thumbnail of In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Corazon Aquino
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So let's maybe you could start with this, you know, Ninoy said I pity the person who follows Marcos and then what has it been like? Do I start? Yeah, go ahead. Oh, alright. Just keep looking at me. Okay. Well, my husband had said before in an interview in Boston that he felt very sorry for whoever would come after Marcos because he knew of the tremendous problems. That Marcos' successor would inherit. Of course, never thinking at the time that his own wife would be the next person after Marcos. So maybe, in fact, I'd like to elaborate on that. Ninoy had said that perhaps in six months the next president after Marcus would become so unpopular that because of not being able to attend to the problems right away that that person would be booted out. And well it's been definitely more than six months and perhaps I would like to say here that at the time that my husband said that he was not familiar with People Power or people's involvement in the nation's problems.
So I am fortunate in that there are just so many people helping, not only people in government, but people outside of government. But you yourself here, you've been in office, let's not mention the, the time, but do, do you feel yourself the weight of all these problems, the communist insurgency, the economy, right wing opposition, the very nature of the society is a very complicated society. How does it all strike you? Well, there's just so, there's just so many problems needing all of our attention, it seems at the same time. But then as in everything else in this world, you have to set your priorities and you deal with these priorities first and foremost.
So the economy is, certainly occupies our attention and our efforts so that I believe if we are able to improve on the economic situation, then we will also improve at the same time on our peace and order problems. Could you be a little more specific about what is the major economic problem? Well, we are beset with a tremendous unemployment problem and in fact so many of our brothers and sisters have to go to other countries to seek employment and in fact they contribute a great share in our foreign exchange earnings. And in particular, I would like to commend and thank very much our men and women who have gone to the Middle East, who have also gone to Hong Kong and Singapore.
Well, they go there a tremendous sacrifice, being separated from their families. But since at the moment our country is unable to provide them with the employment that they seek, they have to go to other lands. But they help certainly our country a lot in their remittance of their dollar earnings abroad. How serious is, is the communist insurgency? Where does that stand in your list of priorities? Well, in the beginning of my term, I tried a peace process first. We had talks with the leaders of the, of the communists and in fact we were successful in having a 60-day ceasefire. That helped to give some of the people who had gone to the hills not for purely ideological considerations but more because they were having problems with, with the repression of the previous administration and also because there was nothing for them in the matter of livelihood in their respective areas,
in their respective municipalities. So during the siege fire, they were given an opportunity to be with their families and this happened around Christmas time. And so here in the Philippines Christmas is a very important occasion and I suppose particularly for these people who had not been with their families for so many years and quite a large number of them decided that they would give this administration a chance and we made it possible for them to return through our national reconciliation and development program. Whereby we not only accept them but we help them go into livelihood projects.
Where would you put, how would you describe the insurgency now? Is it critical, serious, desperate, [or] in situation improving? How would you characterize it? Well, one very big improvement and this has been told to me particularly by the not only the generals but also other officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is that for the first time they are getting information and assistance from the civilians in the past I guess very few if any at all would help them in so far as giving them information on the hideouts of these communist rebels. So we have gained some very important victories over the communist insurgents but of course it cannot be a total military solution to the problem. What is very necessary is to strike at the roots of the problem and that is to give these people a better life and a chance to have at least a chance to have a better life.
Now in, in respect to that, things like everyone talks about land reform and jobs and so forth, is that what you mean? I mean could you describe that and also that takes a lot of money where to have land reform requires a lot of investment. Well, we are, well I can't say that we are waiting for Congress by that...I signed a comprehensive agrarian reform program before Congress convened and we have started the distribution of government lands and lands which have been sequestered or surrendered to the government by some of the Marcos cronies. Naturally we need a lot of funding for this comprehensive agrarian reform program. One of the sources would be the surrendered assets of Marcos cronies and also the sale of non-performing assets by the Asset Privatization Trust.
At the same time I have asked for assistance from Japan and from the United States and from other countries in so far as agrarian reform program is concerned. What we are aiming for is not only the distribution of lands but more important to make available to the farmer, the support facilities such as credit and the technology. Because as we have seen in other countries where the support services did not go hand in hand with land distribution, the agrarian reform program did not succeed. As you look back, what do you think has been your major accomplishment?
Well, the return... Well you could include, you could include the overthrow of Marcos [inaudible] [interviewee laughs] Well, I guess first of all, well not only me but in collaboration with the Filipino people, the fact that we were able to oust a dictator. And at the time when I was a candidate I remember a number of my friends from the international media would say that well yes they sympathize with me and they hope that I will win but they felt that no way could anybody win against Marcos who had tremendous powers and so much money and who really had a national organization. In contrast here I was with very little experience and just my I guess my outstanding credentials were that I was the widow of Ninoy Aquino. And also I suppose people believed in my sincerity but I guess what, what a number of people failed to take into consideration was that the Filipino people were determined people and that even after the elections when Marcos had been proclaimed by parliament that he was the winner,
the people just would not give up and in fact the day after he had been proclaimed I called for a rally in the Luneta and we got the biggest crowd ever and they were not content to accepting what had been manipulated by Marcos in so far as election returns were concerned. Now since you've been in office what do you think has been your major accomplishment? Well first of all we have a new constitution. Sorry, could you start by saying, "Since I've been in office"?
