To be upfront about it, it was impossible not to feel even a slight tinge of discomfort on news of former president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s passing. I started blogging two years into his term, and I gave him hell whenever there was an undesirable event, effect, or outcome related to his government’s goings-on. The thesis of Get Real Philippines, which I still stand by after all these years, focuses on the cultural dysfunction found in Filipino society. Political dysfunction is a result of the cultural one; BS Aquino, at that time, embodied dysfunctional culture to a T. Blogging during his presidency was rather easy to do because he and his administration provided plenty of material to work with.
In light of his death, do I now have remorse/regret for criticizing him back then? The answer is easy, I do not. Based on the circumstances, data, and my critical thinking faculties at that time, I took my positions on issues – which more often than not put me on the opposite side of Aquino’s supporters, the Yellowtards. I do it currently with sitting president Rodrigo Duterte; I would’ve done it regardless of whoever won the 2016 elections.
But I digress.
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It would have been simple enough to let people air their memories with the dead. Filipinos, however, true to form, simply cannot restrain themselves from injecting politics into any discussion. It happens on both sides, whether it be the Opposition, where the remaining (closet) Yellowtards want a three-peat of the dead Aquino emo vote catapult, or the pro-Duterte, who will vigorously defend their precarious sandcastle majority with “indecent” language. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who started the politicization and the mudslinging first; what does is that there has been no change in the speed and extent to which the “debate” devolves into prick-waving and gutter talk.
I looked at my social media timelines, and I saw two separate worlds, chalk and cheese, in commemoration/recall of the past. On one hand, I saw the recall of those who worked with/under him, and they genuinely speak of a man who, in their view, did his best, and was generally one of the nicest guys to hang around with. I had also seen how some of the educated would speak of how proud they were to be Filipino under his time (kay sarap maging Pilipino); one can trace that to the economic growth they perceived during his term (spoiler: it was because of his predecessor Gloria Arroyo), and the deodorized foreign news releases about his administration.
On the other hand, BS Aquino’s critics were there to provide the other perspective. As I already mentioned, the economic growth is due to the sound fundamentals planted in GMA’s term. His government’s response to Typhoon Haiyan was a masterclass in disastrous disaster management. The eight HK tourists who died in that bus and the SAF 44 who died in Mamasapano are most likely waiting for him in the next life, too.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the more privileged took to Noynoy because of how he made them feel. I don’t think I would be wrong in saying that all that “education” and “privilege” was useless because, being Filipino, they still suspended their “critical evaluation” in the face of Yellowtard rhetoric. But below a certain societal point, it became all about feeling something else – results. People were still poor, hungry, and some were left to fend for themselves. The survivors of those who died due to force majeure/mismanagement were brushed off/treated in a rather cavalier manner. It came to the point that mainstream media, despite PNoy’s incessant complaints about unfavorable coverage, simply couldn’t hide the stink anymore.
Unfortunately, the proponents of these two different perspectives have not sat down and talked about moving forward together. It didn’t happen when Ferdinand Marcos died, it didn’t happen either when both Ninoy and Cory checked out too. The point here is that the predominant way of “teaching history” here in the Philippines is not getting all the differing perspectives to sit down together and make a comprehensive account; rather, it is to propagate only one point of view, in this case the Yellowtard view,shut out others, shove it down everybody else’s throats, and ostracize people for not toeing the line. It would’ve continued to work – but Rodrigo Duterte was elected president in 2016.
While reading through the recollections of how Noynoy was supposedly a nice guy, it brings up memories of a trait that is prevalent among the older Filipinos, even one I witnessed in my own family. In the vernacular, it can be expressed as “mabait sa kaibigan at pamilya, kupal sa iba” (kind to friends and family, a dick to strangers). I’m not saying BS Aquino was a dick, but the differing recollections of how people knew him puts forth an uncomfortable, and debilitating, reality – that perhaps Pinoys will take another long while to extend their kindness and consideration beyond their own clans.
Next, there’s this (supposed to be) simple matter of “respecting the dead.”
You really can’t fault Duterte’s supporters for acting the way they did. A common theme among Duterte’s critics – many of them Yellowtards – is that there’s the “wishing him dead” social media posts. You don’t get a moral high ground to admonish the people on showing the respect for their dead when you disrespect the living.
Let’s put this out there; the only difference between the Aquino and Duterte cults is the personality that each worships. Yet the zealotry, rabidity, and the sensitivity to differing perspectives – you’re looking at two sides of the same coin. Unlucky for the former, however, they’re now the minority because their candidate, Mar Roxas, didn’t win the election; the dominant force and its constituents will push back if you “don’t know your place.”
Supporters of the Aquino family and the Liberal Party have already utilized the sympathy vote for a dead family member twice already. You really can’t fault them for trying a third time. A few friends/colleagues of mine note the impact of social media in influencing the vote – something I had always downplayed. Even without social media, however, I doubt Noynoy could ever match the emotional attachment that propaganda successfully created for his parents. Digital age or not, Pinoy emo transcends the times, but generally Pinoys have a finely honed radar for detecting insincerity. In Noynoy’s case, Filipinos would’ve been very good at discerning “pure and innocent” from an “immature simpleton”.
Lastly, let’s look at the notion that Noynoy Aquino was not corrupt. Whether it be not corrupt, or kind, or uncompromising on quality, or whatever, if the people around you don’t measure up, then your own virtues don’t count for shit. I find this situation common between BS Aquino and Rodrigo Duterte. In Noynoy’s case, he may have been not corrupt and held himself to a high standard, but ultimately he was done in by the fact that his cabinet was riddled with Peter-principles; Duterte unfortunately faces the same fate. Both sides’ supporters want their idol to be cast in history based on how he made them feel, but ultimately it’s the results that matter – and those who write the books.
Let’s close this chapter on Philippine necropolitics, shall we? I really do hope Noynoy gets to rest in peace; unfortunately his death is inevitably going to be used to revive a political entity on life support. The Yellowtards have been all about Laban (they still are), and yet I don’t think anyone could have ever imagined that their revolution required eating up members of the Aquino family. Or maybe they did, especially when they figured out how potent it was.
EDSA is DEAD. Ninoy is DEAD. Cory is DEAD. And now Noynoy is DEAD. If the Yellowtards need to keep on relying on dead bodies to prop their revolution up, then perhaps that collective entity too is already DEAD – still walking aimlessly, but essentially DEAD.
It’s time Filipinos keep dead entities, well…DEAD.
А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. – But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.