Tragedy comes to mind when I remember Noynoy Aquino

If we are to believe the editors and writers of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the late former President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino III was a “great and good leader”. Some of them are also saying he was a man of honor. The entire front page of the publication was full of fluff pieces about Aquino after his death was announced the day before. That comes as no surprise since the broadsheet owes its rise to another Aquino – Noynoy’s mother, the late former President Cory Aquino. The Inquirer quickly jumped from being a tabloid to a “respectable” newspaper after Cory was installed in Malacanang Palace after a coup d’état ousted former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

We all know that the Inquirer is obliged to write favorably about Noynoy. We all know the Inquirer is a partisan publication. We all know they have to take this opportunity – an Aquino dying – and capitalize on it for the 2022 Presidential elections. Members of the Opposition are so desperate to cling to a pattern of succession when an Aquino dies. To quote an Aquino supporter, “when Ninoy Aquino died, the Marcos regime ended. When Cory Aquino died, Arroyo’s nine-year regime ended. Now, PNoy has passed on…. every time an Aquino dies, dictatorship ends.”

This raises the question: Are members of the Opposition actually mourning or are they celebrating the passing of Noynoy? It is almost as if they had long been hoping that another Aquino would die before the 2022 Presidential elections.

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No matter how many articles about Noynoy the Inquirer publishes, it won’t erase how some of us have come to know Noynoy during his term in office. A lot of people know that he was neither great nor good a leader. No, Noynoy wasn’t a man of honor to the families of those who died preventable deaths as a result of his government’s incompetence.

A lot of people have ditched the old saying “do not speak ill of the dead” after news of Noynoy’s death first broke. It was hard not to be reminded of his callousness when he was in power. In fact, the first thing that came to mind after Noynoy’s death was announced was what he said when a reporter asked him if he was going to attend the wake of the slain transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in 2014. He said, “In general, I don’t attend wakes of people I don’t know. I’m not comfortable in trying to condole with people who don’t know me.”

That’s not something someone who has empathy would say in front of the media. Granted, the President does not have to attend everyone’s funeral, but he could have been more circumspect in his response. Noynoy’s most famous rebuttal “Buhay ka pa naman, diba?” to a victim of looters in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda is forever etched in people’s brains especially since he said it at the height of the disaster – when the corpses of those who died from the tragedy were still lying on the roads. Unfortunately, we came to know that Noynoy did not use filters when he was still in power. It was a sign that he lacked compassion.

Mass burial of dead left by Typhoon Yolanda

Noynoy will be remembered by many for killing the so-called “Aquino legacy”. Because of his dismal, bordering on criminal, performance at the helm for six years, the people decided they have had enough of the lies mainstream media have been spewing about the Aquinos being “heroes”. Even after his death, the people who have woken up to the realization that they were duped for decades by the Aquinos are not apologizing for highlighting Noynoy’s indiscretions during his term. The people are not holding back in reminding Aquino supporters of the preventable tragedies that occurred while he was in office. It is hard to be kind to a man who was insensitive and callous to people outside of his clique. Noynoy was very cruel to the late former Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona who he persecuted even before he was sworn into office in 2010 citing that Corona was former President Gloria Arroyo’s “midnight appointee”.

Noynoy was relentless in his attacks and humiliation of the former magistrate in public particularly during official events. To the general public, Noynoy’s antagonistic behavior was baffling. According to columnist Carmen Pedrosa in a 2018 column, Corona was “Chief Justice when the Supreme Court penned the ‘final’ decision on Hacienda Luisita. To this day despite that ‘final’ decision nothing has been done to implement it. The Corona court’s unanimous, final and executory decision ruled that the 4,916-hectare Hacienda Luisita be distributed among some 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries.”

The lynching of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona is part of Aquino’s dark legacy.

