Tag Archives: Cory Aquino

Emil Guillermo’s quick take: The Aquino victory in the Philippines and what it says about the Filipino people

I’m hearing it said, and it’s true: Noynoy Aquino would not have won this time around had his mother not died last year.

It’s that guilt vote. Catholicism,guilt,  family ties mean something in the RP.  If voting machine and counting snafus could be averted, then it was in the bag. But who had the crystal balls to predict that?

One thing is sure, an Aquino candidacy was unlikely had Cory lived on. Noynoy was too happy as the idealistic gadfly oligarch.

The political wags in Manila are already saying that in a “Non-Noy, No Aquino race,”  the convicted and pardoned former ex-President Joseph Estrada would have won easily over the scandal-tainted Manny Villar, the Meg Whitman-Ross Perot like politician who had lots of money to burn.

Add to that the tremendous victories from the surviving Marcos family, all of them, allowed to run and win in their Ilocos region. What do you get?  A recycling of corruption seems imminent.

Says a lot for the Filipino voters and the future of democracy there, where crooked politicians are cherished and revered.

But why shouldn’t some scalawags and scalawagas be given a fifth or sixth chance? 

It’s the Filipino way.

In America, you get dumped for lying about your Vietnam status. Or you get dinged for having an affair (which is strange. Don’t politicos get into the business to get chicks?)

But that’s politics in America.  All that is just a starting point for political success in the Philippines.

What you need to know about the May10 presidential election in the Philippines

 “Anti-Marcos” used to be the phrase that defined overseas Filipinos’ political involvement.

You were either for or against the legendary dictator. But then came Cory Aquino and “People Power” to wipe the slate clean.  Only she really didn’t. 

She only gave new, formerly shut out oligarchs the opportunity to take their turn playing Marcos, only less brazenly, less openly. They were “anti-Marcos” in their own way, sure.  But for some it was just the style in which they sought their favors . They were “under-the-radar” corrupt. They figured out how to get all they wanted from the people of the Philippines without resorting to dictatorship.  In essence, the era after Marcos has been a time for all the self-serving corruption, but none of the excesses. 

The political style of choice is “Marcos Lite.”

I first used  the phrase to describe President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whom I affectionately call PGMA.  Comparing  current Philippine leaders to Marcos is a helpful  good measure of political progress in the Philippines.  But now PGMA is in a realm all her own. Having declared a “partial” martial law after the Maguindanao massacre (where political families gunned down opponents and journalists) and with a double digit negative approval rating, PGMA’s place in history is already assured. She will be known as the worst president ever in the short history of Filipino democracy.  Worse than the dictator.

And she did it all with a smile. And the support of both Bush and Obama.

That’s how it is when your style is “Marcos Lite.”  No one can tell just how bad you are because you are having such a good time at the public’s expense.

So with the May 10 presidential election in the Philippines around the corner, it’s time to declare who among the current presidential candidates is skillful and stylish enough to mask their corruption and  wear the sash with the phrase “Marcos Lite.”

It’s tough because of the presence of one Joseph Estrada, the ex-Philippine president whose fondness for numbers running  earned him a conviction in 2007 (that was followed by a pardon soon after; The oligarchs protect their own).  Now in 2010, Estrada feels entitled to his old job and has  poll numbers reportedly close to  20 percent.  That’s a lot of people to pay off.  The conviction remains a problem. Marcos would have found a way to avoid it all in the first place.

Then there’s Noynoy Aquino, a favorite of those sentimental for “People Power.” A lot of people like Aquino. But he doesn’t even belong on the list for “Marcos Lite.” Are you kidding?  Sure, he’s an oligarch with ties and connections among the patricians. But compared to his fellow candidates, Aquino’s  too nice, too ethical, too soft-spoken. No one says anything bad about him, except that he’s a soft-spoken bachelor who tries to do the right thing.

You wouldn’t  really want someone like that to be the  president of the Philippines, would you?

Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. But then what you are hoping to see on May 10 is the absolute turnaround of the Philippine democracy.  It could happen, but I think the country is too used to self-serving, money-hungry, egotistical, corrupt oligarchs.

Given the taste for that kind of leader, is there a better person to be declared Marcos Lite than Manny Villar?

