FOR President Aquino’s bizarre transfiguration into King Canute at the 30th anniversary commemoration of the Edsa People power revolt, Filipinos should either credit or blame the New York Times.
It was America’s most influential newspaper, with its report that “Filipinos are yearning for the Golden Age of Marcos,” that impelled the President to launch a tirade against the Marcos family, and caused him to ask our people not to vote for Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr for vice president in the May elections.
Trying to prove to the world and his supporters that he can still control events in the Philippines, he committed himself to halting the rising tide of support for Bongbong’s candidacy. But like King Canute in the legend, Aquino will most likely get his feet wet.
What the legend says
In the legend and the chronicles, it is told that Canute, king of England and Denmark in the 12th century, went to the seashore joined by his courtiers.
As narrated by Henry of Huntingdon, Canute with great vigor commanded that his chair be set on the shore, when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to the rising sea, saying “You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord.” But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked his feet and legs.
Moving away, Canute declared: “All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and that none is worthy of the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws.”
Afterwards, King Canute never again placed the crown on his head, but placed it instead above a picture of the Lord nailed to the cross.
Are we headed to the same denouement in BS Aquino’s frenzied effort to stop the election of Bongbong and his possible accession to the presidency?
Before discussing how this plot will be resolved, let’s turn back to the instigator of Aquino’s tranfiguration, the New York Times.
Stop butting heads with Supreme Court
The NYT has the penchant of getting under Aquino’s skin.
On August 28, 2014, at a time when Aquino was crossing swords with the Supreme Court over the disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and was nursing hopes of running for a second term, the NY Times published a scathing editorial entitled “Political Mischief in the Philippines.”
It bluntly told Aquino that his actions “jeopardize Philippine democracy.”
It reported that the Supreme Court, by a 13-to-0 vote, struck down an Aquino spending program, saying “he had exceeded his authority in disbursing funds and that parts of the program consisted of irregular pork-barrel spending.”
The editorial concluded emphatically: “Mr. Aquino should uphold the Constitution of a fragile democracy if only out of respect for his father and for his mother. In practical terms, this means he should stop butting heads with the Supreme Court and gracefully step down when his term is up.”
Overnight, all talk of an Aquino second term stopped.
The following January, when Pope Francis came to visit the country, Aquino tried to grab the spotlight from him by lecturing the Holy Father and insulting the Church in Malacañang.
The Golden Age of Marcos
This time around, the wounding piece of journalism is a N NY Times report timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the EDSA revolt.
Written by Fred Whaley, it reported that “As Filipinos prepare for the 30th anniversary on of the ‘People Power’ revolution that toppled Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Marcos legacy is undergoing a political renaissance by those who claim it was a ‘golden age’ of peace and prosperity.”
It quoted Richard Negre, a Manila resident who was born two years after Marcos was overthrown. He said: “I think Marcos was our best president. That was when the Philippines was the leader of Asia. We were respected.”
The Times’ big revelation is that the family’s political resurgence is being led by Marcos’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a popular senator who is tied for first place in the vice president’s race for the May 9 national election.
The report went on to quote other citizens who testified affirmatively for the Marcoses, and some who cast a skeptical eye on them.
It quoted Imelda Orduña, a 70-year-old retired schoolteacher, who said she remembers well the time of Marcos when there was no traffic, police officers did not extract bribes and criminals were on the run.
Another citizen, a customer service operator, said Bongbong Marcos was putting forward a proposal for the future that will bring back the best of the Marcos years.
She said, “That was a time when our economy was booming. Even Imelda did a lot of good things. She shared our culture with the world. I can forgive her for having so many shoes.”
It also gave space to one Aquino spokesman who said that the country is more successful now than it was under Mr. Marcos. “We are now known as Asia’s rising star, an investment-grade economy and an example of good governance.”
But the final word was given to a young woman of 26, who spends hours each day battling traffic to get to work and is frustrated by the current government.
“During the time of martial law, the Philippines was disciplined,” she said as she gestured toward a group of jaywalkers dodging vehicles and blocking traffic. “People don’t even know how to cross the street now.”
Who will have the last word?
Who will have the last word? Noynoy Aquino or Bongbong Marcos?
Will the tide obey President Aquino and turn away from Bongbong?
Or will the tide keep surging forward, soak Aquino’s feet in water, and carry Bongbong to victory in May?
I’ve seen and covered too many of these political contests not to know where the wind is blowing, and when the writing is on the wall.
Come May 9, the Filipino King Canute (BS Aquino) will discover that his feet are wet.
And Bongbong Marcos will wake up to a morning, knowing that his time has indeed come.