Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Cory Aquino--sinner or saint?

Corazon Aquino, 1933-2009

Filipinos loved her; now that she's gone, Filipinos mourn her. And I understand that.

Her finest moment, I believe, was during the 1986 Snap Elections, declared by then president (and dictator) Ferdinand E. Marcos. When accused of lacking experience, she replied: "It is true. I have no experience in lying, cheating, stealing and killing. I offer you honesty and sincerity in leadership."

We loved her for that. She said it in a monotone; she had little to no gift for public speaking, but the fact that she sounded like such an inexperienced political speaker was in itself refreshing. We'd had it with Marcos' legendary eloquence (muted perhaps by advanced age and acute lupus) and as far as we were concerned, she was a startling sea breeze, blown in from a window long padlocked.

The revolt itself happened almost despite Aquino's popularity, a military coup prematurely discovered; but people decided enough was enough, used said coup as an excuse, and poured out in the streets to demand Marcos' resignation.

Aquino rode on the crest of that wave to Malacanang, but it's instructive to remember what factions made up that wave--the Philippine military; the Catholic Church; people from upper to middle to lower class, not just in Manila but the provincial cities as well (Manila hogged the lion's share of media coverage, of course). It wasn't just her, though she was possibly its most prominent figurehead, in bright yellow.

The government she formed right after the revolt might be what we call the Dream Team of Philippine politics--Claudio Teehankee as Chief Justice, Juan Ponce Enrile as Secretary of Defense, Fidel Ramos as Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Jaime Ongpin as Finance Secretary, Joker Arroyo as Executive Secretary. It was like a rainbow spectrum, from right to left and all shades in between--for a brief, shining moment, an example of the lion lying with the lamb (who was lion and who lamb I wouldn't dare guess).

But she couldn't hold it together--who could, actually? Juan Ponce Enrile and his military supporters tested her, thought her weak, tried to overthrow her the way he tried to overthrow Marcos (what's that again about an untrustworthy servant?). She survived--mainly because Fidel Ramos remained loyal to Aquino. She stayed in power despite six coup attempts in all, a feat in itself, but at a cost: she was forced to purge her government of leftist elements (Arroyo among others, left her cabinet).

She refused to repudiate any of the huge debts Marcos amassed during his reign, forcing her to prioritize debt repayment over poverty alleviation and economic development. She slow-pedaled attempts to achieve a peace settlement with the New People's Army and the Moro National Liberation Front (we're still trying to negotiate/wipe them out some twenty years later). She outlawed paramilitary groups, then turned around and allowed them to continue, under a cosmetic name change. She initially championed land reform, though when the law finally passed, how effective has that really been?

On a relatively smaller issue, Ms. Aquino was not exactly a friend of Philippine cinema--or rather, the industry during her administration was not known for enduring art. Number of factors for this, including inheriting an ailing economy from the Marcoses, and the fact that the Marcoses themselves were convenient targets for some of our finest filmmakers' finest films (the fact that for years the Marcos administration actively practiced censorship meant that said films had to be subtle, not blatant). Developing Philippine cinema may not have been her priority and understandably so, but she could at least have lifted the enormous entertainment tax (almost 30%, or a third of the gross receipts) that was such a heavy drag on the industry for decades.

And Ms. Aquino was a good and faithful Catholic, meaning censorship under her watch didn't relax much, overall (remember that her administration banned one of Lino Brocka's most outspoken films Orapronobis (Fight for Us, 1989)). Despite her daughter's long showbiz career, Ms. Aquino remained pretty much clueless when it came to films and filmmaking (to be fair, why not? She had more pressing problems to pursue).

That all said, she will and should be remembered for three not inconsiderable achievements: she led an opposition movement to popular victory; she opened a Philippines in stasis for decades to change and reform; and she arranged for the orderly transfer of power to her protégé, Fidel Ramos.

My point being: she's no saint, she's only a human being. A wonderful human being, I'm sure--I've talked to people who have known her, and I once had the privilege of shaking her hand; I believe the goodness of heart is genuine. But goodness of heart can only do so much, and Aquino with her brief career showed its limits as well as capabilities.


dc joeking said...

"she's no saint, she's only a human being" There's something wrong with this statement. I'm sure all saints used to be only human beings. Care to correct me?

Noel Vera said...

Used to be human beings, right?

Anonymous said...

Saints are human after all.

that is one thing we Filipinos should know.

look at our saints ok. let us choose FILIPINO saints.

Lorenzo Ruiz was accused of murder and had to flee the country. but GOD's GRACE sustained him during the tortures her suffered and helped him to be faithful. He won't be faithful without God's help.

Pedro Calungsod was just a teenager who was killed in a revolt against the Spaniards. but his killers had anti-religious motives. If he wasn't killed I doubt if he could be a saint.

We are all called to be saints. Saints are not people on the pedestal. Today's saints are teachers, students, businessmen, sportspeople, farmers, etc. Cory Aquino is a model of holiness for today.

Noel Vera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Bueno said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Noel Vera said...

I'm addressing the popular conception of saints as ethereal beings who can't shit, fart or do wrong. Aquino did as well as any human being did, she did some good, she did some wrong. In short, she's human.

