Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The rise of Aquino

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

At noon today, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino, or P-Noy as he prefers to be addressed, will take his solemn oath to defend the Constitution and uphold the laws of the land as the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines. He will be the second second-generation President to occupy the highest seat of the land after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the first unmarried person to become President.

This particular juncture in the history of the country represents different things to different people. On one end of the continuum would be meanings captured by the words destiny, deliverance, and redemption. On the other end of the continuum would be words like disappointment, grudging acceptance, defiance.

But I think it is safe to assume that everything converges on one prayer: Hope for better times ahead.

Some people have expressed the wish that P-Noy’s assumption into the highest seat in the land would also signal the start of the healing process for a nation deeply wounded by political differences and fragmented by divergent political ideologies and interests. Unfortunately, such is not a reasonable expectation; at least not in the next few weeks and months. P-Noy and most of his volunteers and supporters see their rise into power as a vindication of sorts, the triumph of good over evil, the return of the Jedi. Some scores need to be settled, certain assertions need to be proven, and quite a number of promises need to be fulfilled. There will be some posturing around, unsheathing of swords and rattling of sabers if only to satisfy some people’s need for emotional closure.

Most of us pretty much know however how all these will eventually end. Given our collective short memory and our inherent distaste for ugly confrontations, people will eventually get tired of the political intramurals and begin to lose interest. I know this smacks of extreme cynicism but the only way we can predict the future is to look at the past. And our record at prosecuting former presidents and leaders is quite dismal. The Marcoses and the Estradas are not only back in power, they have almost completely succeeded in deodorizing their images. Even Senator Ping Lacson is expected to be able to reclaim his stature as an outstanding role model in this country; if Honasan, Trillanes, Lim, and Querubin were able to successfully pull it off, why not someone like Lacson?

It seems P-Noy is going to have to hit the ground running. Already, certain sectors have indicated that they are cashing in their chips this early.

For example, militant labor groups have already sent word that they intend to collect on P-Noy’s alleged promises regarding general improvements on the living conditions of Filipinos, which they have liberally translated into promises of another round of wage increases, preferably across the board.

Some quarters have pointed out that P-Noy made no such specific promises, someone even scoffed that the militant labor groups did not support P-Noy in the last election; that on the contrary, they kept on dredging during the campaign the grim specter of the Hacienda Luisita massacre to indicate P-Noy’s alleged bias against the downtrodden. Not that these things make a difference, anyway. P-Noy is now president of all Filipinos and he cannot say that the promises he made during the campaign were only applicable to those who supported him.

There’s going to be more of this delicate balancing act that this administration will need to do. On one hand, I can understand the need to act tough and be venomous towards President Arroyo. This is the kind of emotional closure is demanded by his core supporters. On the other hand, this administration needs to also think strategically and cannot keep on dwelling on the past. The challenge is to move the country forward, not keep it stuck in the past and the present.

P-Noy and his volunteers and supporters will come to grips with the painful realization that the campaign—when all P-Noy had to do was to demonize the current administration, wear yellow shirts, and make promises—was the easier part of the whole engagement. They can continue to blame the previous administration for the country’s woes but at some point they will have to face up to the fact that they are the ones in power now and are the ones directly accountable to the people.

There’s a whole lot of unsolicited advice, friendly reminders, grim warnings, even threats directed at P-Noy that is floating around so I will not get into that now. What needs to be expressed even if seemingly unnecessary at this point is that there’s also a lot of hope and optimism that is accompanying today’s momentous occasion. In short, most people want P-Noy to succeed; we all want the best for our country and for Filipinos.

I join everyone in praying that this resurgence of optimism is not wasted.

* * *

What is going to happen at noon today at the Quirino grandstand is a matter of such importance it has not escaped the common Pinoy’s predilection for levity and humor. We do find opportunities to see the funny side of any situation.

One clever shoutout that I saw on Facebook was a clever adaptation of the mystery of faith recited during celebration of the Eucharist: Cory has died, Noynoy has risen, Peping will rise again.

Yet another attempt at humor that basically echoed the same reservations about the incoming administration was this other Facebook shoutout: Ipagdiwang and pagbabalik ng KKK (Kamaganak Inc., Kaklase Inc., and Kris!).

* * *

And speaking of the garrulous first sister, most people still cannot believe that she actually stole the thunder from her older brother. There are 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days in 2010—did she have to pick the current period to announce the latest complications in her marriage? On the other hand, all this is vintage Kris Aquino. It’s foolhardy to expect her to do otherwise.

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