COMMENTARY: An open letter to Pres. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III. By Patricia M. Sarenas

Dear Pres. P.Noy,

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 July) — I would love to still call you Noynoy as I still remember with fondness the happy moments we shared in the 11th and 12th Congress.  But, I can no longer call you that because you are now, dearest friend, The President of the Republic of the Philippines.   Indeed, how time flies…It was like only yesterday that in our first few weeks as first-term members of the House of Representative when we were discussing how we can fast-track our learning about the Rules of Order (you suggested that we buy a book) so that we can more confidently participate in the deliberations in the committees and in the plenary sessions in the hall. It was only like yesterday when we would have those tumultuous hearings of the Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights of which you were Vice-Chair in the house or in public hearings around the country.  It was only like yesterday when you turned your back to your friend, Joseph Estrada, to join us in signing the impeachment resolution.

On the lighter side, it was only like yesterday when you would offer me chocolate candies that you kept in your drawer in the session hall or inside your pocket where oftentimes they would be close to melting.  It was only like yesterday when you asked me to interpret some text messages you received from friends (and yes, girlfriends).  It was only like yesterday when – after my short stint in the House –  I would text you from Davao to turn around and face the camera that was zooming in on the back of your  head during the ANC running coverage of some Senate hearings.

When Pennie Azarcon dela Cruz wrote an article about me and the VAWC law for the March 7, 2004  Sunday Inquirer magazine, she asked me for names of people who can also contribute the article and I suggested you and another dear friend in the House, Neric Acosta and my Cebu-based friend Atty. Alice Morada.  You said some pretty nice things, dear friend:    “I went to Pat during my sister Kris’s latest incident, seeking advice and even basic knowledge about the battered partner syndrome…” and “Through feminist lobbyists and through Pat directly, I now know that the state has a duty to protect its citizens. It has the right and obligation to step in” (cases of domestic violence) and “When she told us she was declining her nomination  (for a 3rd term in the House),  I wanted to ask her to reconsider but then I realized that it would be unjust to ask more of those who have given so much already. I fear that future congresses will be that much poorer with her absence.  I will miss a colleague who, day in and day out, did not give up despite the temptation to do so. Pat proved that we are not alone in the struggle between idealism and pragmatism.”

Then after I left Congress in 2004, I also remember with fondness and with gratitude how you remained a true friend.  You selflessly extended your help to me and my family , many times when we needed your assistance.  As when my Adventure vehicle was carnapped and you gave useful tips  to my son, Lyle, in how to go about filing our complaint in Crame.  Or when my son, Kyle, met a vehicular accident in front of the Ateneo campus and you sent some people to check on him (they even volunteered to bring him to St. Luke’s Hospital if he got hurt) and as Kyle said “They were nice people, maybe sent by someone nice, too, to help me.”

P.Noy it was only like yesterday when I texted you and you called back and we had a long talk in late August 2009.  I was urging you to listen to the “pulso ng bayan” – to the growing number of Filipinos asking you to run for President.  Then, on September 3 (after you met with Tito Chito Ayala, your Mom’s friend and before you took the PAL flight to Zamboanga for your “retreat” with the Sisters there), you agreed to meet with me and a hastily-organized group of peace advocates in our office.  It was just a short meeting where we just wanted to impress on you that the Mindanao issue is a national concern which will require your special attention if you ever become President.  In my heart, P.Noy, I knew then that we were talking to the future President of the country and we could count on you to turn around the centuries-old situation in Mindanao – a land wracked by complex problems of seemingly intractable conflicts, widespread poverty and weak governance for many years.     And oh yes, in my heart – looking at you then, intently listening to our stories, I also knew that you believed us when we told you “We will help you in every way in this gargantuan task of bringing lasting peace and sustainable development for Mindanao.”

Time flies indeed and now you are President.  Please know that even if I told you before that I just want to retire, I would feel guilty if I don’t offer to help you now as you begin your six years as President .  I realize now that I want to help…and if it still is possible among old friends, just call or text, Mr. President!


Patricia M. Sarenas

Abanse! Pinay PL Representative
11th and 12th Congress
04 July 2010

Chair, Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO and PO networks (MINCODE)
Board Member – Caucus of Development NGOs (CODE-NGO)
Commissioner – Mindanao Commission on Women

(Ms. Sarenas was Party-List Representative for Abanse! Pinay in the 11th and 12th Congress.  She has since been based in Davao City where she continues to be involved in women, peace and development issues).