Huff Post World: Why Is President Aquino So Popular? Effective Leadership and Enigmatic Charisma

President Benigno Aquino III (Photo credit: Wiki Entry File)

Amid the pork barrel scandal, MILF conflict in Mindanao, poverty, flooding, territorial dispute with China, and other domestic and international problems — a bit of a good news for President Benigno Aquino III comes from an article published by Huff Post World: “Why Is President Aquino So Popular? Effective Leadership and Enigmatic Charisma”.

President Benigno Aquino III (Photo credit: Wiki Entry File)
President Benigno Aquino III (Photo credit: Wiki Entry File)

The article was written for the Huff Post World by Richard Javad Heydarian, an Academic/Policy Advisor/Foreign Affairs and Economic Analyst.

What is fascinating about this article is that the author was cognizant of the different issues, controversies and problems that besiege the PNoy presidency, and yet to his judgement, it is through different crisis situations that President Aquino’s leadership and charisma have been tried and tested.

His conclusion recapitulates his “A” rating for  PNoy: “Overall, what is increasingly clear is that Aquino’s popularity has much to do with the combination of his unassailable pedigree and a serendipitous confluence of favorable factors, ranging from economic revival to political stability and a broader zeitgeist, which favors (reluctant but seemingly) effective and humble leaders such as PNoy. The key to his success, so far, is his ability to hold back, to contemplate, to demure, and to humbly change course when necessary — avoiding hubristic tendencies that have afflicted other popular leaders across the world. And this is why, despite all his faults and continuing problems in the country, many still see Aquino as the best leader they have had in decades.

This is the text of the Huff Post article for your perusal:

Why Is President Aquino So Popular? Effective Leadership and Enigmatic Charisma

Under a climate of long-standing political cynicism, fueled by a perennial sense of social injustice and endemic corruption, elected leaders inevitably face an uphill battle for the hearts and minds of the people.

In developing countries where the majority of the population has yet to benefit from the fruits of economic globalization and reap the rewards of new engines of endogenous growth, one can hardly blame people for holding little respect for elected officials — repeatedly falling into cycles of high (unrealistic) expectations followed by massive dissatisfaction.

From Mexico City to Mumbai and Manila, gestures of good will by elected officials can easily be interpreted as an exercise of deception and old-school shenanigans, reforms could be seen as basically the status quo couched in new garment, and displays of humility and contemplative decision-making could be perceived as indecision and cowardice. In short, it is extremely difficult to please the greater public, especially ones the euphoria of elections — and all the accompanying advertisement, colorful events, and fairy tale sloganeering — is over.

Engaging the greater public and sustaining wide-reaching political mandate is even more difficult, when you speak of countries with first-past-the-post electoral systems, whereby anyone with slightly higher votes than other candidates could end up as the president – nevermind he/she only garnered 30% of the votes, and is never given the second chance to reach out to the electorate in a prospective run-off round. Naturally, in such cases you tend to get “minority presidents”, who have limited mandate and struggle to rise above factional politics.

And yet, the Philippine President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino has managed to sustain approval ratings as high as 70 percent, way into the third year of his tenure. By any measure, this is an astonishing record for any democratically-elected leader, especially one in a developing country still reeling from massive poverty, inequality and unemployment. Add to this a noisy and discordant media, where entertainment is held way above information and lambasting elected officials and blaming them for everything is a standard operating procedure.

Not to mention, even though the Philippines is hardly among top world economies, and while it is still bereft of a modern military-industrial complex to boast, Aquino has managed to even rank among  the world’s most influential leaders in the 2013 Time 100.

So what explains his massive political capital and global popularity? Are there lessons for other leaders across the world?

The Mystique of Political Charisma

Joseph Nye, the brains behind the highly popular doctrine of “Soft Power” and the author of The Powers to Lead (2008), has defined charisma as “the special power of a person to inspire fascination and loyalty.”

