If you were President Aquino, what would you do?


First, would you apologize to the nation and the SAF 44’s families for bungling your role in the Mamasapano incident?

Second, would you appear for questioning in the House hearing on the incident on April 7 and 8?

Third, what are your personal ideas and recommendations on how the nation can surmount and reach closure on this national tragedy?

I am averse to using the term “presidentiable” because it is pidgin English. I prefer the bona fide English words “candidate” and “aspirant,” with the adjective presidential attached to them.

The questions are framed like those in a US presidential campaign debate. They seek to test the presidential aspirant’s sense of responsibility, judgment and executive ability in resolving a major national issue or problem.

I will send this brief questionnaire to each aspirant by e-mail or formal letter. The aspirants can send their replies to my e-mail address (, or to The Manila Times editorial office: 2F Sitio Grande Building, 409 A. Soriano Ave., Intramuros, Manila, or the Times Opinion section e-mail address

The candidate may, or course, decline to answer the questions, preferably giving the reason why. Or he can take the questions seriously, answer each one thoughtfully, and help me in this journalistic enterprise. How they all respond will be the subject of a future column.

Dismiss Belmonte’s cover-up
Answers to the questions may be responsive, evasive, feeble, or convincing. I am mainly interested in what the answers will reveal about the aspirants, in how their minds work, in whether they will answer the questions seriously or avoid answering them.

The questions basically ask the aspirants to imagine themselves in President Aquino’s shoes, armed with the facts that the public already knows from the two inquiry reports (PNP board of inquiry and Senate committee inquiry), regarding President Aquino’s role, actions and knowledge of what was happening on that fateful day (January 25, 2015) in Mamasapano.

Respondents should dismiss as a cover-up the self-serving move of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to stop the initiative of House members to request President Aquino to appear at the hearing on April 7. Let Belmonte stew in his own cowardice and servility.

Q & A as effective tool
So presidential aspirants and readers can see the usefulness and significance of this kind of questioning, I will cite and quote a segment from the presidential debate between former Governor Michael Dukakis and former president George H. W. Bush in the 1988 US presidential campaign.

Bernard Shaw, anchor of CNN, posed this brutal opening question to Dukakis:

“Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?”

Dukakis’s reply was revealing and eloquent: “God forbid, God forbid any harm should come to the person who is dearer to me than anyone or anything on earth. But I’d react the same as anyone. I’d want to kill the scum that did it. I’d want to rip him limb by limb.”

Amid sharp applause from the audience, Dukakis tried to elaborate on his answer: ‘Now wait, wait. Yes, I would want revenge on that situation. But you don’t run government on that basis. I believe the premeditated killing of a human being is wrong. Period. I don’t care how much the person may deserve it. It’s doubly wrong when government does it. That’s how I feel. So I’m against capital punishment…I have to go with what my conscience tells me.”

Bush’s turn to be grilled came next. Newsweek’s Margaret Warner asked Bush about abortion: “Why should a woman who discovers through amniocentesis that her baby will be born with Ty-Sachs disease, for instance, that the baby will live at most two years and those two years in incredible pain, be forced to carry the fetus to term, and yet a woman who becomes pregnant through incest would be allowed to abort her fetus?”

I quote from New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg’s account of Bush’s reply: “Bush told Warner she had ‘left out one other exception’ –’the health of the mother.’ He then spoke haltingly and rather touchingly of his late daughter Robin, who died a few months after being diagnosed with leukemia. Bush added that medical science often makes such rapid advances that there is hope even for the often seemingly intractable cases. ‘And so I feel this is where I’m coming from,’ he concluded.”

This is how men who are serious and care deeply about public office respond to tough questioning. They don’t resort to clever remarks. They reply thoughtfully, often with a lot of feeling, sometimes eloquently and memorably.

Dukakis took a five-point bounce in the polls after the debate, but then he went on to lose the election.

Character, competence and commitment
I came up with the idea for this questionnaire along with some friends who are keenly interested in issues of leadership and management. We were unanimously curious about how presidential aspirants in 2016 can extricate themselves and the nation from the quicksand of Mamasapano? Can they hurdle the challenge?

I acceded to my friends’ suggestion that I raise these questions with the presidential aspirants, because personally I believe it’s time now for most of us to change perspectives.

We Filipinos will be throwing away our lives and our country, if we devote all our time just bashing PNoy and gnashing our teeth over Mamasapano. We need to look at the bigger picture of our national life, and the longer game of national elections and the nation’s future.

Like an astronaut’s mission in outer space, my questionnaire is a probe for clues on character, competence and commitment among the men and women who aspire to become the 16th president of our republic.


Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. lleuxquiocho on

    … puwera de los buenos, could these presidential wannabes respond to your questions as honestly as you’d expect them to be??? doubtful…

  2. One of your questions should be: If you are aspiring for president and become one would you promise that you will be do everything in your power to stop graft and corruption in your administration? Would you fire anyone even with just a tiny blot of being corrupt?