Oh, okay. Well since I have been in office the first important accomplishment was the writing of the new constitution and the ratification by the Filipino people. In fact, it was overwhelmingly ratified by the people about 76% voted to ratify the constitution. Then after that we had the congressional elections and then the local elections and of course the return of press freedom in this country but I think more important is that there is a new, a new pride, a new feeling of pride among Filipinos that we are able to accomplish many things by ourselves and through peaceful means. In the past I guess some people would be rather discouraged and would think of resorting to violent means but we were able to show not only the rest of the country but the rest of the world that it can be done through peaceful means. One thing I've heard said I may be, this is, comes out of the rumor mill, but somebody had said that you had said to somebody I used to whatever I did something I just think what would Ninoy have done.
And now you supposedly say now I'm following my own instincts more. Is that, is that a correct statement? Did you in fact say that to somebody? I don't know if those are the exact words that I said but anyway in the beginning very definitely especially during, well, the campaign I would like I often would thank to myself how would Ninoy have addressed this problem but then later on being president since Ninoy had never been president it would have been very difficult for me to imagine how he would have done so. But I suppose at this point where as they say there is no school for presidents you learn in office and I would like to believe that I have learned a lot since becoming president but I always bear in mind that whatever my decision be it is something that I totally believe in and that I am willing to defend no matter what. I do not want to be pressured into deciding something which I believe I will not be able to stand up for and to defend.
So essentially your instincts are telling you to follow the path that you feel is right regardless of where how would you come from. Well normally when there is a very important matter to decide on then I try to listen to opposing views and sometimes it's also very difficult because when one group presents its arguments to me it seems like it's the best thing to do then you listen to the other side and they present equally convincing arguments. One very memorable occasion was the time when we were considering either the appointment or election of the members of the Constitutional Commission. And so one group of advisors told me it is best that you call for an election of the Constitutional Commissioners because you have already declared a revolutionary form of government and if you appoint the Constitutional Commissioners then it will appear that you are another dictator also.
Then I listened to another group this time incidentally the first group that advised me of calling for an election were non-politicians, then I talked to the politicians and I said well do you think it's time or it is right for me to call for elections for the Constitutional Commission and they said well probably under normal conditions yes that's the best thing to do. Considering that we have just gone through such really what should I call it such an unusual election in fact we went through a revolution after the election so perhaps it isn't time. Besides, calling for an election will necessitate a longer time frame and it is very necessary for us to have a new Constitution. Then I weighed the two and he was one group a group of non-politicians wanting me to call for elections for the Constitutional Commissioners and yet when I talk to another group of politicians who I believe are more conversant with the necessities of a political campaign and an election
and advising me against it because of the time involved so then I said well I suppose it is better that I just appoint the Constitutional Commissioners also because I knew that if we would leave it to an electoral process then so many who I believe would be able to contribute substantially and contribute a great deal to the forming of a new Constitution would not agree to run in an election. One of them in fact was a former Chief Justice and I knew that if it had been an electoral process he would not have participated in it. Let me just go on...
Excuse me just a moment. ...dependent on the United States, is there some way you think more equality could be? I think we just skip that, Stan, it's, it's really going to be very problematic I don't know how and... Well forget about the bases for the moment, let's just talk about... No, no, because, Stan, whether we like it or not whatever I say also has something... will be seen as having something to do with the bases. I'd rather not I just want to skip that especially since the review will not start until next month... But you don't want to talk at all about relations with the United States, even in other terms? Aid, support, for example... Let's go back let's try it, I'll try it in a different way. You remember after your speech to Congress I think it was the unfortunate Mr. Dole who said the now unfortunate Mr. Dole who said... $200 million honorarium.
He, he said that he said that... Sorry, start it again, after your speech. Well after my speech Senator...well after my speech before the joint session of Congress, Senator Dole had said you've hit the home run and I said well I hope the bases were loaded. Then later on in the day Congressman Solarz had proposed a $200 million assistance to the Philippines and I remember somebody had commented that's a pretty big honorarium a $200 million honorarium just seemed so big at the time. Well I was as I said before I was just overwhelmed with the kind of reception that I got in the United States during my visit in 1986 and coming as it did not only from Congress but from the American people themselves it really meant very much to me and I could see that there was still existing a very close relationship between the Philippines and the United States.
