Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III has so far proven to be the most divisive president in the Philippines’ history. Ironically, this divisiveness traces its source to the pseudo-nationalist rhetoric on which President BS Aquino mounted his campaign to seize the lucrative seat he now holds in Malacanang. Indeed, rather than foster a spirit of national solidarity in the last several years, he and his feudal clan have all but divided and polarised the country putting within his royal graces (1) those who embrace his Yellow banner and the Laban dogma surrounding it and casting away (2) all the rest.
It is an understatement to say that he is the most polarizing leader the Philippines ever had. He has divided the sentiments of the Filipino people, indeed and this could be his intention. This is perhaps to distract the public from his failure to meet his campaign promises. His use of the blame-game easily deflects from his own incompetence.
To this rapidly growing sector he classifies as all the rest, he lobs his blanket dismissal of any opinion they might issue, saying that his critics are “hopeless” and deserve to be “ignored”.
The Philippines has a long history of holding up excuses for its failure to prosper. The sorry state of the country — the least promising in a region of high achievers — has been blamed on imperialism, foreign meddling, dictatorships, bad weather, lack of “freedom”, and corruption. The strongly plausible possibility that the Philippines failed to prosper simply because Filipinos consistently fail to achieve much of anything of consequence as a collective is not palatable to people looking for scapegoats. As such, catchy campaigns were built upon the notion of one crusade or the other against any one or a number of these national demons.
Unfortunately, the notion that the salvation of the Philippines is hinged on some sort of “Laban” — a nebulous fight — cooked up back in the early 1980s by the late presidential father and national “hero” Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr has stuck in the national consciousness. That this “fight” is endorsed by no less than God himself was a concept sealed in 1986 when the late Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin put the weight of the Roman Catholic Church behind the late presidential mother and former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino who is known for her prayerfulness and veneer of piety. The final ingredient was a complicit media, notably the mighty ABS-CBN Network owned by the Lopez clan who are eternally grateful to the Aquino-Cojuangco clan for reinstating their ownership over what is now a vast global media empire.
Then candidate BS Aquino came to the 2009-2010 presidential campaign armed with a compelling populist revolutionary philosophy into which is woven religious mythology all of which is packaged and propagated by a vast media network. With millions of Filipinos beholden to this magical brew, Malacanang was virtually served to BS Aquino on a silver platter.
Fast forward to 2013. Tired, old, and quite frankly embarrassing. That’s what’s become of the whole yellow motif of the Aquino clan and its circle of business cronies, relatives, “shooting buddies”, lackeys, Media outlets, and cadre of bloggers, publicists, and “social media activists”. It was the primary colour of a successful propaganda campaign that started in 1983, peaked in the mid- to late-1980s, then settled into a slow decline that lasted over much of the 1990s and the early 2000s and then got a brief burst of a boost when presidential son, now Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, was, as state mythology would now have us believe, given a mandate by God himself to be leader of the Filipino people.
Much of this old magic is now discredited as mere political conjuring. The promised national “unity” has not materialised. As a matter of fact, the national freight train has been completely shunted onto another track. Whatever honour and dignity the Philippine legislature clung onto has since been stripped as revelations of possible bribery, fraud, and influence peddling seemingly instigated by the President himself and carried out by his closest lieutenants emerge. Granted, it is one senator or another spilling the beans in desperate efforts to cover their asses under the weight of allegations of unparalleled pork barrel thievery helping Filipinos connect the dots. But that lack of honour among thieves now rearing its ugly head has become prime time entertainment for a long cynical Filipino public.
Three decades is an astounding amount of time for a large chunk of the Philippines’ “politically passionate” classes to be sporting a yellow motif and dancing around waving a set of fingers shaped in the likeness of the letter “L”. For those of us who were teenagers in the 1980’s that amount of time offers us a useful perspective. That perspective, tragically, is not accessible to the average 20- to 30-year old Filipino today. I’m talking about a whole generation of young Filipinos who had a first experience of awakening to political awareness that involved jumping into a bandwagon for an 18-month ride over much of 2009 and 2010 campaigning and sloganeering under the yellow colour while sporting the Loser salute. It’s the political equivalent of a sexual awakening in the expert hands of professional sex worker.
That’s a national tragedy to the tune of 40 percent of the electorate who (according to “surveys”) supposedly voted an unqualified, unmotivated, and now uninspiring man into the highest office of the land. The 2009 to 2010 Presidential campaign gave witness to stupidity on a scale that is unprecedented (well, maybe if we discount the ascent to power of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada). Young Filipinos today are likely to later on look back to 2009 and 2010 and shudder while thinking “What was I thinking?” Simple, my young compatriots. Perhaps you weren’t thinking at the time. But that can be forgiven. My generation, after all, sported mullet and cobra hair do’s and wore stone-washed jeans in our youth. Now that is what is unforgivable.
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