leadership that has long been insensitive to the suffering of the people.”
Addressing “friends and neighbors around the world,” he said he will strive to lead a country that “will be predictable and consistent place for investment, a nation where everyone will say, ‘It all works.’”
In a widely applauded portion of his speech, Aquino said he also suffered in the past like ordinary Filipinos when he got stuck in heavy traffic while convoys with loud sirens and carrying powerful people breezed by. “Wala nang wang-wang,” he said, referring to the sirens.
Addressing his new justice secretary, Leila de Lima, Aquino ordered her to deliver “true and complete justice for all.”
The nationally televised ceremonies at first resembled a concert, with celebrity singers and an orchestra belting out nationalist and folk songs. Yellow confetti rained from two helicopters.
Aquino said his goal in life was simple: to be an honorable son, a king brother and a good citizen. But he later added, “My parents sought nothing less and died for nothing less than democracy, peace and prosperity. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward.”
Diplomats from more than 80 countries and two former presidents, Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, attended. East Timor
President Jose Ramos Jorta, a longtime supporter of the Aquino
family, and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, sent as head of the American delegation by President Barack Obama, were among the foreign dignitaries.
“He signifies change and hope,” said businesswoman Marivic Roy, who came with her husband and two sons. “That’s why people
gravitate toward him. We feel there is hope for this country.”
The rise of Aquino, a low-key legislator and son of democracy icons, comes after a nine-year rule that saw four failed power grabs and opposition impeachment bids against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo over allegations of vote-rigging, corruption and human rights abuses.
Aquino has appointed former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. as head of an independent Truth Commission to investigate corruption allegations against the Arroyo administration.
“They will as necessary prepare and prosecute the cases to make sure those who committed crimes against the people will be made to pay,” Aquino said.
“I can forgive those who did me wrong, but I have no right to forgive those who abused our people,” Aquino said.
Arroyo has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. Aquino’s campaign promise to investigate Arroyo has been seen as a
potential political flash point early in his six-year term.
In a brief but awkward moment, Aquino and Arroyo shared a
traditional limousine ride from the presidential palace to his oath-taking ceremony.
They arrived ahead of schedule. Arroyo was given military honors then left to take her oath as a member of the House of Representatives.
Performers took the stage and sang, to fill the time.
The 1987 Constitution provides the new President must take oath at high noon. Comedienne Juana Change and songwriter Jim Paredes hosted the event, which featured performances from Ogie Alcasid, Regine Velasquez, Christian Bautista, Nina, the APO Hiking Society, the Madrigal singers and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, among others.
Supporters of the new administration filled the Quirino Grandstand in Manila as early as the night before inauguration day.
Aquino’s girlfriend, Valenzuela Councilor Shalani Soledad, also graced the event wearing a yellow gown.
Ten minutes before the Aquino oathtaking, Jejomar Binay took his oath of office as vice president, while placing his left
hand on a Bible held by his wife, former Makati City mayor Elenita Binay.
When Aquino took oath, longtime family adviser Fr. Catalino Arevalo held the Bible.
Two military helicopters flew over the Quirino Grandstand and dropped yellow confetti on the crowd.
Representatives from various sectors—including farmers, nuns, laborers, police, military, business and academe—also took
an oath to support the administration and contribute to good governance by being good citizens.
In his speech, Aquino asked those who doubt him to help make the government work better.
“Sa inyong mga nag-iisip pa kung tutulong kayo sa pagpasan ng ating krus, isa lang ang aking tanong: kung kailan tayo
nanalo, saka pa ba kayo susuko? (To those who are still thinking of whether to help bear the country’s cross, I ask: why should you give up now, when we have won?)” (Sunnex/EOB/AP)