But has that enthusiasm been translated into tangible terms I mean are you, are you satisfied with the amount of aid? Would you like to get more? How do you think... I mean applause is one thing, or, but is, actually has there been more help, would you like to get more help? How would you describe it? I've, is there some disappointment on your side, that, on your part that you didn't get more aid? Well I understand of course that the United States also has its share of economic problems and I am very appreciative and grateful for all the assistance that has been given especially under my administration. Would you like more? Let's just skip that. [interviewee laughs] Okay let's just a couple more general questions. What kind of a concept do you have of what kind of society there ought to be in the Philippines? I mean, I mean if you could sort of wave a wand and change the whole society, what, what would you like to see? What kind of a system would you like to see? What kind of things do you think you'd like to see change? What would, what would you like to see as a nature of society?
Well since I do a lot of visiting in the different provinces and also in the rural areas, somehow the main consideration always has to do with the economic development of the area. The basic necessities are something that I hope I will be able to address as quickly as possible. The need for more roads, the need for water systems, the need for more school buildings. The Filipino people do not ask for much. They only ask for the basic necessities and the, the chance to have the opportunity to have a decent life. and that means of course a job, a steady job. So if I can just bring about, you know, these basic needs then I think I will have done my job as president of this country.
Many people have raised a question of whether you can really have economic development and democracy at the same time and whether to have economic democracy maybe you need a more authoritarian kind of government. Well I think that was one of Marcos' excuses before when he instituted martial law. And look at what happened to this country. I mean we had a dictator for 14 years and yet the country did not improve. Besides I think we Filipinos really love our freedom and there is no reason why we cannot make both the democratic ways and to, to work alongside with our economic recovery program. And how do you see your own future? Okay, I mean, I know, I know you've got several years to go in office, but you said you didn't want to run again, or...how do you envision your own future?
Well I have said that I am just good for one term. I will finish my term in 1992. But between now and that time I hope to and I will do my very best to bring about the improvements that the Filipino people deserve and are asking for and that goes back again to the basic necessities. Better roads or more roads and more water systems, more school buildings. Now what scares a lot of people in America at least maybe you too is the risks that you take, that you go out and this is, there's a lot of violence in this society. Well as I've said even before when one's time is up, it's up, no matter whether I am sitting here. I'm sorry, would you start that again and say, "I will take these risks in going out because ...[inaudible]".
Oh... Or how ever you want to play it out. I've often been asked whether I do not fear for my life, et cetera, and I have always said even before I was president that if there is something that I have to do then I will do it regardless. Besides, I am a fatalist and I believe we only have one appointed time in the meantime that I am alive and I am president I will do everything I can to make the life of our people that much better because I am president. Do you have trouble with your security people over this risk-taking? Well I, I listen to them and they also listen to me. If there is something that I feel I have to do. Besides I have seen how very necessary it is for me to have personal contacts with my people rather than have, then just have other officials reporting to me. I got to be president in the first place because people felt that they could have great accessibility to me and I cannot afford to lose that.
Okay. Do you have any questions you want to ask? I will [inaudible] get the room tone and would you want a still of this for the production? Thank you. Sorry. How's your book going? One chapter so far. You know, you and I got the same publisher. Yes, my deadline is January. Well they hope to get the book out by January Get it out, would you? [inaudible] That's what they're telling me but I doubt it.
Series
In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines
Raw Footage
Interview With Corazon Aquino
Producing Organization
Pearson-Glaser Productions
Contributing Organization
Pearson-Glaser Productions (Kittery Point, Maine)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip-539aacbc77f
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Description
Raw Footage Description
President Corazon "Cory" Aquino (1986-1992) discusses her biggest political accomplishments since being in office, her relationship with the United States government, and the influence of her husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino on her own political career. President Aquino speaks about the importance of the People Power Revolution which overthrew Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, and the power of the Filipino people to effect change through peaceful means. She discusses dealing with the communist insurgency, her speech to the US Congress and the $200 million aid package proposed by Congressman Stephen Solarz. Finally, President Aquino talks about how she makes decisions and what else she hopes to accomplish during her Presidency.
Asset type
Raw Footage
Genres
Documentary
Interview
Topics
History
Subjects
Ninoy Aquino; Ferdinand Marcos
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
00:28:08.312
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Credits
Interviewee: Aquino, Corazon
Interviewer: Karnow, Stanley
Producing Organization: Pearson-Glaser Productions
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Pearson-Glaser Productions
Identifier: cpb-aacip-b707b6bab5b (Filename)
Format: Betamax
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Citations
Chicago: “In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Corazon Aquino,” Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-539aacbc77f.
MLA: “In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Corazon Aquino.” Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-539aacbc77f>.
APA: In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Corazon Aquino. Boston, MA: Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-539aacbc77f