Non-administration allied politicians are in a conundrum. The deluge of messages related to the recent death of former president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III is a mix of the expected responses from the bleeding-heart side and those that are, shall we say, a bit more circumspect with being too “generous” in their outpouring of grief. This is an election period after all and not a few politicians aspiring for lucrative seats in Congress and Malacanang are well aware of the fatal effects of being associated with the Yellow narrative of the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan. Indeed, considering that many would be hard-pressed to issue even a low-ball stock-take of the achievements of the Second Aquino Administration to prop up Noynoy’s legacy and considering that it is widely-known that he did not even want to be president to begin with, framing this development will be an interesting challenge for the handlers of this year’s crop of candidates.
Key to messaging decisions being debated behind closed doors in the campaign rooms and Viber chats of politicians’ staffers revolve around one singular metric: vote conversion. The stakes are high and campaign teams cannot afford to allow traditional emotionalism to get in the way of a lucid regard for what hard data is telling them. In this time of pandemic where the primary channel for reaching constituents is of the digital sort, politicians facing off with formidable incumbents need to be surgical.
If there is one thing that this generation of politicians must learn from the from-left-field win of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte 2016, it is that a leader must possess the conviction and courage to dive straight into no-go-zones and skewer sacred cows. Right here today is a sacred cow — the dead Noynoy Aquino that tradition dictates demands the respect the dead deserve — and the no-go-zone waiting for a politician to plant his or her flag upon and claim as his or her territory: burying the Aquino legacy for good. The politician who can claim that space will be the courageous one and is one who will likely reap the rewards of such audacity.
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Indeed, it was audacity that catapulted Duterte to power in 2016. He had the audacity to thumb his nose at the sacred (albeit dying) cows of the time — the Yellow narrative, the Church, “human rights” BS, American Junk, etc. All through that, he remained open and unapologetic about his bugoy — even bastos — persona, going all out with his use of candid language when addressing the public and candid mannerisms when engaging with his people. Suffice to say, armies of political analysts (some fancying themselves “chief political analysts”) are burning the midnight oil figuring out how to replicate this stunning coup Duterte pulled in 2016. Well, for those who who are serious about replicating such a coup, the answer is staring them in the face today.
Shhhh… Can you hear it? It’s the deafening sound of silence about Noynoy’s death coming from the majority of non-admin-allied polticians. Why the silence? Because it is widely-recognised that being associated with the Yellow narrative of the Aquino clan is a death sentence to any aspiration for higher office in 2022. Silence will not cut it though — specially in this tough, deathly-competitive political environment. You need to go for the kill while the deer paralysed by fear is in your sights. Those camps that can muster the courage and audacity to exploit the singular opportunity that the death of The Last Political Aquino presents will make his or her mark in a race where stark brand differentiation will spell the difference between victory and defeat.
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