I REMEMBER the first time Benigno Simeon Aquino III, or simply Noynoy to many, visited Cebu during the campaign period of the 2010 presidential elections. I was doing my editing work in the SunStar Cebu newsroom when my good friend and colleague Januar Yap told me he had gone to the forum at the Sacred Heart Church wherein Noynoy was the invited speaker. I asked Januar several questions about the man, questions that were meant mainly to dispel the nasty stories being circulated by the propagandists of his political opponents.
Was he sane? Was he normal? Even then, he was already called “abnoy” for “abnormal,” a play on his nickname and his supposed mental problems. What Januar told me reassured me that Noynoy was a normal man and an intellectual even. For me, his values were already a given, being the son of the martyred former senator Ninoy Aquino and the late former president Corazon or Cory, whom some sectors even want to be sainted.
I thus rooted for Noynoy in that campaign and even proudly wore a yellow shirt with the words “I love Noynoy” printed on it. I kept that shirt and wear it from time to time until now, years after his term as President ended and even when diehard Duterte trolls are marauding social media and bullying people they see as “dilawan.”
Aquino, who was referred to as PNoy during his presidency, died Thursday from renal complications from diabetes, which can be seen as either an end of an era or the start of a new one. When Noynoy ran for President, his mother Cory had just died, unifying the forces that ousted the Marcos dictatorship once more. Can Noynoy’s death unite the forces of democracy once more in the face of a possible Duterte-Marcos alliance in next year’s presidential elections?
Noynoy’s death has put into contrast his presidency with that of Rodrigo Duterte. His achievements are being recalled more fondly and sans the bullying by trolls, who are being forced by tradition not to speak ill of the dead. And even if they do, they will only be poking the giant, who is already awake as we speak.
Every time the country needs saving, an Aquino dies, goes the message circulating in social media. Noynoy’s death and the contrasting of his governance with the present one comes at a time when the extreme right is on a retreat. The pendulum of public opinion is moving to the left of center again, which could spell the demise of Duterterism months after Trumpism got booted out from the White House in the United States.
The attempt by trolls to redirect the narrative from one favorable to the “dilawans” or the country’s democratic forces to one that is critical of them has largely failed as the outpouring of grief has drowned whatever fake stories the diehard Duterte supporters or DDS could dredge. Even the Duterte-Marcos alliance could not help but grudgingly acknowledge Aquino’s good deeds as President.
If Noynoy’s death will signal the demise of Duterterism, then we will have another thing to thank the Aquinos for. Another chain will have been broken by the passing of one of them.