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Color-coding

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2021 - 12:00am

A request circulated on social media yesterday, for people to display yellow ribbons in memory of Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, who succumbed to renal failure secondary to diabetes at age 61 the youngest among the former presidents who are still around.

I will write more about Noynoy Aquino in another column. In this one, which I had nearly finished before news of his demise spread, I can’t help including the speculation (widespread yesterday even if in bad taste as the mourning period is just starting) about the impact of his death on Philippine politics – specifically, on the 2022 elections.

We all know what is fueling the speculation. His mother Corazon was thrust into the presidency after the assassination of his father Benigno “Ninoy” Jr. energized the movement against the Marcos dictatorship.

The death of Cory Aquino in 2009 in turn thrust her only son into the presidential race – and to a landslide victory.

The question now is how much Noynoy Aquino’s death might strengthen the opposition, and whether it would revive the so-called yellow forces.

My guess is that his supporters would display yellow ribbons, even if not requested, in memory of former President Noy. As for the rest of the people – the partisans and non-aligned and apathetic – we’ll see what happens in the coming days.

Before the death, a growing question in fact was whether it’s time to set aside color-coding that tends to divide the country, as Duterte forces keep assailing the reds and yellows, and instead work to have Filipinos rally behind the colors of the flag. Or to promote inclusive colors, like the LGBTQ+ community.

*      *      *

For the 2022 general elections, what’s shaping up, instead of a one-on-one face-off between the Duterte forces and the opposition, is a multi-cornered fight, as in previous races.

With less than four months before the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy, the prospect of a common opposition candidate is looking more remote.

In fact, the definition of an “opposition” candidate is looking increasingly blurred. As I have previously written, even Vice President Leni Robredo has urged opposition forces to be “inclusive” in their selection of candidates, to consider why President Duterte remains popular, and to bear in mind that no one has a monopoly of goodness.

Already, there are political groups identifying themselves as neither opposition nor administration, and presenting themselves as a third force, such as the possible tandem between Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Tito Sotto who heads the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

There’s also former vice president Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance. UNA was formed amid Binay’s falling out with Noynoy Aquino, who had promised his defeated 2010 running mate Mar Roxas of support as the Liberal Party standard bearer in the 2016 presidential race. The administration votes ended up split among Roxas, Grace Poe and (partly, for certain original Aquino allies) Binay.

*      *      *

One of Binay’s daughters, Sen. Nancy Binay, describes UNA at this time as “color-blind.” And she’s mystified by the LP overtures to field her as a candidate for higher office in 2022.

Politics is addition; politics makes strange bedfellows. On One News’ “The Chiefs” last Wednesday, however, Senator Binay told us she’s not this kind of politician.

She said this on the eve of Noynoy’s death. We don’t know if the demise would change Binay’s mind about an alliance with LP, whose chairman emeritus was Noynoy.

The opposition coalition 1Sambayan had also mentioned Nancy Binay as a possible nominee for president, but dropped her after she said she intended to finish her six-year term until 2025 as senator.

There’s profound bitterness harbored by the Binay family against the LP.

Nancy Binay acknowledges ruefully that her father has become the poster boy for the perils of declaring early one’s plans to run for president in this country.

In fact she remembers that her father’s travails began much earlier, when he decided to run for vice president against the LP’s Roxas.

Binay told us that from the get-go after her father’s victory as VP, they were warned that there would be an LP-led campaign to bring him down and prevent him from becoming president in 2016.

But Jojo Binay led the family in discounting such talk, believing that their long ties with the Aquinos and his loyalty to Cory Aquino, who launched his political career in Makati, would make that kind of betrayal unlikely.

They were also told, Nancy Binay said, about the plan to unseat Renato Corona, who received a midnight appointment as chief justice from outgoing president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The daang matuwid administration planned to prosecute GMA for corruption.

*      *      *

All of those plans were carried out. The Binays blame much of their family’s woes on the LP.

There was a chance for the thawing of relations in 2019, Nancy Binay told us. But instead the LP rubbed salt on her father’s wound, she said, by successfully fielding a challenger to the congressional seat in Makati that Jojo Binay had sought.

So she is wondering why LP president and Senate colleague Kiko Pangilinan would be extending the party’s olive branch at this time.

The LP obviously can use all the support it can get if it intends to remain a significant political player. The Binays remain a formidable force in Makati.

With Noynoy Aquino’s death, the opposition has entered a new chapter as it heads into 2022.

NOYNOY AQUINO
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