  3. PNOY does not need to apologize for Mamasapano incident. It’s a trap placed by his relentless critics seeking his ouster from the Palace.

  4. If there’s a person who must apologize for the Mamasapano tragedy, it would be the MILF men who killed the SAF 44.

  5. good idea yang gagawin mo mr makabenta. kaya lang ang puna ko ay hindi extemporenous (tama ba ang spelling ko??) ang magiging sagot ng presidential aspirant na pinadalhan mo ng questionnaire. pweden ang sumagot nyang mga tanong mo ay yung kanyang chief of staff or p.r. consultant at hindi yung presidential aspirant lalo na kung yung aspirant ay medyo nanalo lang kasi pogi, artista, anak ng kung sinong ponsyo pilato, etc.

  6. Amnata Pundit on

    All politicians here are afraid of tough questions with the sole exception of Marcos. Since his days as congressman up to his last day as president he faced the press, everyday. He did not use a spokesman and he fielded the toughest questions even from the hostile foreign press, with a smirk sometimes. Do you know of anybody here who rose to that same challenge as the great Marcos did? Presidential aspirants must be made to go around the country in the style of U.S. primaries to face elected barangay officials, the grassroots representatives of the people and field questions from them. As in the U.S. primaries, these barangay officials will vote for their choices and get the total for the entire country. The top two candidates will be the official candidates. Only these two will be allowed to run to ensure a majority for the winner and their campaign should be fully financed by the government, any private contribution will be grounds for elimination and criminal charges for both candidate and donor to guarantee that the winner will owe nothing to vested interests but only to the people. Leave the presstitutes out of that process, please.

    • Of course, Marcos is the only one who really has the brains – academically and politically prepared for the presidency. He aspired for the post even during the 40s. Who can beat a bar topnotcher who lawyered for his own defense while reviewing for the bar? But I think, what really made him want the top post is when he learned about all the gold that the Japanese looted and hid in various sites all over the country. Only by being President will he have the power to move all those assets. However, he is estopped with the fact that Japan can still claim ownership of those assets in the years of his term. His legal brilliance paved the way for him to monetize something that he does not legally own.

    • why bother to answer those serious, sensible and character provoking questions when you can bring artistas, clowns, etc. to entertain voters. why bother when those “shadows behind” could bring magic with election results for the highest bidder. they done it before and they will do it again.
      time and time again, pinoys are not ready yet for intelligent discourse to choose the right one…handful tried but fail.

  7. commande0 San juan on

    1. Foremost, AQUINO should have been very angry with MILF
    and immediately recall all negotiating peace panel members
    and totally withdraw from the peace process altogether.

    2..Command the Military to catch all killers of the 44 SAFs

    3. Demand from MILF to surrender its members who were
    involved in the massacre to the Philippine Military for custody.

  8. If I was Pnoy, I’ll keep my word and not run for re-election.This guy might be sick in the head and retract his announcement and go for a second term..Why? so that he won’t have to face the accusations against him in the court of law soon after his first term.Things have change for him and it is possible for him to do this.

  9. sonny dela cruz on

    I would like to hear from the prospective candidate for President comes 2016 that he is not in favor of the proposed BBL for the Mindanao terrorist. I want to hear from him that he is going to wipeout all this MNLF, MILF, ASG, BIFF and other groups who do not respect the laws of the Republic of the Philippines, aside from the private armies of the clans. That is the first program of his administration. The punishment for the criminals should be re-examine because the criminals are not the same that is used to be, they are now sophisticated and very open to kill anybody even in daylight time. The punishment should be upgraded to meet their demands. Next will be a manager in nature to improve the economy and provide more jobs for the Filipinos, more opportunities for the young ones, especially jobs for the newly graduates to help their family. With this few criteria I think the Philippines will be a better place to be.

    • Legally, the President can not be an accomplice to murder. The US State Dept has already made the template – hire “security contractors”. These are basically mercenaries who can do the job without putting the government in a legal bind. It is like the US govt hiring the services of John Rambo – “if you are caught, we will deny any knowledge or your existence”. I have proposed that formula in various posts long before but who will listen to a guerilla writer. I guess, if I am the President, my Justice Secretary will immediately write the legalese to justify hiring of mercenaries and purchase of drones.

  10. Manny Tiamzon on

    Being able to answer questions smartly is not an effective way to gauge a leader’s capability. It only means that a candidate is able to articulate what is in their heart. The glib-tongued Obama was elected because he promised to unite the warring political factions in America with his eloquent campaign speeches. Alas, he is already being judged as one of America’s worst president with his term not even being over yet. His foreign policy was so weak such that America has lost its influence in world affairs during his term. America has sunk deeper into debt. He gave in to the environmental lobby groups. Pnoy is not an eloquent speaker. He is not a brilliant planner either. One thing, though, he does have which his predecessors did not have is his honesty. For sure, he did not handle the Mamapasano incident very well. He had his character flaw. But he is not corrupt. Many of his detractors hated his anti-corruption drive and these are the ones who are out there calling for his resignation. These thieves found themselves with less money to steal and they want the source of their thievery back.