Now as to saints being human, I can agree to that, and add my belief that they're FULLY human, and that no miracle from God will suddenly make them blameless, faultless beings through the wave of His Divine Wand.

Saints are human throughout their lives, till the day they die (or are killed). Their shit still stank, they still farted. And they still made mistakes, some of them bad mistakes. That shouldn't be erased, any more than the good they do should be forgotten.

If we're talking on those terms, then, hey, someone start Aquino on the road to sainthood, by all means.

Makes sense?

Jojo Soria de Veyra said...

All heroes are accidental in the sense that what motivated them to do the heroic thing were all personal. The hero is always astonished to find himself tagged as one. The villain--thinking HE was the one being heroic--is just as surprised to find he's not being declared the hero. And so, it's a tag. And what motivates us to tag a hero one is personal.

Saints, like heroes, are tagged. The politics- or philosophy-shaped saintliness of someone, like a biblical theme and thesis, is definitely extrinsic to the tagged but encrusted in the composed
reality of the tagger. For all declared saints are sinners, saints themselves will tell you so. They'll enumerate to you their own faults and blame themselves for many ills. But the tagger would bid them be quiet.

What sets heroes and saints different from you and me is this: unlike us, they believe a hero and a saint can be anyone but them. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they're like us, in believing heroes and
saints can be anyone but us.

You are right, Mr. Vera, like many or all of us Aquino was a sinner. Maybe a saint, too, despite the
absence of a definition.

In the end, like all text, hero and saint fall down on the page as words. Like love. For someone's
heroism for a niche of people would be treason to the opposite of that niche, someone's saintliness to a religion an "infidelity" to another, and love for something presupposes hatred for its absence.

Aquino a saint? Go ahead, there's freedom of religion. Aquino a sinner? There's freedom of the
press. Hero? There's freedom to form political parties.

Here's where Cory Aquino would fit in perfectly: as a champion of democracy, she would allow that
she be tagged a hero and saint for a niche. And that'd be nice of her, speaking from the beyond
where all is known that non-partisanship is not at all possible in the world.

Noel Vera said...

Good stuff, Jojo--thanks for your thoughts.

I think I can go for 'champion of democracy.' A champion does his or her best, and that's the best he or she can do.

Anonymous said...

Saint or not, consider this:

She was in a position to scuttle the immoral population program instituted under Marcos. instead she appointed a staunchly pro-choice secretary of health who vigorously implemented facilitated the entry and distribution of contraceptives into the country including abortifacients such as the IUD and pill etc. How many millions of babies were not born because of her indifference.

Noel Vera said...

I lean towards pro-choice myself. Good and rather uncritical Catholic that she was, I was surprised and rather pleased at her choice of health secretary.

Jojo said...

Hey guys, you could go on all night and all day about how we have so many religions in this city (I have a lot of religions in me alone) that we may just end up one day in streetcorner religious brawls or, the Godhead forbid, end up turning this country into a den of American christo-fascists like George What-the-hell-was-that-all-about Bush. So, let's not be dragged into this trap topic about Al Gore's campaign to depopulate the earth and farm more vs. "whatever" and acquire more vineyards for a pope . . .

Just wanted to say my belated congratulations to Ms. Aquino for a job well done (Joker Arroyo's insistence from the ADB that we pay up the debt aside).

Oh, I almost forgot. I actually came here tonight just to thank you, Mr. Vera, for posting this post which, uhm, led me to jot down that comment above which then inspired me to put up my own blog, beginner's blog of course, and---guess what---I even thought I'd stretch that thesis about saints and religion and politics and, so, wrote "How a P1million dinner triggered a new religious war at our barangay". You can read it at http://jojosoriadeveyra.blogspot.com if you want. Thanks again, Mr. Vera. Without this post, Social Isms would never have been born. Not that you need to endorse it, oh no.

Unknown said...

"she slow-pedaled attempts to achieve a peace settlement with the New People's Army and the Moro National Liberation Front (we're still trying to negotiate/wipe them out some twenty years later)."

hey, can you elaborate this one? I'm not pro-Cory or anything. Im doing a research paper on the flaws of her administration to disprove general public assumption that she's all good, and your entry was very useful.

How come you wrote that?

Noel Vera said...

This is a good place to start

dirtpeach said...

With all this Noynoy hoopla, people seem to be forgetting the Cory presidency wasn't that great to begin with. Prayers and sincerity got us nowhere and that seems to be all that Noynoy can offer.

Noel Vera said...

Noynoy may not be as good a choice as Gibo Teodoro (we'll never find out now), but he's got to be better than Estrada (who's a good choice only if we badly want our country to be an international laughing-stock).

Manny Villar--more GMA, anyone?

So Noynoy's probably (along with Gibo, who we don't really know) one of the best of the worse, you think?

Concerned "Real" Filipino said...