It is fair to say that Noynoy had an axe to grind against Corona. And that axe was also grinded against former President Arroyo since the Aquinos felt betrayed after she approved the decision to break up the Aquino-Cojuangco clan’s crown jewels. Arroyo was eventually humiliated by Noynoy’s government when she was arrested and detained for almost the entire term of Noynoy’s presidency on trumped up charges. Her cases were eventually dismissed for lack of evidence. But she already spent years in detention for crimes she did not commit.

It is not only the Filipino people who associate Noynoy with the words tragedy and callousness. The people of Hong Kong will remember him as the “smiling president”. No, it wasn’t a smile that could melt one’s heart. It was a smile that broke the hearts of the families of eight Chinese tourists who died in the hands of a disgruntled police officer who held them hostage inside a bus in Manila in 2010. The tragedy happened just a few months into Noynoy’s presidency. Noynoy appeared to smile at a press conference following the incident and refused to apologize for his government’s bungling of the crisis. It was an ominous sign of more tragedies to come.

2010 HK Hostage Massacre: Philippine authorities defensive rather than resolute

While the Filipino people were still forgiving back in 2010 and attributed the Manila Hostage Crisis to Noynoy going through a honeymoon period, the people started waking up to the realization that Noynoy was incompetent after the 2013 Haiyan super typhoon tragedy. Not only did Noynoy demonstrate his arrogance as the disaster played out, he also showed that he was insensitive to the plight of the victims. His government was not prepared for the arrival of the typhoon and was defensive about being incapable of handling the rescue operation. Officially, there were over 6,000 fatalities but the unofficial tally was said to be over 10,000. Some of the deaths could have been prevented if only the government’s response was quicker. One could say that deaths during typhoons in the Philippines is unavoidable. But it was Noynoy’s dismissive attitude that made it worse.

I suppose the final nail in the coffin of Noynoy’s Presidency was when 44 members of Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) were massacred by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters in Mamasapano in Maguindanao. This was during a covert operation to arrest Malaysian bomb makers Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan” who was in the lair of the Muslim rebel group. It was a tragedy that sealed Noynoy’s so-called “legacy”. He became a lame duck after that.

Noynoy’s biggest mistake was in hiding the truth from the Filipino people – that he bungled the operation because, one, he assigned a suspended police general, PNP Chief Alan Purisima, to lead the entire operation. Because he was doing it so secretly that even then Department of Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas wasn’t informed about it, things went pear-shaped quickly when communication with the military broke down. Then, two, 44 SAF officers were not rescued in time. The public was shocked after videos of the men being slaughtered were circulated on social media. Then the public had to wait for three days before Noynoy made a statement, which did not satisfy the public’s outrage.

The circumstances surrounding the dysfunctional command structure that led to the massacre of 44 SAF officers remains a mystery to this day.

The reason why there are people who highlight Noynoy’s shortfalls even at this time is because the Opposition have been known to take advantage of deaths to gain sympathy votes just like they did when Noynoy’s father Ninoy and his mother Cory died. They have put the Aquinos on a pedestal for far too long. Now and in the coming days, they will try so hard to elevate Noynoy to sainthood or a hero just like they did Ninoy and then Cory. That is so wrong on so many levels. They weren’t heroes and they weren’t saints. They were mostly after their own interests, which is mainly to keep Hacienda Luisita.

The remaining members of the Opposition are not looking out for the people’s interests either. Their only real agenda is to get back in power and they will use whatever means — including the death of an ally — to do it. Unfortunately for them, Noynoy did not leave any tangible or lasting legacy. His passing will not work towards putting any remaining Liberal Party member back in power. Besides, it’s too early to use his death in the next election anyway. They can’t even decide who will represent their party. The Opposition have no shame and won’t admit that they cannot win without using emotional blackmail.

The circumstances were different when Cory and Noynoy won after an Aquino died. Mainstream media still had the monopoly in spreading information then. The Opposition have Netizens to deal with now. We will not stop reminding the people of the atrocities they committed in the past. The Opposition do not even possess any moral ascendancy to tell Netizens to stop speaking ill of the dead because they have been speaking ill of Marcos almost 40 years after his death. They also wish for current President Rodrigo Duterte to die as soon as possible.

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