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Does Noynoy Aquino Know Aikido?

September 10, 2009


Now we come to the hard part.

Having declared his presidential bid, Noynoy Aquino will be coming to grips with the expectations he has raised, and with the gloves coming off as the broad spectrums of our quite opinionated, cynical and everyone-is-a-political-pundit society examines his fitness for office.

Sure the only son of heroes Ninoy and Cory Aquino has his parents’ legacy giving him inspiration and he’ll draw from the lessons they left him to present a vision for the leadership he now offers Filipinos.
Noynoy  surely seems to have the requisite integrity, sincerity, the heart that comes with his political pedigree.

But the question he, and his handlers must answer is does he have the balls?

It is precisely the point of this piercinglyinsightful essay I’d like to share with out readers.

rocney-jalecoIt’s by ABS=CBN Global’s  veteran correspondent

Rodney Jaleco

of the network’s North America News Bureau,

this dispatch coming from Washington D.C. :


So, Ninoy and Cory’s son believes he can lead the Philippines.

Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III announced his candidacy a month after his beloved mother passed away from colon cancer, and in the exact place where she became the 11th president of the Philippines, the 1st woman to lead the country as well the 1st female president in Asia.

Noynoy would be filling in very huge shoes, and could be writing history if he wins the May 2010 ballot.

His father, Benigno Jr., was a war correspondent at 17, perhaps the youngest journalist to report from the frontlines of the Korean War. He was 18 when he received the Philippine Legion of Honor, mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac at the age of 22, and vice governor of the province when he was 27. In 1967, he made history by becoming the youngest member of the Philippine Senate. He was 34. And Ninoy was well on the way to becoming the country’s youngest president if Ferdinand Marcos did not move to hijack the 1971 elections.

His mother was responsible for leading the Philippines back to democracy, and starting a global non-violent political movement that demolished authoritarian rule in many countries. Tita Cory, as everyone is wont to call her, was a transformative leader. Simple, austere, prayerful but tough, President Aquino led by inspiring Filipinos to achieve the “impossible dream”. She wielded power only long enough to re-plant the seeds of freedom and democracy in the Philippines, and in her retirement, served as the guardian of liberty and a people’s conscience.

Noynoy not only carries his parents’ impressive genes, he also must carry their legacy. And Ninoy and Cory bestowed much to the Filipinos.

In a nation dominated by oligarchs and political dynasties, will Filipinos accept the ruling bloodline that Noynoy offers?

They seemed to have accepted that with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But the nation seems to have gotten a bad experience from it.

The United States had John Adams, her 2nd president, and John Quincy Adams, her 6th president. And there are of course George HW Bush (1989-93) and George W. Bush (2001-2009).

They had differing styles of leadership but were also “cut from the same cloth”. The Adams’ were passionate in their religious beliefs and scholarly pursuits. The Bushes of course shared a common enemy, Saddam Hussein, and that culminated in the younger George’s decision to invade Iraq.

Closer to home, former Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong took over where his father, the widely respected Lee Kuan Yew left off. In Japan, Shinjiro Koizumi, 28, is trying to follow the footsteps of his father, the popular PM Junichiro Koizumi, by winning the Parliament seat that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had held.

Noynoy has impressive political pedigree being both an Aquino and a Cojuangco – perhaps the most powerful possible combination for Central Luzon politics.

Despite being a bachelor, he is low-key and low profile. Some might say, boring. Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened to him recently was when he was almost killed while trying to drive through mutinous troops who were on their way to attack his mother in Malacanang in 1987. Three of his bodyguards were killed and he still carries one of the slugs that hit him in his neck.

Noynoy won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1998 and moved up to the Senate in 2007.

Unlike his father, he has barely made an impact in Congress. Some critics say he is timid, others that his heart just isn’t into realpolitik. He would rather do outreach work for impoverished communities, or look after his sisters, including the glamorous but controversial Kris.

In fact, Kris doesn’t burnish Noynoy’s political credentials with her loud but tender appeals for her kuya to stay single, as if Noynoy’s personal fortune is swayed by such admonitions.

Right now, Noynoy is running on the steam of the Aquino legacy, principally that of her mother. But he must move away from that expansive shadow and show what he is, and more importantly, we he can become.

I’m afraid that can’t be accomplished by Kris’ shrill cheers.

I think the most urgent thing for him now, besides reinvigorating his parents’ grassroots infrastructure, is to submit to the Filipino people a platform of government. Noynoy will have to some way find a way to concretize the deep goodwill that his mother and father left behind, use that and move it even forward, and transform that incipient energy into action.

I’ve talked about this before. Show me your vision, Noynoy. What do you see 5, 10, 20 years from now? Where will the Philippines be during those times?

Secondly, Noynoy must move purposely in the next few weeks to consolidate his bid. He will have to win over the other opposition wannabes and convince them that he is, to borrow Fidel Ramos’ word, the only “winnable” opposition candidate today. Noynoy’s won over Mar and Kiko. Erap is almost in the bag, I heard. What about Bro. Eddie? And Chiz? Sure, there will have to be promises and horse-trading, but the prize is on the horizon not in the clash of shoulders and elbows that mark Philippine politics.

All politics is local, so there is a need to expand Noynoy’s machinery to the countrysides. Pick allies, and pick them well. People who are truly committed and share the reformist, libertarian agenda. I can remember Antique Gov. Evelio Javier or the long-haired Zamboanga City Mayor Cesar Climaco – true leaders and freedom fighters.

Noynoy already has a leg up because he will be campaigning against an administration that’s become synonymous with corruption and murder. Even though he’s part of a corrupt government, Noynoy is somehow the odd man outside looking in. He is perhaps the nearest thing to “Mr Clean” — not even a single insinuation of corruption. He works with the poor. He’s spoken out against the Arroyo excesses.

It’s a good old fight of good versus evil, the forces of enlightenment and freedom against the forces of oppression and greed. It’s going to be Marcos vs Cory all over again!

But it’s not going to be easy. The other side has had much experience in cheating and stealing. They have the money, they have most of the incumbent local candidates to pressure barangay and ward leaders; they have the opportunity to reinforce patronage in the eight months left before the elections; they can rely on a small group of ambitious police and army officers to do their bidding; they have the power to print extra ballots or find holes in the computer software; they have the wherewithal of Dagdag Bawas; they have the ability to sway public opinion on inject doubts on voters through their paid hacks in the press; they have access to sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment to detect weaknesses or even some usable smear; they have the capability to coerce and intimidate at many levels. But all of these are manageable risks in running a political campaign – so long as YOU HAVE THE PEOPLE on your back.

Noynoy will have to be able to do political aikido, use the administration’s weight against itself. Aikido is a martial art that uses turns and throws to break an opponent’s momentum and thus destroy his attack but minimizing the attackers injury.

If Noynoy is to be a transformative president, he must be able to unite the country much like what his mother did in 1986. But he can be a better Aquino if he can do this after he’s won next year.

It’s going to be a long, ardous haul up the hill, but I’m convinced it can be done. The question is – is Noynoy up to the task?

Postscript: Thank you indeed, Rodney for this most timely piece. As we say in the blogodsphere, you’re Spot On!!

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