The Asian Voice

Will Aquino's death trigger a national soul-searching?: Inquirer columnist

The writer says the legacy of Benigno Aquino III lies in the people choosing their leaders on the basis of old-fashioned heart and soul.

The urn of former Philippine president Benigno Aquino during a public viewing at the Church of Gesu, Ateneo de Manila University in Manila on June 25, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The biggest political paradox in our nation's history is this-our 15th president, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, was the best president our country ever had by all standards.

But why did we end up choosing his polar opposite as successor?

Noynoy was mild-mannered, respectful, and pro-democracy. His current successor is ill-mannered, bad-tempered, and prone to authoritarian ways. Why did we make a complete turnaround?

Noynoy became our country's chief executive with the least expectations in 2010. Our country then had just emerged from 12 years of molestation and abuse, on the political and economic fronts, under Joseph Estrada and then Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Noynoy was denigrated as boring, unfeeling, and aloof. He was belittled as having been elected to the presidency by the mere reflected radiance of his celebrated parents.

Noynoy went on to rule our country without fanfare. He left office with a country still imperfect, but immensely better compared to the battered nation that fell on his lap.

More importantly, after we had been wandering in the wilderness for so many decades, Noynoy set the country on the right path. But it was still a long road ahead and our country needed more mending and fixing by those who would succeed him.

Noynoy led the country to a tremendous improvement from the macro level, with huge infrastructure projects and unprecedented economic expansion. Under his watch, corruption was reduced tremendously, and powerful politicians were haled to court and imprisoned on plunder charges, including a former president and three powerful senators. A wayward chief justice was impeached.

His accomplishments, however, needed augmentation on the micro level, especially on poverty, lack of opportunities, and peace and order, all of which have long troubled the masses. His short stint as president, his inadequate exposure on the ground, and the handicapped outlook of his advisers destined these issues to be passed on to his successors.

Noynoy had his faults and failings, but they did not emanate from a rotten heart and a corrupted soul. They were the consequences of how life hemmed his reality, hewed his vision, and rationed the kind of friends in whose hands he reposed his trust. Noynoy wasn't perfect, but his moral compass was always set toward searching for what was right.

We are a people fixated on charismatic leaders, and it has worsened to the point that we gravitate in droves toward leaders with teleserye swagger who are profuse with sweet-sounding promises but who leave us even more wretched in the end.

The lasting legacy of Noynoy is that he has shown us by his brand of principled leadership that we must choose our leaders on the basis of old-fashioned heart and soul.

When Ninoy Aquino died, it triggered a massive soul-searching for our people, and it resulted in a huge political upheaval. When Cory Aquino passed on, her death generated a second round of soul-searching that swayed the political course of our country.

Will Noynoy's death spark a third round of soul-searching for our country? I sure hope so, because we desperately need another one.

  • The writer is a columnist for the paper. The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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