    I would rather have an honest president than someone who can merely answer questions.

    • What’s good being honest when people around you are corrupt? Besides, he has made three public speeches about the Mamasapano incident but all three differs from the others, can you say that as honest?

    • Aquino was hardly being honest when he claimed (and continues to claim) innocence of this tragedy. The best thing to be said about him is that he honestly thinks he is blameless in all this, which is another way of saying he clearly doesn’t understand what the presidency is all about or what it requires of him. And this is precisely what this writer is harping about – that we subject our future presidents to some sort of testing to ensure we don’t get another BS Aquino into office.

    • How could you say that BS Aquino is not corrupt? He corrupted Congress and the Senate so that they will follow his bidding and you say he is not corrupt? Is that a joke, or what?

  11. I agree with philjac, presidency are allow only for 6 year and for every president to have their own platform and for a short period of time will not able to finish even a single big project. The new president can start that program benefited the whole Philippines,scratch all the program under Aquino regime tainted with all anomalies.

    • I agree with everything you wrote but let me ask you what difference does it make for us or the country that he is not corrupt ,but he is a coddler of corrupt , incompetent,inefficient and ineffective officials? we are still left holding an empty bag.

  12. concerned citizen on

    I think the questions in the questionnaire should be changed by making them focus on something else and not Mamasapano, such as what the presidential aspirants would do to solve the Philippines’ current problems (without enumerating the problems so we’d see if the aspirant knows the Philippines’ problems; Aquino did not when he assumed office; when asked how he’d spend his first 100 days in office, he said he’d study the Philippines’ problems). The reason for this is that if I were the presidential aspirant, I’d emphasize that if I were president, the Mamasapano debacle would not have happened because I would not have put a suspended police chief in charge of such a critical operation that could endanger the lives of so many of my men, and if it happened nonetheless despite the fact that I put the legitimate police chief in charge of the project, I would have ordered the AFP to rescue the SAF commandos early in the day, as soon as I received information that they needed to be rescued. Therefore, I could not put myself in the shoes of Aquino, and I could not answer the question “If you were President Aquino, what would you do?”

  13. The questions you are asking of the want to be Presidents are good. The responses will be worth reading.

  14. This responds to your project of sending questionnaire survey for Presidential aspirants. May I participate in your project?

    John Odonnell R. Petalcorin
    Moro National Liberation Front

  15. Why don’t we hold a debate among aspirants for the presidency, to be broadcast over national television regarding issues that affect the country. This way, people can gauge the personality, stand on issues, temperament, management style, etc, of the candidates. This is what is done here in the U.S.

    It is about time that people be educated about issues and make them intelligent voters.

    • Do you think senyor Kho Reena nor SAMS Antonio has the intellect and political wisdom to engage in a debate?

  16. the police to ask back-up to the arm forces if the need help not the job of a pres.the pres. only hear information what they are doing because he donot know about battle plan.he was not even a boy scout.

  17. Since I have stated that: “Know the truth and the truth shall make you free”, I will tell the truth so that “ang mga boss ko ay free”.

    The more he talks, the deeper the hole he is digging for his ‘passing on. After all, not too many believe him anymore because of “self-destruct”..

  18. Samuel Santos on

    Thank you Lord, that I’m my humble self and am not Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III. Galing Po yan sa innermost chamber of my heart. LOL

  19. E. G. Festin on

    This is a necessary pursuit, Mr. Makabenta. The aspirants who don’t respond to your questionnaire are politicians to be avoided.
    My only negative feeling about your piece today is your failure to mention the futility of preparing to vote and choose well in the 2016 elections if Smartmatic-PCOS machines would still reign in the precincts.

  20. instead of each president having his own platform of government, why don’t we have a national platform of government, that whoever wins the Philippine presidency, he/she will work on that platform so that there will be a continuity of government programs.

    • pedro santos on

      we have many candidates, past and present whose competence,commitment and integrity are beyond question but who will vote for them for majority of the voting population still practice patronage politics,voting for the highest bidders and for the popular candidates.

    • sonny dela cruz on

      You are talking like having a PENTAGON in the Philippines. Pentagon is the one dictating the government what to do in the United States.

    • Mr. Sonny dela Cruz: Higher ups at the Pentagon are only advising the president with their military expertise. The president is ultimately responsible what the final decision is. The current USA president Barack Hussein Obama most of the time do not adhere or listen to the military brasses expertise or advise. There was desk sign/plaque at one of the former USA president that says: “The Buck Stops Here”. Am just sayin’.