And as Nye aptly points out, charismatic leadership is more apparent “when [people] feel a strong need for change, often in the context of a personal, organizational or social crisis.” No wonder, he tells how fundamentally a popular leader mirrors something bigger, a zeitgeist, a larger public mood, which reflects, “Even more about ourselves, the mood of the country, and the types of change we desire.”

Benigno Aquino is in many ways the Philippines’ ‘accidental president’. After all, he is said to have not only shunned running for the Philippine Senate in the past, preferring to stay as the district representative of his idyllic hometown in Tarlac and taking care of the extended Aquino clan so dear to him, but also hardly harbored any concrete ambitions for the top political office in the country. Despite being a smart and well-educated individual, with good training in economics and banking, he was neither known to be a stellar legislator, nor featuring among the high profile, ambitious, and flamboyant legislators, who fixed their gaze on the top prize.

His decision to climb the ranks of Philippine political pyramid was largely due to the persistent (and ultimately successful) persuasion efforts of family members and siblings, who believed in his leadership qualities and ability to contribute to the nation’s betterment.

In this sense, Benigno Aquino III had a unique conception of political ambition as a moralistic fulfillment of a larger obligation to the collective. After all, he always lived in the shadows of his parents, who are deeply revered for their personal integrity and contributions to Philippine democratization.

“His father was the Philippines’ most famous political martyr, his mother its most beloved President,” wrote Time’s Howard Choa-Eoan on Aquino’s stellar pedigree, and how this ultimately sealed his destiny as the next Philippine president. “[He] inherited that legacy and, boosted by national mourning at the death of Corazon Aquino in August 2009, won the presidency in 2010.”

Grasping the significance of the moment, PNoy sought to carve out his own place in history by translating widespread public sympathy into a formidable campaign to rid the country of its recent troubles: a decade of massive corruption, economic imbalances, and political instability under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration (2001-2010).

Lucky enough, his ‘good governance’ (Daan Na Matuwid) initiative not only struck a chord among the electorate, but also eventually came to impress global investors and leaders, who credited Aquino’s much-awaited crackdown on corruption and abuse of public office. And this proved to be not only a precursor for an unprecedented period of political stability and economic growth in the country, but also a cornerstone of Aquino’s charisma anchored by an untarnished image of personal integrity and sincere leadership.

Riding Manifold Challenges

What’s fascinating with Aquino’s popularity, not exactly his policies, is his ability to maintain public support despite repeated crises questioning his leadership.

Beginning with the botched rescue efforts at a hostage crisis involving a dozen Hong Kong nationals, to China’s repeated encroachment into Philippine-claimed features in the South China Sea, to a shooting incident involving a Taiwanese fishermen in the disputed maritime waters that sparked unprecedented levels of bilateral Philippine-Taiwan tensions, to reports consistently mentioning  the Philippines’ failure at providing inclusive and sustainable growth, and ultimately recent revelations suggesting massive corruption  implicating dozens of legislators and government officials, Aquino has still managed to stay above the fray and enjoy public prestige.

He has astutely shifted blame to other parties, skillfully portrayed his administration as sincere and committed to reform, and doubled down on his tough stance against China to ramp up his nationalist credentials.

To demonstrate Aquino’s popularity on a global scale, Time magazine has for instance portrayed Aquino as the “the face of the regional confrontation with Beijing over its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea” and praised his “brave stance” on this issue. Meanwhile, the giant credit rating agency Moody’s, which is currently reviewing the Philippines candidacy for an investment-grade status, has praised Aquino for placing “the economy on the right course via infrastructure development, with a focus on upgrading transport links; an anticorruption push; a drive to halt tax avoidance; and improved government coffers,” while emphasizing how the Philippines’ continued success as a new brightspot in Asia “will depend on who takes the reins when Aquino steps down in 2016.” In short, Aquino is seen as the pivot of the country’s economic and political comeback.

