Noynoy Aquino, The Last Emperor

The Aquino Dynasty is about to enter its final phase. Will Noynoy Aquino earn his place in history or squander his parents’ legacy?

Something interesting is happening around Noynoy Aquino. The upswell of support for him and his family in the wake of Cory’s demise is combining with the long-boiling dissatisfaction towards traditional politicians epitomized by Arroyo to form a political perfect storm that can quite literally catapult him from relative obscurity to the highest office in the land.

People seem to be willing to put aside their cynicism in the face of something — someone — more hopeful. After all, since Erap we have vowed to steer away from the politics of personality. And despite the shortcomings of Arroyo, we assert that we still need a leader of competence to lead our country into the 21st century. Yet, with an election year in the horizon, we seem too ready to forget new commitments and cling onto warm and familiar categories. In our want to move away from an era of political dynasties, we find refuge in the most popular one of all.

Columnists and pundits are describing next year’s vote as one between good and evil. Comparisons to the twilight era of Martial Law are rife. And the rise of the reluctant Aquino son is said to draw parallels with that of his mother’s. However, isn’t it that by equating our situation this 2009 to 1986, there is a real danger of throwing the development of our politics twenty three years back? There is some mischievous irony here: that in wanting to move ahead, we resort to how we used to do it. Could a vote for Noynoy Aquino be a vote for the past?

Our people demand a lot from our politicians. Nonetheless I find it odd that when pushed to a corner, we easily settle for the next best thing. For too long we have been lulled into a false choice: Either we have a candidate of virtue and principle, or one of political talent and technical ability. Why not both? Is that too much to ask?

Let’s take a look at those currently leading the presidential surveys.

Manny Villar is shaping up to be truly formidable. With a clear track record in the House and Senate, and a compelling personal history as an entrepreneur, he seems to have it made. His electoral war chest runs deep and he has been aggressively campaigning for the past two years. His image among the masses is excellent and if the elections were to be held now, he will win. However, he falls apart under closer scrutiny. He hasn’t been as forthcoming about his businesses. Despite his mass appeal, he elicits a lot of cynicism and caution from the more educated classes. A lot foresee a Thaksin Shinawatra in the making — with all he spends now, he will undoubtedly seek a return on his investment. There is still the possibility that deep within Villar is an altruist, yet everything he has done and shown so far suggests nothing but the oligarch of old, the traditional politician we so desparately want to move away from.

Francis Escudero is a deft, young politico with so much to prove. He is intelligent, incisive, but despite his oratorical ability and everything he has said so far, we still do not know him. I liken him to that honor student in class who works his way to the top by dutifully performing everything expected of him, but without any effort to be original and unique. In his many ‘brilliant’ tirades against the Arroyo government, he doesn’t come from a position of principle but of pandering. He plays into the crowd, winning you over despite his thin track record, disguising his pretentiousness as competence. This is unfortunate, for there really is potential in him. He needs to engage himself more in policy debates — his disdain for high school mathematics is really pure ignorance — and prove that behind his smooth stinging oratory is actual accomplishment. He needs to deserve the words he says.

And finally, Joseph Estrada. Most historical analyses would brand EDSA Dos as a mistake. It didn’t have the same grassroots ground swell that really defined People Power 1986, and was largely an elitist uprising. It left the Presidency open to the highest bidder, forcing Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to compromise with the dregs of the political right if only to hold on to power and build a working majority in the House. Erap Estrada deserves his vindication — but at what cost? During his short term our institutions were not corrupt, but they were ineffectual. He practiced a highly personalized form of leadership that has been the norm since pre-colonial times. I feel that his style is anti-thetical to the more nuanced and balanced posture the Presidency requires. But then again my opinion may not matter due to his sheer mass appeal.

If elections were to be held today, these three would receive majority of the votes with Villar claiming the top spot. Yet, unease remains. For despite their overwhelming popularity, they are all still deemend unworthy, particularly by the upper and middle classes who have long sought for a higher standard of leadership.

Hence we run to Noynoy Aquino. He is a man who has neither the resources nor track record of Villar. In yesterday’s press conference, we saw him a world apart from Escudero. And will the Aquino name be enough to shift the masses away from Estrada? What does he really have going for him?

