Shifting loyalties in gov’t
On the occasion of the eighth death anniversary of former president Corazon Aquino last Aug. 1, her children noted the dwindling number of friends and supporters who want to be seen in their company.
The crowd that gathered at her tomb that day was small compared to the years that her son, then President Benigno Aquino III, was in power.
Apparently, in the face of President Duterte’s tirades against the “yellows” (referring to the color identified with the Aquinos), not many people want to be identified or associated with the family for political or economic reasons.
The situation in which the Aquinos find themselves at present is not unique. It happens whenever the incumbent administration is not on the best of terms with its predecessor.
When the Aquino administration came to power in 2010 and filed graft charges against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the latter’s appointees and supporters distanced themselves from her. Her political allies in the Lakas-NUCD party transferred their loyalty to Aquino’s Liberal Party, claiming that they wanted to help the new administration accomplish its program of government.
Many of the people who hovered around her when she was president found themselves too busy to visit her at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where she was under hospital arrest. Only those whose ties with her family date back to the days before she became president or were part of her inner social circle maintained their close relationship.
The saying “victory has many fathers and defeat is an orphan” applies squarely to Philippine politics. When a new president is elected, his or her family tree suddenly grows. Anybody who may, one way or the other, be related to him or her, whether by consanguinity or affinity, announces his or her relationship to the new president.
A similar track is taken by people who sometime in the past were friends with, or schoolmates or business partners of the new president or the members of his or her family.
The new president will find himself or herself with countless number of people wanting to be seen or photographed with him or her in official and social functions.
The “ties” with the president is perceived to be more meaningful or intimate if the occasion is personal to the president and his or her family, such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries and other family-oriented affairs.
The impression that a person is close to, is a good friend, or has the ear of the president can come in handy to get extra favors from public offices or private companies that do a lot of business with the government. Some material rewards can be gained from being perceived by the public as an intimate friend of or influential with the president, whether true or not. After all, perception is king in the Philippine political and social scenes.
When the opportunity to profit from that identification or association no longer exists because a new president has been elected and the latter has no love lost for his or her predecessor, expect loyalties to change.
What was “in” or considered a trademark of the past administration becomes “haram” for the new powers that be. Social activities that were once conspicuously observed lose their significance and are considered wasteful use of public funds.
Between now and 2022, the Duterte administration will have legions of political allies and supporters who will say “hallelujah” to the President’s actions and public statements. They will keep him and his family company whenever the opportunity presents itself.
When the President leaves Malacañang five years from now, it would be interesting to find out who would remain as his political allies and supporters. A reprise of the Aquino family’s comment on the dwindling number of supporters would not come as a surprise.
The age-old saying “sic transit gloria mundi” (thus passes away the glory of this world) holds true up to the present.
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Raul J. Palabrica ([email protected]) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.
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