Recently, when a number of rebels, belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), decided to launch a coordinated attack and lay siege on Zamboanga city in early-September in order to protest their exclusion from ongoing peace talks in Mindanao, Aquino still managed to ensure massive public support and avoid criticisms over his approach to the peace process, which has excessively focused on one group only, the MNLF’s breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Although known for his soft demeanor, Aquino, few days into the Zamboanga siege, flew to the crisis-ridden city and went as far as warning the rebels to lay down their arms or face the full force of the state : “There’s a thin line that can’t be crossed, putting civilians’ lives at risk… When that line is crossed, I will be forced to not only show, but use the full force of the state.” By displaying iron determination to quash the rebellion, Aquino was able to, at least in the meantime, repel criticisms over his administration’s inability to foresee and forestall such crisis.

Overall, what is increasingly clear is that Aquino’s popularity has much to do with the combination of his unassailable pedigree and a serendipitous confluence of favorable factors, ranging from economic revival to political stability and a broader zeitgeist, which favors (reluctant but seemingly) effective and humble leaders such as PNoy. The key to his success, so far, is his ability to hold back, to contemplate, to demure, and to humbly change course when necessary — avoiding hubristic tendencies that have afflicted other popular leaders across the world. And this is why, despite all his faults and continuing problems in the country, many still see Aquino as the best leader they have had in decades.

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68 Comments

          • 19 likes? Asan ngayon yung mga yun para ipagtanggol ka sa argumento? Wala, dahil siguradong kakainin sila dahil sa uto-uto sila. Fact is Noynoy Aquino’s Administration is so tainted with corruption the corruption of previous administrations pale in comparison. You could even say he even topped his mother’s Mismanagement of the Government which led to the Pilipino owned infrastructure, institutes being given to her KKK for almost free if not free at all.

            And by the way:

            STATING FACTS IS NOT BEING CRAB-MENTAL.

          • how can you tell it’s a fact? and how can you say it’s bulok na daan? what’s your evidence? are you blind? or just plain simple utak talangka?

            my wife is a marcos loyalist and dont like the aquinos, and me, i dont like pnoy from the start. but everything changed. i read news everyday, there are good and bad about this current administration but i see that they are doing things for the good of the filipino people, they are not perfect, what they need is the support from the filipino people, if you see someone who is working for the good of the people, you have to support it and not finding fault to this people.

            my wife even ask herself, what if pnoy step down, who will continue his good work? i said, it’s hard to tell who?

            as you can see, philippines are improving even a lot of bad things happening in our country but it doesnt mean that it’s not progressing…. it is and i can see and feel it.

          • You read News & watch TV (specially Yellow Owned Ones). Unlike you, I have other sources which are more credible than your Propaganda Led Mainstream Media which is OBVIOUSLY biased if not CREATING News instead of REPORTING News. By the way, supporting OBVIOUS corruption is a form of CORRUPTION, turning a Blind eye on obvious corruption is also a form of CORRUPTION. Unlike you, when I see corruption, I give the one accused his benefit of the doubt. I don’t easily jump into conclusion but weigh facts and evidences before I give my opinion. And PNoy, doing things for the good of Pilipino? There’s a very very very simple thing that they could do that the President promised to do during his campaign, but instead he turned 180 degrees and let those promises rot until it smelled so bad, he couldn’t contain it anymore. You know what those simple promises are?

            1) FOI (3 years and counting, still hasn’t been approved and in fact, they didn’t really plan to approve it and I’m sure you know the reason)

            2) Distribution of Hacienda Luisita (kick the Chief Justice because the CJ worked the justice that should have already been given to the farmers)

            3) Eliminate Corruption (I’ll repeat, the corruption of PNoy’s Administration is the worst. Not only is he protecting the corrupt practices of his KKK, he’s even using people’s fund to bribe congress and senate for his own agenda, and they have the nuts to fool people that those where incentives? That’s what we call indirect bribery, and indirect as it might be, it is still BRIBERY which is an IMPEACHABLE Offense)

