WE ARE told to wear yellow for Benigno Aquino III. Tie a yellow ribbon, wear a yellow shirt, remember the woman in glasses, remember the man in the bloodied white suit. Show him that you are behind him, he says, and he will stand for you.
He is aware that some have raised issues of his inexperience. ?Some said I?m not yet ripe for the picking.?
There is only one reason for Noynoy Aquino to join the mad race for the 2010 presidency. It is because he is Ninoy?s son and Cory?s child, his father dead with a promise on his lips and a bullet lodged at the side of his neck, his mother the lady in yellow who rose to battle when she could have knelt and wept. When Ninoy Aquino bled on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, his wife?s candidacy was forged by a nation so desperate it was willing to settle for a presidential candidate whose only qualification was the dull gleam of a wedding ring.
Cory Aquino did not win that election alone. Chino Roces won it, when he plodded from office to office, collecting signatures to demonstrate the people?s support. Eggie Apostol and Joe Burgos won it, with issue after issue of their publications raising sneering middle fingers to the Marcos censors. And, some have forgotten, Doy Laurel won it, by setting aside a lifetime of presidential aspiration and allowing the opposition to make way for a woman who said she did not want the presidency.
And there is the crux of next year?s elections: a great wide field of hand-shaking, jingle-humming, speech-making would-be oppositionist presidents and their phalanx of spin doctors and kingmakers. They struggle against a Goliath, they say. 2010 is the time to loose the hands of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from its tenacious hold on the ship of state.
So they send out their press releases and smile at the reporters. Here are the chosen men of God ? although it must be an uncertain God to have three men of the cloth announce the blessing of heaven. Here are the reformists, the patriots, the people?s champions, all kissing babies and answering on cue, each and every one ? and their wives ? preparing for the presidency. None have acknowledged the fact that their candidacies are thinning the margins of an already fragmented opposition, while the administration carefully primes its one candidate.
I know very little of Noynoy, and even his greatest supporters have little to say of his achievements in his two years as senator of the republic. He seems to have little of his father?s eloquence, and less of his mother?s appealing charm. It is difficult to admit that this country is so desperate for leaders that this man may walk down the campaign path on the strength of no more than the accident of genetics ? this boy born of heroes, pushed by fate and faith into a rain of yellow confetti, with little to commend him other than his hesitation.
And yet there is the possibility it will be enough, that the weight of giants at his back may propel him all the way to the Palace. The question depends not so much on whether he can achieve support, the question is what will happen if he does. The danger of a vote split four, five, six ways across opposition candidates is very real. And so Noli de Castro will run on the administration treadmill, powered by the machinery of the national government against a scattershot of messiahs and champions, none willing to compromise their grand sacrifices of serving the nation.
Look at the landscape. Manny Villar pulls away at the polls, his several advertising agencies doing justice to the millions he paid in prime time airing. Mar Roxas says there is no turning back, as he pedals on to 2010. ?I want to make big changes in our country and the presidency is the only vantage point at which that can be done.? Jamby Madrigal has ?crossed the Rubicon,? Eddie Villanueva runs under what he described as ?politics of God,? Mike Velarde is ?dreaming of becoming president,? Joseph Estrada is ?99.9 percent? sure of running if the opposition does not field a single candidate and Loren Legarda believes she can only save Mother Earth ?if I am president of my country.?
There are many who question Noynoy?s inexperience, and it is right they do. But these are desperate times, and in the same way I?d rather see an untried college professor who would rather spend his time watching birds sitting in the Pampanga House of Representatives, I?ll take Ninoy?s son if he can bring the nation at his feet.
Governor Ed Panlilio has already offered his bid for the presidency to the young senator, and as slim as Panlilio?s chances are, it is the sort of gesture that demonstrates the sort of human spirit that launched a singing revolution in the face of a cannon?s mouth. Roxas will not bend to Estrada, neither will Villar bow to Escudero, but they might for Ninoy?s son and Cory?s child.
?Many ask why I remain undecided,? Aquino says. ?In the first place, I had no plans of running for higher office. It?s not an easy job. I ask you, how many can honestly raise their hands and volunteer to take on this great responsibility? You have to think it over before you accept the challenge. You don?t want to fail. Most important, you don?t want to fail those who believe in you.?
Of course he can be another paper doll hero, to be dressed up and discarded in the same pile as Jun Lozada and Joker Arroyo. There can only be one Cory Aquino, but it was her example that demonstrated how integrity in leadership is not contingent on political experience, it is dependent on character. I do not know if Noynoy is what this nation needs, but if he can ride on the shoulders of his parents all the way to 2010, and bend the opposition to his will, I?ll take what comes after on faith.