Scandals During The Cory Administration
(Para maliwanagan tayong mga pinoy at mawala na ung yellow fever nang ilan jan)

One of the biggest urban legends of recent times in the Philippines, is the story that the Cory Administration was supposedly the "cleanest" among the Administrations in the last three decades. Thanks to Nostalgia, and the fact that her Administration was at the dawn of the internet age, much of the negativities of that Administration has been largely forgotten, and people tend to remember only the "good" things about that Administration.

Well, thanks to Noynoy Aquino's "holier-than-thou" campaign strategy, much of the "unpleasantries" during Cory's time are being brought back to the surface slowly, but surely. Here are some that I have managed to dig out:

'Philippine Air Lines Stocks to Nephews'
Cory approved in January 1992 the sale of 67% of the stocks of the Philippine Air Lines (PAL) to an investment group headed by her relatives, one her Tanjuatco nephew, and three of her Cojuangco nephews. The sale resulted in a loss of USD 300-million plus for the Filipino people. The Philippine government, through the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), owned the shares. And worse, her nephews did not have the money to pay for the airline stocks. They borrowed the money that they used to pay the GSIS from three Philippine government-owned banks, using the PAL stocks as collateral.

'Philippine Air Lines Building Scandal'
"The PAL Scandal," where Cory authorized in 1992 the sale of the PAL Building in San Francisco, California. It resulted, according to the column of the late journalist, Louie Beltran, into a USD 6-million loss to the national airline. She did not charge Mr. Beltran with libel on this issue about the PAL Building. She, however, filed a libel case against Mr. Beltran and his publisher, Maximo V. Soliven, when the late columnist wrote that Mrs. Aquino "hid under her bed during a coup d'etat attempt at the presidential palace in Manila."

Concerned "Real" Filipino said...

'Bargain Sale of Companies to Lopa'
The assets of the Marcoses, the Romualdezes and their cronies were supposed to have been sequestered by the new Aquino administration, but Kokoy Romualdez's 38 companies, which were worth billions of pesos, were not turned over to the Presidential Commission on Good Government. Cory instead permitted during her first months in office the transfer of these 38 companies that Marcos's brother-in-law, Kokoy Romualdez owned to her brother-in-law, Ricardo "Baby" Lopa. What's worst, was the fact that all 38 companies were bought for the price of only USD 227,000.

'Philippine Long Distance Company to Nephews'
The same case happened with the ownership of the Philippine Long Distance Company. Instead of sequestering the company for the Philippine government as it was then controlled by the Marcos cronies, she returned the billion-dollar company to her Cojuangco nephews. She claimed that her nephews were illegally eased out by Mr. Marcos. The truth was that the Marcos cronies, whether their moneys were ill-gotten or not, paid the Cojuangcos the prevailing market-stock prices during the sale of equity that happened between them at the time when Marcos was still president.

'Re-negotiation of Marcos' Japanese Loans'
Cory approved the re-negotiation of the loans that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. obtained from Japan. The administration of Mrs. Aquino agreed that the loans would be paid in Japanese yen, rather than in U.S. currency that former Marcos negotiated. This resulted in a USD 5-billion increase in the loan principal.

Concerned "Real" Filipino said...

'Refusal to Give Hacienda Luisita to Farmers'
Cory publicly promised in 1986 that Hacienda Luisita will be distributed to the farmers. However, in 1987, she issued Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order No. 229 just days before her legislative powers were going to revert back to Congress which include a provision in the Land Reform program for Stock Distribution Option, which allows landowners to comply with the Land Reform Law without actually giving land to the farmers.

'Double Cross of Doy Laurel'
Cory had promised to Doy Laurel that she would let him run the government as Prime Minister after Marcos was ousted, as Cory had no experience in politics. However, in March 1986 she issued Presidential Proclamation No. 3 declaring a revolutionary government, and dissolving the 1973 Constitution. This nullified Laurel's position as Prime Minister as the Parliament was abolished. This prompted Laurel to break ties with the Aquino regime later.

'Protecting Hacienda Luisita's Interests'
Cory continued to protect Hacienda Luisita, even firing Miriam Defensor Santiago from her post of the Department of Agrarian Reform after she told the press her opinion that Cory should inhibit herself as chair of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) which would make the final decision on the stock option.

'Garchitorena Land Scam'
In 1988, a foreclosed property of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) was sold to Sharp International Marketing for P3.8 million. Before the sale was closed, Sharp tried to sell the same property to the government for P56 million. Sale was approved by the DAR, but inflated the price further to P65 million. The financier of the scam was Romeo Santos, an associate of Cory's brother, Peping Cojuangco. He was also Cory's campaign manager in Bicol.


- "Not Getting Mad at, But Getting Even With, Tita Cory" by Bobby Reyes,http://www.mabuhayradio.com/sections...tita-cory.html

- "The Philippines Cory, Coups and Corruption" by John Greenwald, Jay Branegan and Nelly Sindayen,http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...969186,00.html

- "Hacienda Luisita's past haunts Noynoy's future" by Stephanie Dychiu,http://www.gmanews.tv/story/181877/h...noynoys-future

- "Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will" by Stephanie Dychiu, http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182195/c...political-will

- "The Garchitorena land scam" by Stephanie Dychiu,http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182211/t...rena-land-scam