            I’ll repeat, that’s OBVIOUS CORRUPTION

          • who told you that im reading yellow owned news? i have read a lot of sources and even international news concerning our government as well as the feedbacks from international community, the investors and so on that’s why pnoy is so popular because he tends to do the right thing only he cannot pleased all the people.

            i’m not blind to see those things about FOI bill, the KKK, and other things, but as you have said, we should not conclude and you, you already gave the verdict.

            and for me, it’s obvious that you are the most corrupt, a corrupted mind, a pessimistic thinker. anyhow, whatever the president is doing, whether good or bad, still for you is bad, 100% sure… you don’t even know how to appreciate good things, you are only looking for the fault… what kind of thinking is that? this is call an OBVIOUS CORRUPTED MIND.

            tell me, who’s good leader for you, GMA, erap? who? you? are you a good leader?

          • Your argument is proof enough that you only read yellow owned news. You sound so ignorant, I couldn’t believe how blind you are to the truth. You lick Abnoynoy’s ass as if it is the ass of god. WTF! There’s no cure for idiocy. The Philippines will remain poor because there are more idiots like you who support trapos like Abnoynoy than bright ones like us who see the truth.

          • and you …. you lick china’s ass … you lick npa ass … erap ass, jinggoy ass your idol and jpe .. lol … sama mo na s GMA mga baboy kayo!

          • leo zerimar, I am not licking anybody’s ass, I defend no one, lahat sila sa government ay dapat sunogin ng buhay. And I hate China! Your Abnoynoy has chinese blood that is why he’s such a retard. And the NPA is just a ragtag group of bandits, one of their former leaders was the father of your Abnoynoy. NPA yun, di mo alam? And as to Erap, he’s just a corrupt son of a bitch.

          • hindi “your” dapat “you’re” bobo

            I don’t support any politician kasi yan sila lahat ay magnanakaw

          • di ako naging IT manager kung isa akong bobo .. tanga! minsan nagkakamali ang tao sa grammar at spelling but it doesnt mean na bobo ang tao.

            yung ugali mo baboy na ginawang bacon .. ayusin mo .. ang ingay mo bading ka nga!

            ikaw ang mas kawawa … at never akong naging kawawa …

            baka gusto mo titi ko bading na baboy na ginawang bacon .. waaa

          • Ikaw ang nakakawa, PAID BLOGGER I Love Bacon. Wag ka mag-alala, may pera ka pa rin namang matatanggap bilang kabayaran sa mga paninira mo.

          • PAID BLOGGER I Love Bacon, sabi ng tigilan mo na ang kakabasa ng columns nina Jojo Robles at Doronilla. Hayan tuloy, lalong naging BASTOS ang bunganga mo!

          • PAID BLOGGER I Love Bacon, yan ang napapala mo sa kakabasa ng columns nina Jojo Robles at Doronilla.

          • I Love Bacon, your very own argument is proof enough that you only read Anti-PNoy articles especially the ones written by Jojo Robles of Manila Standard and Amado Doronilla of Inquirer. The Philippines will remain poor because of PAID BLOGGERS like you!

          • It’s quite easy to give a verdict decision specially if the accusation is easily proven. The accusations?

            BRIBERY (Bribing Congress and Senate using Pilipino people’s fund, and as I said, indirect as it might be, it is still BRIBERY)

            BETRAYAL OF PUBLIC TRUST (Need to expound about this?)

            Two IMPEACHABLE offense.

            And since you’re trying to target my preference, Noynoy’s Administration is a Credit Grabber, and also a sabotager (if you didn’t know, he cancelled most of Gloria’s projects specially Flood Control projects which was supposed to help Metro Manila about flood, now Metro Manila is suffering from flood from just a little rain). Most of the credits that his administration were from the Previous Administration, Yup, you heard it right, from Gloria’s work. And since you’ve inserted Erap as well, mind if I remind you how the hell did accepting JUETENG TONG and putting it in a Foundation that would benefit Muslim people became PLUNDER? Only in the YELLOW Justice. Heck, Erap’s 2years Administration was way better than Noynoy since he’s an experienced politician with many AWARDS (Multi-Award Mayor, Senator and Vice President) which I’d assume you didn’t know about.