Noynoy Aquino is a virtual unknown in the national stage. To many he is the anti-thesis of the traditional Filipino politician, primarily because of his reluctance and seeming refusal to grab on to power. He is a blank slate upon which people can easily project whatever it is they want to see. All he has to his name is his name. The legacies of Ninoy and Cory Aquino are too powerful for him to simply squander and put to waste, or so many would like to believe. But if indeed, as his sisters attest, Noy maintains clean and incorruptible, will he be able to rally the people to his cause? Will he be able to inspire us to sacrifice for the country because it is the least we can do? That power to summon is part of the Aquino legacy too.

After all, the success of Noynoy Aquino will not rely on him alone. At this point, he cannot win through a traditional campaign. Moreover, he knows that he cannot usher in change and reform by governing alone. In last night’s press conference, he expressed reluctance that his victory may only lull us into falling back into old ways — we implore the President to work miracles, and usher them out when they fail to do so. Thus, a vote for him should not be a return to the past. It must be our opportunity as a people to set things right the second time around.

In declaring a weekend retreat to discern his final choice, he is actually inviting us to discern too — are we ready to help usher in the change we seek?

In guarding against corruption and fighting against those who break the law, are we ready to be honest in all our affairs and follow the rules?

In wanting to lift our country out of poverty, will we find the time to volunteer, reach out, and engage in a profession that may not pay well but is sorely needed?

In protecting our freedom of speech, will we be responsible for the things we say? In guaranteeing our right to assemble, will we work together for the right things?

In believing that our country will see a better day, will we stand by it, work in it, and give more of ourselves not because we must but because it is the right thing to do?

For this is where democracy is headed. It doesn’t end with the ballot. It merely starts there. In May 2010, we will be twenty four years away from People Power 1986. It might be the year where we show the world how little we’ve changed, or it might be the year that we show the world how it is done once again.

It is only if we work together to make our country a better place will Aquino’s intergrity really amount to something. He knows this. When he stepped behind the podium last night, mulling over the words he had to say, he already knew it. There is a reason why the Aquino Dynasty endures. Because their lives — and this election — is not about them.

It’s about us.

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24 Comments

  1. I will vote for Noynoy if in case he decides to run, not because he is an Aquino but because, among the other contenders, he’s the only one who’s not stained yet by traditional politics. My worry is that he’ll face the same struggle as Cory did when she became president.

    I agree with you that it’s up to us. Philippines will only be better if we all work together — together, and not against, with whoever is elected as President.

  2. That I doubt…bringing the best out of us means he should be in control and is respected.

    She can’t even control Kris, her super scandalous- moral & personality wise sister who has shown him least respect as a big brother. How much more 12 major political parties & 90 million filipinos.

  3. “In wanting to lift our country out of poverty, will we find the time to volunteer, reach out, and engage in a profession that may not pay well but is sorely needed?”

    I love this line. I’m majoring in a science-related degree right now and I wish there were more people who would get into the sciences and engage in research that will uplift the country, its industries and the lives of its people.

    And I hope more Filipinos rise to the call of living each day and each choice out of love for the nation and in solidarity with other Filipinos.

  4. very well said. i have been reading articles – printed and online material – about Noynoy and i have often doubted the credibility of it. primarily, because personality / images are build up thru publicities. Your essay gave me a hint that Noynoy supporters are really wise and deep thinker.

    Noynoy is no dumb as most of his detractors would say, he is just waiting for the right time to shine. and I belive now is that time.

  5. Jhay said, on 4 September 2009 at 2:35 pm
    By your tone and its melody, have we found our Obama in Noynoy?

    Answer: Well, Obama is much like somebody who loves the limelight, and is the type of person who uses flattery words a lot. I can only compare him to Chiz Escudero — both unproven. If you check out the news about the US today, things just aren’t the greatest. Words really aren’t enough. 😐

    I guess this just means that Noynoy is somebody unique in the political scene — something pure. He doesn’t have any qualities of those traditional politicians… even the ones that describe the three other popular politicians in this blog.

    Jomari said, on 5 September 2009 at 4:12 pm
    That I doubt…bringing the best out of us means he should be in control and is respected.

    She can’t even control Kris, her super scandalous- moral & personality wise sister who has shown him least respect as a big brother. How much more 12 major political parties & 90 million filipinos.

    Answer: well, if you have checked the news recently (I think you have), you’ll know that this thing about Kris being in-control isn’t much of an issue anymore than it was before. Kris has finally laid down his pride and submitted to his brother Noynoy. I think you know this already.