Villar likes to play poor kid from Tondo. (My mom was from Tondo, I’ve been to the cockfights in Tondo). But Villar is as they say in America, “dumb like a fox.”  He’s a shrewd businessman/politician who has used his influence to build a massive real estate empire. Some of his deals have been based on the illegal conversion of prime rice lands, and the use of those lands to raise billions of pesos in government loans. Vilar’s questionable deals are well documented among the journalists who refused to be cowed or paid-off by Villar. But there are not many of them.

Villar is spending billions of pesos on his campaign. He is the Meg Whitman in terms of campaign spending. Given that much of his money came from the public trough in the first place, he’s recycling.

Early this year, when I suggested the Philippines needed someone like a Manny Pacquiao, the famous champion boxer who is running for Congress,  to unite the Philippines, I did so half-tongue-in-cheek.  I do think the country needs someone out of norm for a Filipino politician, an  honest, non-politician may have been what the Philippines needed as an inspirational choice, as a real man of the people.  Alas, Pacquiao,who has successfully beaten off world champions, has succumbed to the charm of Villar.

Unfortunately, the record shows that by normal standards of democracy, Villar appears to be the wrong Manny for the job.

Villar does, however, seem perfect for the sobriquet, “Marcos Lite.”

And that’s too bad for the Philippines.

In death, Corazon Aquino becomes spirit of Philippine democracy

I’ll always see Cory Aquino as the demure amateur thrust into the limelight.

I first saw her in 1983 in the Santo Domingo Church in the Philippines. I was there for KRON-TV/ San Francisco doing a story for the NBC network. I was covering the funeral of Aquino’s late husband the charismatic Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, the former journalist and Philippine Senator who was considered the main foe of Philippine autocrat Ferdinand Marcos.

Cory Aquino wore a black, not yellow dress, as she took to the vestibule in mourning and asked the entire country  to “not let Ninoy die in vain.”

She then led a crowd of at more than a million people through the streets of Manila in what was a magnificent funeral procession and a harbinger of the “People Power” revolution that would take place within three years.

Cory Aquino didn’t do half bad, really, as political wives go.

The feelings for Benigno Aquino and the negative feelings for Marcos were so strong, that the momentum was set up for anyone who dared to stand in the spotlight.

Cory Aquino was it by default.

She had enough in her to inspire the millions ready for change to boldly stand with her in 1986 against the dictator. This was the peaceful revolution known as People Power. The assassination, the distraught situation of the Philippine people, and the unwillingness of the country to accept a fraudulent Marcos election bestowed on Aquino a kind of  sainthood. Cory was the Philippines patron saint of democracy.

That was Cory Aquino’s ideal role. She was perfect at that.

But as president, she was a bit lacking.

In interviews, she admitted she had no real idea what she was doing. The devout Catholic had her sincerity, her earnestness. But we learned that public policy is not built on prayer alone. Aquino did manage to survive and keep things together, no small task considering that by the time she left office in 1992, she had survived six coup attempts.

The real disappointment of her reign, however, was not that Cory couldn’t do it, but that the Filipino people who thrust her into power couldn’t do it. With Marcos gone, the deck was merely reshuffled among the governing class. The Ins were Outs. The Outs were In. Net change: Zero.

Exiled leaders came home to their lost fortunes. Former leaders came to America, or accepted lesser posts. The poor did not/could not rise. The country’s collective fate did not improve.

Unfortunately, it’s still debatable if the Philippines is better off now than it was under Marcos.

Since Aquino left office, the Philippines has been reliving watered down versions of its past. Corruption is dialed back, but not eliminated. A bad president (Estrada) is thrown out by “mini-people power,” and is replaced by another oligarch, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Arroyo, who was with President Obama this past week, is the anti-Cory in every way. Cory wore yellow. Arroyo wore red.

It’s safe to say Arroyo is no Cory Aquino.

I’ve called Arroyo Marcos Lite. All the taste of the former dictator, but with fewer calories.

Even Cory Aquino marched in protests that called for Arroyo’s resignation.

Ironically, Cory Aquino’s death may actually make her an even more powerful force in such a devoutly Catholic country.

Death should only solidify Aquino’s role as the spirit of a democratic ideal for the Philippines.