The point seemed like superstition. “Every time the nation needs saving, an Aquino dies.” It had the photos of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., his wife Corazon or Cory and their son Benigno Simeon III or Noynoy. The first was martyred in the waning years of the Marcos dictatorship, the second died before the 2012 presidential elections while the third one died only recently. Cory became president months after her husband was murdered, Noynoy became president months after Cory died. Some people took that to mean another Aquino would become president next year.
But for me that is missing the point of the symbolism. The point is actually that we could be on the verge of what Marxists call a “qualitative leap.” When Ninoy died, the people were ready to oust the Marcos dictatorship. His death merely pushed the momentum towards that qualitative leap forward. When Cory died, the people have had enough of corruption in high places and wanted a leader they could fully trust. With Noynoy’s death, there seems to be a demand for better and decent kind of governance. The leader may not necessarily be an Aquino but somebody worthy of representing the brand.
It does look to me like we are ready for another qualitative leap politically. Noynoy’s death prompted a reexamination of our political values and allowed us to see better the contrast between the PNoy brand of governance and the current one. Sentimentalism and romanticism could also provide the moribund “yellow” forces with renewed vigor and sense of purpose going into next year’s presidential election.
That is the point of the message now circulating in social media, which essentially is also a hope. That is why the Duterte social media trolls are also working overtime to prevent the “qualitative leap” from happening. But can mere trolls redirect the path of history’s march?
In the recent US elections, the old forces represented by reelectionist president Donald Trump tried that but failed. Joe Biden and the Democrats won the elections as the tide of public opinion swung away from the vulgarity, lack of decency and fanaticism that became the hallmark of the Trump years. Even with their use of social media, the Trump forces simply could not change the tide of history.
In 2012, Duterte surprised the political landscape with the effective use of a machinery many say was built and funded by the Marcoses with the help of foreign influencers led by China. They were aided by the Filipino people’s naivete in dealing with a new technology that is shaping new values, behavior and world views. An example: they could not even distinguish legitimate reports from fake news. I am sure they can better deal with that now.
One clear effect of PNoy’s death is that it changed the narrative of his government from the one shaped by trolls to the more objective one. That could make it difficult for diehard Duterte supporters to navigate in this time around. Add to that the economic crunch caused by the pandemic and we really could be in for a qualitative leap.