, SEPTEMBER 27, 2011 (STAR) (President Aquino arrives at the Haneda Airport in Japan, where he is scheduled to meet with the Filipino community in Tokyo, visit an evacuation center in Ishinomaki City, attend a series of business meetings, deliver the keynote statement at the Philippine Economic Forum, and meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda and Emperor Akihito. AP)

President Aquino yesterday expressed hope that some corrupt officials in the past administration would be convicted by next year.

“With a little cooperation from the judiciary, we may be able to jail those people by next year. We will make those who committed sins responsible so they would not be emulated,” Aquino told the Filipino community here at the start of his four-day official working visit in Japan.

An upbeat Aquino told the Filipinos here that his administration would start filing cases “before the end of the year” against the people that he said had robbed the country.

Aquino said that if in the past the anomalies were swept under the rug, now everything was coming out in the open.

He said this was evident when an anomaly was uncovered in the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. He was referring to PAGCOR’s billion-peso coffee supply contract.

Aquino also mentioned the anomalous sale of secondhand helicopters to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009 that linked the former president’s husband to the sale.

“From the sea of coffee where they allowed P1 billion in government coffers to evaporate, to the helicopters overly used first before delivery to the PNP, we are now unearthing everything,” Aquino said.

“We will make sure that this will not just end up in exposés but with strong evidence, the suspects will not be able to get away,” he said.

Aquino said his desire is to leave office with his head held up high after fulfilling his campaign promises.

“We will reverse the situation that we had to face when we came in. My desire is simple: that June 30, 2016, I will step down with head held high and I won’t be ashamed to face the millions of Filipinos who put their trust in me because they will see that changes have really been widespread,” he said.

He also said many Filipinos were being forced to leave the country because of the culture of “wang- wang” (siren), or abuse among those in government when they were supposed to serve the people.

“When you leave the country, what we want is that it is because of choice and not because you are forced because you cannot find any job in our country,” Aquino said.

Proud to be Pinoy

Aquino, however, was taken by surprise after hearing from Filipinos working here that the remittance fees they were paying were still high, prompting him to joke that the president of the Land Bank of the Philippines (Land Bank) might have to be replaced.

Though he was quick to add that the head of Land Bank at present was competent, he was surprised after asking the crowd if they were already benefiting from the government program to lower remittance fees.

Collectively, the Filipinos shouted “no” during the gathering at the Japanese Education Center.

The last time Aquino joked about his problem with some Cabinet members was when he said in a speech at the Department of Public Works and Highways in Manila that three of them were his “headaches.”

Aquino said the lower remittance fee was one of his good news to the Filipinos as this had been worked since his first visit to this country last year for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Yokohama.

He said that last January, the Land Bank and Japan Post Bank had a tie-up to offer more affordable remittance fees for Filipinos sending money to their families and relatives.

“It seems you’re not aware. Maybe it lacks advertising,” Aquino remarked.

Aquino said he was told that the charges for remittances became lower since there were 200 branches of Japan Post Bank and 7,500 post offices in Japan.

“Tama po ba ‘yon? (Is that correct?)” he asked the audience, who answered yes.

“Wait… it seems only a few said yes,” Aquino said to the responsive crowd that gave a rousing and warm welcome.

Aquino said he would like people to benefit from the system since they work hard and send money to pay for tuition of their children and construct their “dream house,” among others.

“Was that correct or not?” again Aquino asked the crowd.

“If not, then I will have to fire the Land Bank president when I get home… but then he is doing a good job,” Aquino remarked.

“But of course you have to remit bigger so as to avail of lower charges,” he added.

Aquino appealed to the Filipinos here to always think and act as citizens of the Philippines wherever they are.

“Each and everyone of you are ambassadors of the Philippines so I trust that you will be responsible representatives of the country here in Japan,” Aquino said as the audience shouted “tama,” or right again.

The audience’s response perked up Aquino, who was obviously in high spirits as he spoke in Filipino and laughed with the audience.

“I am very glad that you have been responsible citizens and respectful of their (Japanese) laws. You should be proud and tell the world what it feels to be a Filipino,” he said.

Not a second longer

Aquino also told the gathering that he would not stay a second longer in office after his term expires on June 30, 2016.

In fact, according to Aquino, he would be out of Malacañang before 12 noon of June 30, 2016 because the new president would already have to be sworn in.

“Let me just reiterate, if there is anything that we want once we step down – sorry if I’m already looking at the date I will be stepping down: June 30, 2016 before 12 (noon)…I want to look back, if you want to know the exact time - four years, nine months— we can all look back together and say there really has been a big change in the Philippines,” he said.

Aquino said he had been trying to fix the system for the welfare of the Filipinos all over the world.

He said the government had created jobs and that he has been inviting foreign investors to come to the Philippines.

Aquino cited the Japanese investments in the Philippines, one of which was Japan Gas Corp. that he said was employing Filipino engineers for its operations in the Middle East.

He said the talents and potentials of the Filipinos must be fully explored and exposed to the world.

The President also boasted of the P9-billion budget surplus of the government that could be used for better social services.

Aquino said the times of being “just tiis” (lack of justice) among government agencies as they had been lacking money will be a thing of the past.

He also said the budget surplus was still recorded despite increased spending.

There was improved collection and savings from proper budgeting that the government could now afford to build more schools, roads and provide better health services, Aquino said.

He also revealed that he had not been resting to be able to deal with all the country’s needs fast and had to attend to so many appointments even abroad.

He said during his trip here, he has up to 20 appointments in one day.

“So if anyone is complaining over my salary, just look at the duties and responsibilities of this office,” Aquino said.

At the same time, Aquino defended the appointment of Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez as he had been criticized for giving positions to classmates, friends and shooting buddies.

He said Lopez was a long time family friend and he performed his duties as ambassador especially when tragedies hit this country last March.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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