I do not know if Sen. Benigno Aquino III—“Noynoy” to everyone in our republic of diminutives—should run for president. I do know that his mother’s slow death and historic funeral revitalized the political scene, and that it is only in keeping with the noblest tradition of public service that Noynoy thinks he is duty-bound to listen to what the people are saying.
I do not know if famous economist Solita Monsod, Cory Aquino’s first economic planning chief, merely reflected the truth, that Noynoy’s decision to go on retreat after (or despite) the Roxas withdrawal smacked of cynical manipulation. (I am happy to agree with “Mareng Winnie” on most issues, and have said more than once that she seems to me to speak from or indeed to define the political center.) I do know, though, that a spiritual retreat can be an occasion, not only for the discovery of God’s will as we understand it, but for confirmation of the guidance we have already received—and that a genuine seeker after a particular kind of consolation (I am thinking of Fr. Jose Blanco’s “truth of the situation”) may need “time alone with God” (one definition of a spiritual retreat that I particularly like) in order to make the resolutions truly his own.
I do not know if colleague and rabble-rousing chair-wrecker Billy Esposo is right on the money, that the DNA for winning votes can be transmitted from generation (Ninoy Aquino as “the most exciting vote getter of his time”; Cory Aquino as, in my own view, the politician with the longest electoral coattails in history) to generation. (I see, incidentally, that my e-mail buddy Billy has moved effortlessly into the late Teddy Benigno’s place, as the moral center of the Star’s opinion page.) I do know that reasonable people can differ about Noynoy’s chances, or predict different outcomes (he wins, or he loses but creates a potent political movement) even though they share a hope in common.
I do not know if other commentators, including (to my surprise) the brilliant Bishop Chito Tagle of Imus, are right, when they say that Sen. Mar Roxas did, not only the right thing, but the practical thing, when he decided on Sept. 1 to give way to a possible Aquino candidacy. (This was not the first time Roxas helped influence a swiftly changing political dynamic with an act of renunciation made at the beginning of the month; on Nov. 2, 2000, he resigned from Joseph Estrada’s Cabinet, adding unexpected momentum to the campaign that led, a mere week and a half later, to the first-ever impeachment of a president.)
I do know that people are mistaken when they think that Nov. 30, 2009, the deadline for filing certificates of candidacy, is the finish line, and that survey ratings at that time will determine the results of the May 2010 elections. (In the SWS survey of November 2003, Fernando Poe Jr. with 25 percent and Noli de Castro with 24 shared top billing, while Raul Roco with 18 percent and eventual though now-disputed winner Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with 17 percent were tied for third.) In other words, Roxas’ currently stagnant numbers aren’t necessarily a problem; my own view is that his current ads simply weren’t working. (I mean the “laban” ads, which seem forced, not the “Mr. Palengke” commercials that helped him win, in 2004, the biggest electoral mandate in our history.)
I do not know if everyone who encourages Noynoy to run for president has the nation’s best interests at heart. I do know that certain people must be avoided (such as born-again Liberals who defected to the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan in Marcos’ time) and certain justifications ridiculed (such as “seizing the opportunity” or running for the presidency “because it’s your best chance”). If Noynoy should learn any single lesson from the second-phase political career of his father (say, in running for the Interim Batasang Pambansa on the Lakas slate in 1978) or the political advocacy of his mother (say, in her participation-without-illusion in the Batasan elections of 1984), it is to fight the good fight—even though winning isn’t a sure thing.
I do not know if Noynoy knows that, despite his undoubted personal integrity, the severest challenge he will face, either as candidate or as president, is the Hacienda Luisita issue. (A generation after her presidential run, it doesn’t seem right to me to blame Cory for failing to prioritize sweeping land reform and, with it, the dissolution of the very property that helped sustain her family while her husband was in prison and in exile; I see now that she saw her task as restoring democracy as she understood it.) I do know, now, that Noynoy does not have his mother’s excuse, and that—if he is to prove true to the genuine people’s draft he is the object of—his extended family will have to revisit its handling of the issue.
I do not know if columnist Alex Magno has read the signs well, in the bracing “game-changer” columns that his rediscovered romance with Philippine politics has led him to write. (I cannot help but think that his last columns are an indictment of the very administration he has chosen to serve, if only because his service can be read as rationalized, rather than romantic.) I do know, however, that everything depends on how we define the game: Is it the race to Malacañang, or could it be something greater than the presidency?
I do not know if esteemed colleague Conrad de Quiros is right, that it is Noynoy’s destiny to become president. I do know that, if he decides to run, his mother’s Yellow Army can, once again, claim its right to tell the nation’s true narrative.