Losing a leader, unearthing stories
The passing of former president Benigno Aquino III came as a surprise to both the people within his inner circle who were not privy to the gravity of his illness, and the greater public. The former president had remained silent for the past few years, preferring to observe quietly the contemporary issues besetting the country.
This untimely passing happens with the national elections about to happen in less than a year, which means it will definitely have an influence, one way or the other, on the dynamics of national politics. Political analysts seem to be in a consensus that given the stature of the former president, the current fragmented state of his political coalition while alliances in the national level remain fluid and blurred four months before the scheduled filing of certificates of candidacy, Aquino’s passing will somehow have an effect on the upcoming political exercise in the country.
As to how this influence will take shape in the coming months especially as the national campaigns get going—what issues will be included in the discourse, which personalities will emerge as candidates to seize the narrative, etc.—remains to be seen. One can cite the candidacies and subsequent victories of the two former President Aquinos arising from familial tragedy as examples of how the dynamics in the race can very well pivot into unexpected directions once a defining disruption takes place.
One thing is for sure: The death of the former president will have an impact on the ensuing political narrative. For the past five years, narratives and constructs coming from the “dilawan” side of the fence have been silenced and stifled, subjected to intense criticism both in mainstream and social media, as the triumphant Duterte narrative prevailed. The silence of those being criticized, the former president included, had the effect of burying their own versions of the story, allowing the current victors to direct the entire plot of the game.
But, as has happened with Aquino’s demise, those buried narratives are being unearthed and rediscovered these days. It is part of our culture, after all, that whenever a person dies, stories about his or her legacy and contributions have to be told and retold as a way to salve the grief. Stories about the goodness of the deceased proliferate, the shortcomings diminished or set aside for the meantime, and the person’s positive traits emphasized. Aquino’s sudden passing provides a venue for a significant portion of the population to remember and voice out what has been submerged, obscured, and momentarily forgotten about the P-Noy years.
This rediscovery is something that can frame and reframe the narratives of both the administration and opposition blocs. The legacy of the Aquino administration and the “yellow politics” it represented in the country have been the subject of unrelenting attacks by supporters of the current dispensation. But now, leading into the elections next year, that legacy will get a reappraisal and re-airing, and the public will have to discern and discuss its character and merits vis-à-vis the claims that have been made by contrary quarters. The coming months look set to be very interesting times.
Luisito V. Dela Cruz is assistant professor of the Departments of Political Science and Social Sciences in San Beda University.
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