PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd said he prefers to be jailed in The Fort, the posh eastern business district in Taguig City (Metro Manila), if he ever comes to that after his term, as he noted in jest that his ancestors from his great grandfather to his late father had served jail time.
“I’m the only politician in my family’s generation, I might be next [to be jailed],” Aquino told the Filipino community in Chicago in the United States on Wednesday (Thursday in the Philippines).
His remark drew laughter from his audience, who cheered as the President delivered his punchlines. At one point, he said he was told that national hero Jose Rizal also visited Chicago during the month of May as he did.
“I was thinking, Wow! we’re the same. But [the life of]Jose Rizal ended at the Luneta,” said Aquino.
Rizal was executed by Spanish authorities in 1896 at what is now Luneta (Rizal Park in Manila), then known as Bagumbayan, for allegedly inciting Filipinos to overthrow their European colonial rulers.
Aquino said his great grandfather was a Katipunero who was caught by Spanish authorities and jailed in Fort Santiago in Manila.
Katipuneros were Filipino revolutionaries who took up arms against the Spaniards.
Aquino’s grandfather was also incarcerated in the same fort during the Japanese occupation.
“My father was the third [to be imprisoned]. Every generation in the family, someone gets jailed,” he further joked.
His father, late former senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was detained for more than seven years during martial law in Fort Bonifacio and Fort Magsaysay before the family went into exile in Boston.
The President made mention about powerful and “untouchable” politicians who are now either in jail in the Philippines or are under hospital arrest, referring to former President Gloria Arroyo and three pork barrel scam respondents–Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.
Aquino’s speech turned serious when he talked about good governance and the need to continue the reforms he had undertaken beyond 2016, when he will have stopped down from office.
“Our mission [is]to prevent a return to the old rotten system [and]instead continue the country’s transformation,” he said.
“Good governance equals good economics, equals good quality inclusive growth,” the President added, noting that the Philippines is now touted as the darling of Asia for having an investment grade status and over projections that the country may be declared as the second fastest-growing country this year in terms of its economy.
Aquino stayed in Chicago only for a day and met with various business leaders, including members of the US Chamber of Commerce and US-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Business Council.
The President also met with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel
Chicago is home to about 139,000 Filipinos, the largest population of Filipinos in the Midwest.
From Chicago, Aquino will proceed to Canada for a state visit, during which he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will witness formal signing of a number of agreements seen to boost people-to-people relations and solidify the two countries’ ties on labor cooperation, development assistance and infrastructure development.
He will visit Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto before returning to Manila on May 9.
Aquino’s visit to Canada this week is the first state visit to the country by a Philippine President in 18 years.
Then-President Fidel Ramos made a state visit to Canada in 1997.