    Let’s just put ourselves in the shoes of Noynoy. It’s more of a family picture — you don’t always have the most perfect relationships (or it just seems so) with your family, but THEY’RE FAMILY. You can’t really spell a family just like that. We don’t even know what the approach of Noynoy is as an older brother to Kris. He might be the silent type, “waiting for the right time to shine”, as said by Velessa (one above me), in terms of speaking to Kris about matters like that. Sometimes, silence shows the greatest of wisdom as said in the Holy Bible, in the Proverbs probably.

  6. *oops, correction:

    “Kris has finally laid down HER pride and submitted to HER brother Noynoy”. Didn’t see that earlier! Sorry! 😀

  7. @ M.D. ( Matthew)

    I’ve not been following Kris that way you do. But in instances I come across her in newscasts, Ninoy must have been turning over his grave with Cory just simply shrugging her shoulders in surrender.

    Kris’ surrender to Noynoy remains to be seen. She just dropped another bomb in the news last night with the way she sarcastically & emotionally hit critics of her beloved network ABSCBN ( with implications to Noynoy). Something she can’t take with her pride.

    A leader does not wait for his time to shine nor remain silent in a corner. A leader makes things happen! Noynoy is in this position hesitantly not by design nor accident but by sheer taking advantage of the situation. Cory did nothing but hid under the bed after being used to restore democracy. Perhaps now, Noynoy will hide under Kris’s skirts. God save the Philippines!

  8. I think that definition of being a leader that you described is not really what makes a leader. You’re focusing more on the personality of the person, not the real deal and makings of a leader.

    I think that what you’re putting here is that you want Noynoy to be a dominant type of person when it comes to personality. But, things just can’t be the way you exactly want them. For one, having a close conclusion that only the dominant type of people can lead is wrong. In ever situation, a person’s personality can shine and be the most useful. You must also know that dominant people also have weaknesses or disadvantages, as all types of personality does.

    I also saw how you can only point out on the weaknesses and your unmet expectations of Noynoy. I think you still aren’t over and aren’t convinced (or just can’t grasp) that this isn’t just Noynoy “taking advantage of the situation” like a rat who takes advantage when the cat is away. I guess you should read over the blog again if you still haven’t. To tell you honestly, I, too, had the same thoughts about Noynoy Aquino before. But, maybe you should just open your eyes to what’s really happening, and open your heart and really examine without any bias Noynoy’s possibility of leading the Phils in this dire situation.

    I’ve seen now how Noynoy’s run, not just for politics, but for the Phils and the Filipinos asking him (so not for himself) is just a call of the times and seasons. We need a history, a change-maker, and that is exactly what Noynoy can be. We can have what you’re asking for — somebody with a strong will and personality, but they can end up just like anybody else corrupt. Haven’t we had what you were asking for not just in the national scene, but the local scene too? We need something “new” again. We need someone who has integrity and genuineness in his heart.

    I think I don’t need to go on other details. I just hope you’ve understand my side. Please also try to look over the fence and do not stare blindly. A coin always has two sides to learn from. 🙂

    My two cents.

    *sorry if there are any errors. I haven’t double-checked. 😉

  9. I do not see why Noynoy Aquino should be president. He has not proven himself as a legislator authoring less than 20 or 30 (correct me if I am wrong) RESOLUTIONS and BILLS in his ELEVEN-year tenure in Congress (two in the Senate, 9 in the House). He resorts to political gimics (going to monasteries, convents to replicate Cory) just like any politician. He has vague platforms (if he has any other than copying his mom). He even used his mom’s funeral for political grandstanding (Kris even had a better, more heartfelt, and personal speech than him)!

    He is cashing in on the names’ of his parents. His supporters say he is the face of change. Then why is he acting like every traditional politician? He is going to be elected on the premise that he is CORY’S SON. People say that he is the heir of Ninoy and Cory! Isn’t that perpetuating the political dynasties of the Cojuanco and Aquino families? The same thing trapos do that he vows to oppose? What about Hacienda Luisita? Shouldn’t that be subjected to comprehensive agrarian reform?

    He vows to imitate what Cory did.

    The problem is, we don’t need another Cory. Cory gave a unique gift to the Philippines which no one, not even her son can replicate. The situations Cory was in is very different from the political climate we have now. What we need is a LEADER, not a bald, incompetent, crude imitation of a political icon. We need someone who can pull us out of the tar pit we call an economy. We need someone who can reform not only politics but the entire nation’s mindset. A leader worthy of emulation and respect, and one who can make us feel proud to be a Filipino.

    So is Noynoy the face of change? Or a pirated copy of Cory and a perpetuator of the oligarchy– The Old Society.

