From Cory’s mouth came these words: “Alam naman natin si Ninoy. He really wanted to be President. Everything’s just been set for 1973.”
Cory declared the statement in a video interview that was made part of an audio visual presentation entitled Beyond Conspiracy: 25 Years After. The documentary is an effort at providing sensible insights into the protracted political skirmish between Ninoy Aquino and his nemesis, President Ferdinand E. Marcos. For Ninoy’s presidential ambition, 1973 never came; Marcos imposed martial law September 21, 1972. Evidently without the producers intending it, the presentation actually depicts Ninoy’s failure at gaining an upper hand over Marcos at any stage in their decade-long struggle – except in that fateful August 21, 1983 homecoming when from the United States Ninoy returned to the Philippines only to meet with his supposed assassination.
But did that assassination end Ninoy’s fight with Marcos?
On the contrary, it afforded Ninoy that one single shining moment of making true what earlier in his so-called celebrated speech in Wilshire Ebell Theater, Los Angeles, California, USA, on February 1981 he said: “And though I promised never to enter the political arena again, I swear to dedicate the last drop of my blood for the dismantlement of your (Marcos’) dictatorship.”
That purported assassination, therefore, amounted to Ninoy’s brilliant reprise of what at the Battle of Flamborough Head during the American Revolutionary War in the late 1700s, when Captain John Paul Jones declared, answering the British who asked if he intended to surrender: “I have not yet begun to fight!”
Beginning with Ninoy’s death, the Aquinos actually went on to build the longest dynastic rule at the Philippine presidency, interspersed only with the short-lived stint by President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, whose constitutional six-year term was aborted by the military breakaway in 2001, drawing strength from Cory’s continuing yellow political clout. Counting the Fidel V. Ramos tenure right after Cory’s own six-year administration following EDSA 1, the ascendancy of the Aquino Yellow Power in Malacañang has already taken up a total period of 26 years, necessarily including the nine-year presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the beneficiary of that military breakaway who toed the Cory line through the Hyatt 10 until she thought it better and be her own person.
By current reckoning, the Aquino dynasty has now enjoyed a lifespan six years over that of the Marcos rule which lasted 20 years, though this should discount Marcos’ non-dictatorial administration from 1965 to 1972, that period of his presidency being a legitimate one going by the 1935 Philippine Constitution. This comparison should give even less dynastic lifespan to Marcos.
On the whole, the Aquinos have, either directly or through allies virtually acting as surrogates, ruled the Philippines the longest in history. And in this context, the question, as John Paul Jones was asked in the Battle of Flamborough Head, is evidently raised: Do they intend to give up the presidency?
When the battle was seemingly hopeless for Ninoy to gain the Philippine presidency in 1983, he executed the greatest political sleight of hand ever performed right under the very noses of hoodwinked Filipinos: Getting himself killed, thereby throwing the country in a conflagration that ultimately propelled Cory to the presidency of the land, finally in place of Marcos. In the documentary cited above, the audio visual presentation host, Tina Munzon Palma, concluded: “In the end, Ninoy won his political chess game with Marcos by doing the unthinkable. He sacrificed the king.” Of this, in one blog, I wrote that in chess, what is being sacrificed is the Queen if it were necessary for preventing the capture of the King, which is the objective of the game. But the political genius that he was, Ninoy sacrificed the king and in so doing caused the ascension of the queen to the throne. “Good death,” I wrote in that blog. “Translation of the Greek word euthanasia.”
The way the nation sees it now, no more Aquino is likely to rise after Benigno 3rd. The heir apparent being groomed, Manuel Roxas 2nd, has consistently been rating low in the surveys for the 2016 presidential elections. In the latest Manila surveys, Roxas scored 10.7%, just on top of Duterte, 8.6%, Miriam 7.5%, and Seneres .5%. On top of Roxas is Poe at 34.4%., up by a huge 20%.
But what should be cause for great worry is that Vice President Jejomar C. Binay now beats Poe to the top post at 38 %, a comfortable lead of 4% and can still be counting. VP Binay has had a history of doubling up in the last stretch, which should raise that figure to the vicinity of 70% come May 2016. In fact, the objective of the Binay camp is just 65% for assurance of victory.
But that assumes regularity in the electoral process. Will this take place?
Over the past year, there has been no letup in Aquino’s public damning of VP Binay, particularly in the investigation by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee of alleged overpricing in the construction of Makati City Hall Building II and of allegations of ill-gotten wealth. The objective of this entire gargantuan exercise, as advanced by political pundits, is to discourage the vice president from pursuing the presidency, which he publicly declared as early as 2012. VP Binay has remained steadfast in that pursuit. On the same day VP Binay filed his certificate of candidacy for president, the Ombudsman released its decision finding probable cause for graft charges filed against him in that body.
What the Ombudsman has done has no precedent in Philippine jurisprudence. The Philippine Constitution is unequivocal on the matter: the Vice President, like the President, is an impeachable official, and tradition has had it that the President is immune from suits while in office, so, too, must the Vice President be.
But precisely, the Ombudsman has dared sail uncharted constitutional waters. There is no stopping the Sandiganbayan from hearing an indictment against a sitting vice president for the first time – and for the first time, too, render a conviction. And once that conviction is rendered, that’s it. VP Binay is committed to jail – forever disqualified from seeking public office, much more the presidency of the land.
It offers little consolation that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales came out with a statement that indictment against VP Binay will be filed after his term ends. But VP Binay’s term ends just as his term as newly-elected president begins. Morales’ is an empty talk. The Aquino administration is on record of having dispensed with constitutional restraints on a number of critical cases, and it certainly won’t stop at nothing to make sure the scenario does not come up to a Binay win in May2016.
Meantime, the Poe disqualification cases at the Comelec become moot and academic – that is, as a consequence of the Binay conviction. So do the presidential aspirations of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, et al. Why? Because the sure chaos to follow a Binay conviction by the Sandiganbayan shall have rendered the elections of 2016 suddenly a thing of the past.
Moreover, the elections of 2016 are into times of heightening world conflict in general, as evidenced by the recent bombings in Paris and in Beirut, events that already give rise to talks of World War III.
In the particular case of the Philippines, the escalation of tension in the West Philippine Sea does not quite augur for a peaceful political climate that can guarantee orderly electoral process. Between now and May 2016 is a period long enough for anything to happen that could alter the political landscape. Whatever that landscape turns out to be, Aquino stays ensconced in the presidency, wielding an enormous array of powers.
One power which Aquino enjoys but which he has not given a try at is the power to declare martial law. Either a people’s uprising arising from VP Binay’s conviction by Sandiganbayan or an escalation of the West Philippine Sea tension to the point of a shooting war – or in the world scale, a widespread clash between the democracies and the so-called Islamist terror – gives Aquino the prerogative to declare martial law – a good excuse for not holding elections.
Roxas need not have to win the presidency after all. Aquino stays there till kingdom come.