By Nikki Careen Palacios and Kim Arveen Patria
In a country where history often repeats itself for better or worse, the presidential proclamation of Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III is just another verse in a seemingly unending song.
“This is our destiny,” Noynoy, 50, once retorted when faced by criticism and doubt.
Indeed, destiny it was that led him to the rostrum on that fateful day of June 8 when his arms were victoriously raised by the leaders of Congress and the Senate, both of which he has served—as Tarlac 1st district representative for nine years from 1998 to 2007 and as senator since 2007.
But politics was drawn on the palm of Noynoy’s hand even before he joined his first political contest in 1998.
In his mother’s footsteps
Noynoy’s mother, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, was propelled to the presidency when her husband, opposition leader and former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., was martyred at the tarmac of the international airport now named after him.
And in the same manner that death put Cory in office through the 1986 people power revolution that ended the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, death paved the way for Noynoy too.
Acceding to public clamor that followed the death of his mother in August last year, Noynoy announced his bid for the presidency on the 40th day of his mother’s passing at Club Filipino in San Juan, the same place where Cory announced her candidacy in the 1986 snap elections.
Both Noynoy’s and Cory’s are also presidencies indebted to “ultimate sacrifices,” as Noynoy’s running mate Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II calls it.
Roxas had his eyes set on Malacañang since he topped the senatorial race in 2004 but gave way to Noynoy, eerily resembling the sacrifice Salvador “Doy” Laurel Jr. made to allow Ninoy’s widow to run.
With his family name to start with and the Liberal Party to support him, the May 10 elections was Noynoy’s to lose, even if he joined just in the nick of time.
The “yellow fever” that fueled Cory’s campaign in 1986 was revived if not boosted in what Noynoy referred to as the “people’s campaign” that made the yellow ribbon ubiquitous again.
Burdens of responsibility
Noynoy’s landslide win of over 15M votes shows how most Filipinos feel that he is the change this country needs.
Indeed, succeeding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as president, change is what the President-elect should strive for to save this government now bereft of people’s trust. But Noynoy has his fair share of disapproval.
Highlighting the fact that none of the bills he authored were enacted, critics questioned how Noynoy is the practical choice, placed alongside more accomplished politicians like his cousin, former Defense chief Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro.
The spotlight sometimes turned to his bachelorhood, taken by some as an indication of irresponsibility. Others worry that he would not hold sway and would simply be a president by name while allowing others to rule on his behalf.
Some fear that his famously and notoriously popular sister, showbiz personality Kris, would affect his cabinet decisions while some are warning him to be wary about the Hyatt 10, the former members of Arroyo’s cabinet who resigned in protest at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal, some of which played key roles in Noynoy’s campaign.
Arroyo’s are not the only unwanted pasts Noynoy shall inherit. He also takes on the challenge to correct his mother’s mistakes.
Although revered as the icon of Philippine democracy, Cory is criticized as nurturing vested interests. She has been accused of moving to keep their family-owned Hacienda Luisita by amending the agrarian reform program to include stock distribution options as an alternative to distribution of land to farmers.
In a press conference during his campaign, however, Noynoy said he is willing to give up his share of Hacienda Luisita, a claim contradicted by one of his cousins interviewed by the New York Times—yet a promise to which the public shall hold him as soon as he begins his term.
A new legacy
At its onset, Noynoy’s six-year feat already promises to be challenging. At the helm of the executive branch of government, he must win the hearts of the legislature and the judiciary that are both hell-bent on playing hard to get.
Congress shall be home to Arroyo, who won as Pampanga 2nd district representative while his rival Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar is poised to win back leadership in the Senate. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, shall be consisted fully of Arroyo appointees, led by Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The Marcos family’s return to power this year also offers an interesting detail. Former First Lady Imelda Marcos won a congressional seat for Ilocos Norte’s 2nd district, replacing the former strongman’s only son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., who placed 7th in the senatorial contest. Imelda’s daughter, Imee, was elected governor of the province.
Hope shall be the cornerstone of Noynoy’s administration—hope for the change this country needs instead of change introduced for the sake of change.
And it is to be hoped that the Filipino hope shall not fail.