"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

Cory Aquino's legacy and a lesson in dignity

Cory Aquino's passing away was very different from Ninoy's. Usually, when people of great significance die we'd remember what we were doing when the news broke. I vividly recall sitting on the edge of my bed as I listened to a news bulletin about Ninoy Aquino's assassination and then walking shell-shocked to school as I digested the news of his wanton murder. Cory's death, on the other hand, was far from sudden or dramatic—we learned about her cancer a while back, and the decision to give up on chemotherapy several days ago gave us time to absorb the inevitable news.

In a way it's a special blessing for Cory to have died a natural death, because whenever her name is brought up, there won't be a flashback to our personal circumstances the day she died. Instead, at least in my case, there's nothing to distract me from thinking of Cory Aquino as the galvanizing force behind the spontaneous but peaceful uprising of a people against a moribund regime—the now celebrated "people power" revolution that has inspired the peaceful toppling of corrupt dictators around the world. When her name is brought up, it won't be about me and what I was doing—it will be images of Marcos leaving the palace with his crates of cash and jewelry and the well-deserved ascension to power of an unassuming former housewife whose dignity and clarity of purpose united and emboldened a people.

As I watch tributes to Cory and her celebrated unselfishness as a leader (insisting, for example, to step down after her first term despite persistent prodding by people around her to run in the 1992 elections), I can't help but contrast her to the incumbent president. Cory was loved (except obviously by some men in uniform who made seven attempts to force her out of office), yet she refused to cling to power. President Arroyo, whose administration has been rocked by a string of scandals, is disliked by majority of Filipinos. Many view her with contempt. In a survey done last June, she received a net satisfaction rating of negative 31 percent, by far the worst since SWS started to keep track of presidential popularity. (Even at the lowest ebb of his presidency, when he was forced to relinquish power during EDSA II, former President Erap Estrada had a net satisfaction rating of plus 9 percent.) Yet, Arroyo continues to maneuver to stay in office beyond the allowed 6-year term. The two opposite characters demonstrate a major lesson in dignity.

According to the late B. F. Skinner, dignity is directly proportionate to the extent to which a selfless behavior cannot be attributed to self-serving motives. For example, a philanthropist who shuns publicity is perceived as more dignified than one who blatantly uses his or her donations to gain popularity and social recognition. Cory's lack of arrogance and desire for self-aggrandizement epitomized dignity in a leader. When she went to church, Cory humbly found a spot in a corner at the back to pray. For a person with her education, social pedigree, exposure to the rambunctious world of Philippine politics, and contribution to democracy, Cory was remarkably reserved and modest. Arroyo, on the other hand, is a different animal altogether.

I sincerely hope that in Cory's death Arroyo experiences an epiphany: that there is a time when to keep, enhance, or at least redeem some of her influence as a leader, she will have to let go of the official levers of power—unless of course she is totally guilty of vote rigging and corruption as claimed by her detractors, in which case her digging in beyond 2010 is a matter of survival, and perhaps the spirit of people power now renewed by Cory's death will again be required to knock her off her illegitimate and undeserved perch.

YouTube sent by Rachelle Garcia, composed by Corazon Guidote Arranged by Roy Del Valle Performed by Lisa Del Valle Photoshow assembled by Mike Reyes Thank you to the many photographers for the photos and images


Marvin Bionat is the creator of PhilippineUpdate.com, a news and views site that has served as a virtual platform that promotes various advocacies, including the political empowerment of overseas Filipinos and accountability in government. He wrote the National Bookstore bestseller How to Win (or Lose) in Philippine Elections (Anvil Publishing, 1998) and is now based in the U.S. working as an editor.

Read more articles by Marvin Bionat

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