Former Philippine President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III passed away rather suddenly today, June 24, 2021; and while Filipinos everywhere took to social media to express their many feelings about the nation’s former leader, a few offered real insight about what it was like to serve in Malacañang during PNoy’s time.
The anecdotes all seem to paint the portrait of a chief executive who was sharp, curious, and demanded a lot from the people around him.
Kristoffer Pasion, who worked as a history researcher for the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, wrote, “A historical question posed by PNoy in a Cabinet meeting would always get our team under MLQ3 [Manuel Quezon III] to work.”
They had anything from ten minutes to an hour to get an answer, Pasion continued. “If some personality of historical significance in PH dies, we needed to beat the media to it in releasing a statement, w/ the PCDSPO-OPS relying on us historians on the details that should come w/ that statement. That alone should all take around 10 mins tops.
“PNoy’s questions to our principal came as innocently as ‘Why were the Jesuits expelled from PH by Spain?’ or ‘Why should the National Anthem precede prayer in state events?’All these questions great or small, would entail a briefer. This was how history informed his policy.”
Patricia Sta. Maria, who now works as an associate solicitor II at the Office of the Solicitor General, recalled how she worked on a “highly political” case that was inimical to the interests of the PNoy administration. “Litigating that case, it got to the point where my boss was sure he was going to get removed (and me with him kasi ya girl was coterm then lol) for taking the position he did, the one he believed was right.
“President Aquino never did remove him, despite what I guess was immense pressure and all the reason to. I’ve always looked up to my boss for standing his ground, but credit I guess also goes to the leaders who respect those stands.”
Geologist Mahar Lagmay, executive director of Project NOAH, narrated how the president would catch minor errors in their presentations. “He once pointed out to us that the units in our presentation was wrong. Instead of meters, I put centimeters. He always asked sharp questions during meetings. It was like defending a Ph.D. dissertation every time we faced him.”
This article, Former Malacañang staff recall what it was like to work under PNoy, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.