Ishaan Tharoor

Noynoy cover of TIME Magazine

Noynoy cover of TIME Magazine

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party on Saturday said he was glad to have been featured by the prestigious international magazine TIME, adding that it’s always a triumph of the Filipino people if one of their countrymen is cited in such publications.

Among the Filipinos who have graced the cover of TIME in the past generation are Corazon Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao. Environmentalists Chin Chin Gutierrez and Von Hernandez of Greenpeace have also been cited as Asian heroes.

TIME Magazine’s April 26 issue, “The New Aquino: Can Noynoy Save the Philippines?” written by Ishaan Tharoor, described Aquino in his campaign sortie in Zamboanga as an “unlikely man of the moment,” emerging on stage looking more like an “abashed computer nerd than the sort of brash, swaggering politician that has become the stock-in-trade in the Philippines”.

The Liberal Party standard-bearer comes from a family whose parents had fought to restore democracy in the Philippines.

“His charismatic father, Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino Jr., was the country’s greatest champion of democracy before being gunned down in 1983, presumably by agents of the ruling dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Then his mother, Corazon (Cory) Aquino, a once meek housewife, became the figurehead of a popular rebellion in 1986 that toppled Marcos and gifted to the global lexicon the now immortal phrase of democratic revolution – people power,” the article said.

The article said he was encouraged to join the race for the country’s highest political office following the “massive outpouring of public grief and affection that followed his mother’s death from cancer last August.”

Aquino said to TIME: “They made automatic in me the preference to take up the cudgels for those who have less in life, for the powerless”.

Philippine economics professor Winnie Monsod was quoted in the article as stating that Aquino “doesn’t have his father’s charisma, but he has his mother’s sincerity. Whether that’s enough, I don’t know.”

Noynoy’s campaign

TIME said Aquino’s campaign “has styled itself as the panacea for an afflicted country,” because his supporters believe he is the “righteous change candidate, destined to overhaul a stagnant status quo and redeem democracy.”

According to TIME, Aquino’s primary goal in his campaign is to curb corruption and “empower the people by delivering them ‘freedom from hunger.’” TIME added that 9 other rival bets have spoken out against corruption—“a problem that is hardwired into the country’s politics”.

TIME quoted political analyst Ramon Casiple as saying, “There are ties of clan, family and region that are stronger than the nation”.

The article said “Aquino is not the only candidate promising social renewal, but he seems well suited for the part – carrying himself with an air of almost Gandhian simplicity and uprightness”.

His chief rival, Nacionalista Party’s Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. is described to be a “suave, smiling, businessman with a rags-to-riches story, rising from a Manila slum to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country”.

Populism vs legacy?

It noted “observers say the presidential race has become a contest between Villar’s populism (and deep pockets) and the Aquino family legacy.”

The article added: “But there are doubts about how savvy an operator he will be when thrown deep into the murky world of Philippine politics – one, by his own admission, that he has considered forsaking in the past “so not to be compromised anymore.”

Casiple added in the article that Aquino “may not be the ultimate architect of change, but he could push open the door for real reform.”

Newsbreak editor, Marites Vitug commented in the story, “Our trust in politics has been so eroded that people just want a new leader who will do the very basic – who will not be corrupt, who will be good.”