It is easier for columnists, academics, analysts, and commentators in general, to go in the direction of wherever they feel the tide of public opinion is going. All the better to tailor-fit their opinions and conclusions to the public in its momentary prejudices rather than actually do original thinking. This is why, in the case of Benigno S. Aquino III, they could instantly pivot their opinions with his passing. They only have to do today what they did yesterday, which was reflect public opinion back to the public itself.
Not so, and this may come as counterintuitive to many, for the politicians. The death of the former president, everyone feels, will have an impact on the outcome of 2022. But no one knows how. For the radicals, the itch to contribute an avalanche of sloganeering and ritual tract-thumping was irresistible, reversing recent efforts to paper over the past in order to pursue a united front.
As for whatever is left counting itself, over the past five years, as an opposition, the fact that it was the breakup of the former president’s coalition that allowed a minority take over of the country overshadows whatever genuine regret may be felt in certain quarters. Besides which, the embarrassment and even outright rejection some quarters felt while the former president was still alive, has been too obvious and remains too fresh in the memory of the public for its practitioners to derive any benefits from his passing.
For the ruling coalition, they were girding for battle thinking there would remain, in lonely internal exile in Times Street, a convenient straw man to rhetorically prop up and then knock down, in order to score easy political points with their followers. The administration coalition was in the middle of the more urgent process of candidate control through cannibalism (rigging a fight in the PDP-Laban where he could be TKO’d and carried away in a stretcher, with lawsuits to ensure political euthanasia), when the former president inconveniently died. The parable of the prodigal son played out over three days, a nation that had viewed him with disdain taking its dead son into its arms one last time; and all the ruling coalition could do was insinuate that the former president died of neglect: as if diabetes, and kidney problems, aren’t such familiar curses many instinctively understood what the man went through.
The President may have gotten himself together too late to be seen personally condoling with the relatives of the deceased, but he could do what his supporters couldn’t — reclaim center stage. This he did in the way that has always served him best: by doubling-down. So he went where he feels safest, Camp Crame, to talk to those to whom he is closest, vigilantes and police, to reiterate what he holds dearest: the idea, as friend and foe alike, taken up as a refrain at the start of his presidency and which will become the slogan of his campaign to succeed himself: “Obosen.” The pandemic means “a comfortable life for all,” a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage is a receding dream; but you can be given a gun, which provides its own cold comfort.
The papers say the President’s pet scheme to arm volunteers is merely a trial balloon, because the Palace has “clarified” that is so, and legislators say so, too; but he has spoken and every cop can take it as license to rope in convenient “volunteers” and a force committed to regime retention now has a civilian force multiplier going into an election.
We forget there was once a showdown in the ruling coalition, between the radical wing represented by Leoncio Evasco Jr., who, as secretary to the Cabinet, wanted to create a mass ideological movement, and infiltrate, reorganize, and radicalize the bureaucracy, to create a self-perpetuating ruling party. It was opposed by pragmatists represented by Christopher Go who, as special assistant and head of the Presidential Management Staff, was insistent on each faction keeping their current perks and future options open. The radicals lost but the pragmatists today confront the problem every previous ruling coalition has faced, which is its authority and influence has a fixed expiration date, now nearing. The President’s daughter (being courted for the purposes of a tandem by Gilbert Teodoro) says she will not run with her father; the father (the President) says he would be willing to run with Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who has to tiptoe around Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. All are waiting if Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can deliver an undivided Mindanao by eliminating Emmanuel Pacquiao.