"I have reason to believe this would be his wish for us, too."
The first thing I did when word was getting around that former President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino II (PNoy for short) was rushed to the hospital was pray that he survives and gets better after another procedure or so.
I thought this was just one of those things as reports that he had been having bouts of such intermittent hospital visits for treatments have been swirling a year or so after he stepped down in 2016. Thankfully, he has survived most of those earlier attacks. Lately, however, some of his close friends advised that things got worse during the pandemic.
Nonetheless, I was hopeful he would make it yet again if only to lend his voice in tempering the passions that usually attend the incredible suffering or even the death of a member of the storied Aquino-Cojuangco clan.
But that was not meant to be. PNoy passed away and is now reunited with his parents in a place of peace and quiet, away from the passions engendered by their deaths and the battles of the past which, sadly, their followers continue to inject in the life of a grieving nation. It is this narrow passage to what people now describe as "necropolitics" which, hopefully, we will now be able to overcome as a people as we prepare for the 2022 presidential polls.
I am not optimistic though that such will be the case. Even before PNoy was rushed to the hospital last Thursday, we had been getting reports that the Liberal Party (LP) where he remained Chairman Emeritus was already angling for the lead role in the opposition table. Incumbent LP Chairman VP Leni Robredo, the likely 1Sambayan (yes, that aggrupation touting itself as the fount of good governance and the country's savior from the Duterte maladministration) nominee for President demurred, giving LP President Kiko Pangilinan the opportunity to organize a complete line up for the upcoming polls in coalition with other like minded groups hooked on their never ending mantra of "anti-corruption, good governance and decency in public service."
With PNoy's demise, that initiative will now surely be on overdrive — and how!!
Even as PNoy's remains were still being transported to the Church of the Gesu at the Ateneo de Manila University Loyola campus, whisperings about the possibility of another Aquino taking over the mantle of the former President was already getting around. It did not take long before a "Kris 2022 in bright yellow sheets" surfaced in social media.
Not to be outdone, scores of Pnoy loyalists moved to center stage bandying the need for "sacrifice" to get the country out of the "Dark Ages" under this administration and back to the "Golden Years" of Aquino magic. Ever faithful and seemingly seething crowds of Aquino loyalists also began purveying all kinds of posts including fighting anti-administration ones and urging the hanging of yellow ribbons – all meant to get people to get into the groove all over again.
A Jesuit priest, Fr. Alejo, said it all when he harangued those present during the first day of the wake to come around together and bring in a "new and better batch of politicians" as it is their duty to "reclaim politics as a lofty vocation with integrity and competence like PNoy." That call was reiterated by no less than Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the main celebrant at the burial mass, when he advised those present and beyond to rise up and raise the level of "good governance and integrity in public life" as he bewailed the "vulgarity, fakery and persecution" being practiced by the current regime.
It was well that Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, the oldest of the siblings, skewed that route preferring instead to deliver a tempered and humanizing eulogy to his brother as she lovingly recalled the counsels of their parents as they together suffered through the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." She could have easily given in to the whisperings of the crowd, as it were, and lead them to battle, so to speak.
But she chose not to. Which was, of course, largely well received especially by those who had long hoped to see the day when their family would finally come around to still the polarizing tendencies in our political life using their clan's life journey in settling scores (imaginary or otherwise) and reliving the battles of the past.
She must have read the statement of her Teresiana — or was it Povedan? — classmate and also the eldest of their family's political nemesis, Senator Imee Marcos, who tweeted that despite their political differences she had very good memories of PNoy as a colleague in Congress as she prayed for the eternal repose of his soul. Or words to that effect.
Hopefully, President Duterte's ordering ten days of national mourning, flying the flag at half mast in all government buildings and openly condoling with the family as he thanked PNoy on behalf of a grateful nation for his service to the country and that Imee tweet would all add up to stilling any efforts to use Pnoy's death to stir another round of 'necropolitics" which, if we go by Ballsy's eulogy, seems to be the Aquino family's wish as well.
I am, of course, crossing my fingers that such a passage beyond necropolitics and into reality and the need to come around together as a people to tackle the many challenges in building a nation we can all be proud of will finally come to fruition in our lifetime. Like all others who have gone through decades of acrimony and rounds of back and forth between the political families which have somehow deterred our passage from a middling economy to a mid-size one.
We need to harness the best in us, not unleash the worst. We need to forego the stirrings of partisan politics and recover our humane and compassionate selves. We need to get back to the values and virtues of a people intent on building a nation, not encourage those bent on tearing it apart. That should be our singular initiative, something which, I have every reason to believe, PNoy would have wanted to preach himself had he survived that attack last Thursday.