In the Philippines, the biggest political announcement this week is Sen. Mar Roxas' decision to give up his presidential ambition in favor of Sen. Benigno Simeon Noynoy Aquino, his partymate in the Liberal Party and son of martyr Benigno Ninoy Aquino and the late "People Power" icon Pres. Corazon Aquino. Even before the official announcement was made, my husband Leandro who happens to be the Liberal Party's regional chair in the Cordillera Region sent me a text message informing me about it.

Noynoy, who appears to have a strong middle class following, is said to be a reluctant candidate.

Dr. Carol Araullo wrote a very objective article
published in Business World, 4-5 September 2009 issue. I am reproducing it as I did on my Facebook wall. It is also interesting to read the comments posted on my Facebook wall which I am reproducing in the Comments section.

By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Those who predicted the fizzling out of moves to enlist Senator Noynoy Aquino to run for President in the wake of the massive turn-out at the burial of his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, did not expect the relative ease and swiftness by which Senator Mar Roxas was dislodged from being the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate. Strangely enough, Mr. Roxas was apparently convinced to give way, not to a better candidate, not even to a more convincingly popular one at that.

The Noynoy-for-President supporters are invoking not his personal qualities and achievements but those of his departed famous parents. There is a discernible, if not conscious attempt, to draw parallels between the situation faced by Cory Aquino when she was drafted as a reluctant candidate in 1986 to run against the dictator Marcos and her son’s current circumstances. All the better it seems to invest him with the mantle of his parent’s political legacy.

Mr. Aquino’s own reluctance to run for president has been elevated to political virtue, interpreted to mean he is not lusting after the most powerful office in the land unlike the other presidential candidates, much in keeping with his beloved mother’s sterling example.

The delay in Mr. Aquino’s announcement that he will enter the presidential race lends itself quite nicely to the political drama of the man’s sudden foray into the big-time electoral arena. The campaign strategists in the Liberal Party are doubtlessly capitalizing on the people’s contempt for the kapit-tuko Arroyo clique by projecting the image of self-sacrifice and team spirit of the LP stalwarts, Messrs. Roxas and Aquino.

Noynoy’s lack of involvement in corruption scandals and any high-profile role in the horse trading and other opportunist maneuverings inherent in the decadent political order are pointed to by his supporters as added points that allegedly make him the ideal foil against the corrupt-ridden and morally-bankrupt Arroyo regime.

As for Mr. Aquino’s lack of preparedness for the requirements of being Chief Executive, cited not only by Malacañang and his detractors but by his own close-knit family, once more the example of his mother, the plain-housewife-turned-opposition-leader, is offered to trump the arguments against him. On faith, we are supposed to accept the line that if Cory could do it, so can Noynoy.

All this is secondary to the more forceful argument-- that Noynoy is the only person capable of uniting the opposition and galvanizing it into a cohesive machinery with a single presidential candidate that can square off with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's candidate, if not GMA herself. He is purportedly the only star in the Philippine political firmament that would auger our nation’s deliverance from the usurping, plundering and power-hungry Arroyo regime.

That idea appeared to have gotten a big boost last Monday when Mr. Roxas withdrew from the race in favor of Mr. Aquino. But it is still a long way to go from what the Noynoy-for-President drumbeaters are claiming he alone can do. What it achieved was galvanize the dominant Liberal Party faction into backing Noynoy instead of Mar Roxas, virtually clinching the nomination for Noynoy even as he defers his announcement to run.

As expected, survey frontrunner Sen. Manny Villar has promptly indicated he is not about to back out and give way to some people whose main credentials are in their surnames and aristocratic origins. Obviously referring to the Aquino-Roxas tandem, Mr. Villar reasoned that the people deserve to have a candidate who has plebeian origins and who knows what it's like to be destitute in this country. Again, obviously referring to himself.

It remains to be seen whether Noynoy would be able to persuade the likes of come backing deposed President “Erap” Estrada and young upstart Sen. Chiz Escudero to unite under his banner, but most will agree it's a long shot.

But this is not even the main and most important issue at hand. Buried under the rising anticipation and excitement on who will run with whom is the question: what do they stand for?

Roxas et al herald themselves as THE harbingers of "tunay na pagbabago" -- genuine change. Fine. It is at least recognition that the Filipino people need and demand more than a change of Malacañang tenants. (Ironically, it was from the Aquino presidency that the people began to realize that replacing a hated, despotic, plundering, fascist and puppet ruler with a benign and popular one does not necessarily rid government of corruption, puppetry and fascist rule.)

One of the most important lessons of the “people power” uprisings, EDSA 1 and 2, which are relevant to the current election campaign is that it is not enough to unite the opposition against an already isolated incumbent president. It is not enough to win the vote and expel that unwanted ruler.

What is more important – in fact, most important -- is to unite the opposition and the people behind a program of genuine change. From corruption and plunder to clean government; from political repression to upholding civil and political liberties; from subservience to foreign interests to an independent foreign and economic policy; from feudal exploitation and oppression arising from landlessness to genuine land reform, from wanton destruction of the environment for profit to ecological protection and sustainability; from a militarist solution to armed conflicts to negotiating in earnest with revolutionary armed movements for a just and lasting peace; and much more.

None of the serious contenders has so far come out with a substantial platform for change, including those who claim to stand for it. Beyond motherhood statements and rhetoric, not one has painstakingly elucidated his or her stand on land reform, foreign debt, trade liberalization, labor rights, US military presence and activities in Philippine territory, electoral reform, the right to self determination of the Moro people and other indigenous peoples, etc.

Too often, the candidate’s stand on major problems bedeviling our country is the last thing to be made known, if at all. Thus the quality of the political discourse during the election period does little to raise the political awareness of the electorate and bring about a more informed and wise choice of leaders.

A Noynoy-led Liberal Party, or for that matter any and all of the opposition parties, will be doing our people a great service if they clearly spell out their stand on these issues and unite our people behind a platform that is truly democratic, patriotic and just.

Until they seriously do so and while they continue to engage in the politics of personalities, opportunism and demagoguery, they would not have taken a single step away from the worn-out, rotten politics of old towards "tunay na pagbabago".*#

*genuine change

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