  10. Noynoy Aquino is a TRADITIONAL POLITICIAN!!! he came from an old political family, his advertisment has no content. Its an insult to the inteligence of the Filipino people if this person wins. With family interests driving his drive to power i.e. Hacienda Luisita and his uncles interest (danding, the PACMAN of Negros) We can never empower the people because he will just continue to preserve the old system which is advantageous to them

  11. after reading this, i had made up my mind to vote for him..
    not because he is an Aquino, but because from what i have known he has the integrity, the passion and he has quite ample experience in this field. i think he can bring change in this country, but of course we, too, must act towards this goal.
    what i am thinking now is that those people who are surrounding him.
    as i’ve read from other people, they were the ones who betrayed Erap, then Gloria, and now are on his side.
    it is possible that he might get influenced by them during his presidency, if he wins, hopefully..
    i also would prefer if his running mate would rather be Jejomar Dinay, because i think he has the skills and integrity too in this race..which is evident in Makati City today.

    i pray to the Lord that His will be done in our country.. 🙂

  12. I WILL NOT VOTE FOR NOYNOY.

    First, in response to the earlier post, he is getting his feet wet with the company of traitors. If he does not follow their every twisted and corrupt whim should he win, they will betray him as well.

    Second, do we really want such a mediocre legislative bench-warmer to become our president? SERIOUSLY? He can get one on my votes if he has at least passed one bill. BUT NO! HE hasn’t passed any!

    Third, as president, he will only increase the injustices his family has done to the farmers in Luicita.

    Fourth, he has NO BACKBONE and NO INDEPENDENT MIND either. Once in office, he will be at the mercy of his financiers who have dubiously made him figure so well in the surveys. The Philippines is mostly MASA and MASA are divided among ERAP and VILLAR. The math doesn’t add up.

  13. Great article! Will vote for Noynoy and Mar and the entire Liberal Party senatorial line-up.

    Tired of all the hype and ads about being pro-poor when they dismantled poor peoples’ houses and farmers’ lands just to build subdivisions for the rich. Tired as well of senators claiming excellence when in fact it is merely grandstanding, or biking their way to the votes of peoeple, or those warming their seats in the Senate.

    Team Pagbabago sa 2010.

  14. Why this country remains poor? This is because we the poor sell our vote to businessmen whose only business is politics. Every political party solicit supports from businessmen, its a practice since time immemorial. Is’nt it? However, not all politicians succumb to the demand of businessmen who have financially support their candidacy. Take the stead of Prez Cory, had she? I’ve known nothing. Cory is a plain housewife without legislative nor executive experience, yet, she steered this country to economic recovery.

    Today, what we need is a Prez who knows the primordial problem of the our country and that is corruption and only corruption. Why our leaders today are corrupt, because they succumb to the whims of their financiers, because they want to protect their political war lord who have terrorized their constituent in their own turf, because they are rewarding their people who do the dirty jobs on election time, because they put people in high post just to protect their presidency and so on, the reasons are becoming too long.

    Who’s platform of government focus on this issue? Not Villar whose most visible ads is the helping of OFW and his sipag and tiyaga slogan is a misnomer, not Erap whose primary agenda is to nail down Chavit once he is in office and not Gibo who initiated the moro-moro national convention of Lakas-Kampi party.

    It’s only Noynoy and Mar whom both of them have the zeal of preserving the good political legacy of their forebears. It’s only them.

  15. noynoy pa rin! we’re expecting the worst possible ‘concoction’ of lies to be thrown the liberal way, that of noy-mar, especially noynoy. but we are prepared. billions have been poured already to top their digits, of course, it’s not because of love of country – obviously, it’s love of money.

  16. I am for Bro. Eddie Villanueva because he genuinely loves this country, proven track record of service to the people, has competence, character, courage and compassion…

    He represents genuine change!

    Sino ang pag-asa ng bayan? EDDIE AKO!

  17. Interesting read about the other candidates:
    http://www.malaya.com.ph/01072010/edbanayo.html

    I prefer to elect an incompetent loser to a position of public service rather than someone who desires it greatly. The Athenians of ancient Greece filled important administrative positions by the simple drawing of lots. They risked putting someone incompetent in position but they preferred that to putting in power someone already powerful and capable of buying votes. The Athenians did rather well with this system, I believe.

  18. squander his parent’s legacy that i believe so. Let’s go for someone who doesn’t look whacked up, and go Villar….

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