Across the Central Luzon plains that spoke Pampango, there was a term of endearment applied to the late Ninoy Aquino’s storytelling prowess. It was “sarsa” or sauce. There was no story from Ninoy, whether it was political or personal, that remained bland and uninteresting. Probably, it stemmed from his background as a journalist. Or, it was due to his preternatural gift of gab. As a kid, I walked through paddies to get into Lubao’s town plaza—a 45-minute walk at the very least and a snake bite was a probability—just to listen to Ninoy’s storytelling cum political speeches.
I am a senior citizen now. I have heard a lot of political talk. But no one has Ninoy Aquino’s gift of holding his audience spellbound. At the Lubao church square, as Ninoy wove his stories in the singsong of our mothers’ tongue, I felt that I could listen to him forever.
His son and namesake, in contrast, always aspires to be brisk and business-like, as if the magic of credit upgrades and growth rates would vanish were he to apply some humanity, some sauce and embellishment, to his words. The coldness and detachment of his spoken words is music to his Big Business fans, but suffocating to ordinary men like me and my neighbors.
If you were not on his payroll, if you were not a plutocrat about to bid on the PPP projects, if you were not a politician asking for help or seeking an appointive post for a crony, you would definitely leave in the middle of his speech. The boredom factor will drive you away.
Sauce in stories thrill the audience. Speeches that sound like power point presentations turn the ordinary people, who want poetry from their leaders, off.
From PNoy try segueing to Senator Grace Poe and this becomes all too clear. The cadence of her words, the brisk delivery, the somberness of the tone, the general drift of her message remind each and everyone of us of the businesslike Mr. Aquino. Straight and to the point—to the point of coldness or insensitivity
Then this creeping feeling (or thought ) comes. Just in case she runs for president and wins, she would probably be President Aquino Part 2. She is not by any means a clone of the incumbent president. You just have the feeling that she would govern like President Aquino, a cold, and uncaring technocrat always hectoring us about “tuwid na daan” and “integrity.”
And that a good government has the main business of achieving growth rates, getting credit upgrades and getting the approbation of the multilateral institutions and the Davos crowd. Not about caring for the good of the greater mass below, the underclass that needs the government most.
In short, the ideal leader when viewed from the prism of deified business leaders like Mr. Sycip. Who, according to news reports, has urged Ms. Poe to seek the presidency.
If that happens and that were the case, President Poe will just be an uncaring, pro-business and all-business leader like Mr. Aquino.
But then …
But then a totally discerning President Poe may fully grasp the brutal wages of a government that devoted its affairs to posting growth rates, getting credit upgrades and locking up the approbation of the Davos crowd and not much else. And talk about these things with pride as if they were the only issues that mattered in the world.
She would get the full sense on who thrived in a full presidential term of amazing GDP growth and be stricken with a sense of shock and dismay. Who, exactly, thrived under Mr. Aquino?
In a surging economy of more than 3 million jobless, more than 7 million in the underemployed category and millions classified as gainfully employed but receiving slave wages, Bloomberg, in a survey of global wealth, has created another wealth category: those-who-can-buy-a-small-country rich. In short, the super rich who can readily buy small countries without floating bonds or arranging for loans.
And that category, this may be the ultimate legacy of the Aquino government, is now a sweet, attainable spot for the dollar billionaires who thrived under Mr. Aquino.
The staffers of Forbes who are tracking global wealth have yielded the same results, perhaps the great—but only legacy—of the Aquino administration.
There is this possibility that President Poe would not do policy from the prism of one who wants to please Mr. Sycip.
There is a chance that she has taken to heart, fully and deeply, the words spoken by her late father Fernando Poe Jr, in the movie Asedillo.
It is a classic. FPJ, as Asedillo the rebel, told a supportive mass about the “isda at dagat” thing in which a rebel, or a leader for that matter, can only thrive with the supportive embrace of the masa.
There is a chance that she would stake her presidency on nurturing the lives and welfare of me and my neighbors and she would embrace the pains and the struggles of the masa addressed by his father in that iconic scene in Asedillo.