Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - After sitting through hours of meetings in Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino III laughed off a tweet that he and constant date and television host Grace Lee were seen taking a stroll in a mall around the time he was discussing the affairs of state with his economic managers Thursday.
The President, criticized and even parodied for his alleged inaction on the spate of oil price increases, said-ironically-that those who spread the rumor had nothing better to do.
"Medyo nakakatawa rin nang konti (It's a bit funny). Earlier, somebody posted a tweet. I supposedly spent the whole day in Greenhills with a date," Mr. Aquino told Palace employees on the occasion of the 115th anniversary of the Office of the President.
Malacañang officials said the President spent the day attending meetings with the National Economic and Development Authority board and with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. Mr. Aquino himself said one discussion was on extending Line 1 of the Light Railway Transit from Manila all the way to Bacoor town in Cavite.
Over the past days, the Palace has been releasing pictures showing the President at work in the wake of "Noynoying" protests being staged by militants. The protests have already drawn the attention of even the foreign media, including the online Wikipedia.
"Noynoying (pronounced noy-noy-YING) is a protest gimmick in the form of neologism which critics of President Benigno Aquino III have used to call attention to what they claim is the "do-nothing" work ethic and inaction of Aquino over emergency response and rising oil prices," the Wikipedia entry read.
"The term is in reference to Aquino's nickname, Noynoy ... [It] also taps into old Philippine folk tales about Juan Tamad, who tries to get by doing the least amount of work to get by," Wikipedia said.
It said: "Since its first documented usage in October 2011, the term was used as a form of protest against Aquino, wherein protesters performed 'Noynoying' poses such as sitting idly while resting their heads on one hand and doing nothing."
"The act had since gone viral on the Internet, while Malacañang was confident it will not catch on with the public," it said.
Nothing better to do
Reacting to the tweet posted under the account name RealEduManzano, the President said: "Meron talagang walang magawa (There are really those who have nothing better to do). We have to find jobs for these people because they invent stories about anything. But let's just laugh that off."
Such rumors, Mr. Aquino acknowledged, were part of "our society."
RealEduManzano later retracted and apologized for the tweet. "Sorry for the confusion everyone. In local parlance, nakuryente ako, and I was foolish to tweet unconfirmed tsismis," it said.
"And to those who have posted personal attacks against me, I sincerely understand. Lord knows I've given you a lot of material to work with," it added.
While lauding the youth militants for being active again in politics through their "Noynoying" antics, a respected activist nun yesterday defended Mr. Aquino from accusations that he was a "do nothing" president.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan, chair of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), said she appreciated the youth's creativity in coming up with new forms of protests but insisted that the President was doing his job.
"For me, they have the right to do that. The young people have the right to express whatever their sentiments are. Well, they are using new forms of protest to call the attention of the President to what they consider as issues that are being addressed," Mananzan said on the sidelines of the World Council of Churches gathering at Traders Hotel in Manila.
"Of course, I also understand that P-Noy (Aquino) will be a little bit hurt by it because it's also not true that he's doing nothing. For me, his work management is just different," she said.
"It's better to have this than have someone who's working all the time but is not doing it for good. Isn't that the case? Maybe, we shouldn't evaluate just through the volume of work. For me, we should be truthful," she added.
Mananzan said the young activists should acknowledge in particular Mr. Aquino's zeal and persistence in going after graft and corruption and impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
"For me, his pursuit against corruption is something that we should acknowledge. Of all our presidents, it's only now that we see something like the arrest warrant against GMA (former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo)," she said.
"I welcome P-Noy's persistence (in going after Corona) but that does not mean that the other issues would remain unaddressed," she added.
"For me, impeaching Corona is a big thing. That's not just one issue among others. That is a big issue. And if you really succeed in impeaching Corona, then you'll have this message that crime does not pay."
Working with militants
Malacañang said it was fine with the party-list group Bayan Muna being part of the administration coalition in Congress even with the role of allied militant groups in Noynoying protests.
"Obviously, there are certain advocacies that we are in agreement with and some don't agree with us, for instance, the legislated wage hike. That's something that they are pushing for," the President's spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, said in Thursday's news briefing.
"We have no problem working with Neri Colmenares. He's part of the impeachment team. So we will have issues that we will have to disagree and issues that we can agree on," Lacierda said. He was referring to the Bayan Muna congressman who is serving as a prosecutor in the impeachment trial.
He said the administration would not be wary of Bayan Muna following the rash of protests.
"I mean, it's all part of the legislative mill so they debate whatever they would like to advocate. It's subject to the legislative process. And, as you know, in the legislative process it's the majority that gives the action," he said.
Noynoying is just "a passing fancy," Lacierda said.
"The vast majority knows what this administration is doing," Lacierda said in apparent reference to the most recent survey by Pulse Asia.
He said the economic indicators could prove the President's detractors wrong. With a report from Philip C. Tubeza