            Now tell me, IS STATING FACTS BEING A PESSIMISTIC THINKER? Think again. He has never done any good for the betterment of the Pilipino People and instead pointing fingers towards others from his own blunders. Your arguments and reasoning is weak.

          • Pffft… typical answer from a Yellow Poisoned Mind. You’ve know lost the debate by resorting to a non-constructive argument.

            Anyway, what if I tell you I’m a Pro-Marcos/Pro-Erap person?

            I’ll guess… “YOU’RE A SUPPORTER OF CORRUPTION!” would be your answer.

            Tsk… tsk… tsk… very, very typical (templated) answers from Yellow Feeble Mind indeed.

          • PAID BLOGGER Ichinose Kotomi, ang aminin mo eh kung gaano kalaki ang ibinabayad sayo at sobra-sobra ang ginagawa mong pagsisisnungaling para sa mga amo mo.

          • Pfffft… Typical reply from a Yellow Poisoned Mind. Hindi ka ba maka-construct ng counter arguments na mag debunk sa mga FACTS na sinabi ko? Bopols or Yellow Poisoned Mind lang ang hindi nakaka intindi sa mga FACTS na yun.

            By the way, di ko na re-replyan yung ibang reply mo. Typical repetitive “Magkano binayad sayo” boring Yellow Arguments.

            Hahahaha!

          • By the way, di ko na re-replyan yung ibang reply mo. Typical repetitive “Magkano binayad sayo” boring Yellow Arguments.

            Hahahaha!

          • PAID BLOGGER Ichinose Kotomi, tigilan mo na yang mga kasinungalingan mo at nakakaawa at nakakatawa ka na. Kunin mo na lang yung bayad sayo ni GMA at Erap, bili ka ng pagkain mo at basahin mo lahat ng articles nina Jojo Robles at Amado Doronilla para mabaliw ka sa tuwa. (PS- Nakaw na pera ang ibinabayad sayo nina GMA at Erap kaya wag kang magtaka kung pagkatapos mong kumain ay biglang sumakit ang tiyan mo)

          • PAID BLOGGER Ichinose Kotomi, puro talaga kasinungalingan yang mga pinagsasabi mo! Ano kamo, yung mga sources mo lang ang credible? Sino, si Jojo Robles ng Manila Standard? Si Amado Doronilla ng Inquirer? OBVIOUS na CORRUPT ang utak mo! At ang OBVIOUS CORRUPTION ay ang pagnanakaw ng mga amo mong Plunderers/Senators!

          • AGREE, pasalamat tayo we heard and read from newspaper that philippines is already a TIGER ECONOMY AND COUNTRY OF HONOUR…. di ba nakakatuwa yon? so please those anti pnioy shut off your crab mind if you dare not to care in improving every aspect of pnoys governance.

          • Ichinose Kotomi, kayong mga PAID BLOGGERS ang salot sa lipunan. Puro lang kayo paninira. Kolektahin mo na lang ang bayad sayo ng Master mo.

          • ulol, yang likes na yan pwede namang ikaw lang gagawa, pwede naman tayong gumawa ng bot, pwede nga yan gawin sa imacros tanga!

          • ikaw AguinaldoIsNotAHero ay isang bobo. Pero tama ka, yung gagong si Aguinaldo ay hindi hero kundi traitor. Parang si Ninoy lang, ang pekeng hero.

          • PAID BLOGGER I Love You Bacon, napakabobo mo. Ang hero mo ay yung mga Plunderers/Senators na nagbabayad sayo.

        • Kayong mga Paid Bloggers ang mga Tanga, Bayaran at Salot sa Lipunan na patuloy na tumatanggap ng nakaw na pera mula sa mga amo niyong magnanakaw, bilang kabayaran sa inyong mga paninira.

      • What!seriously, you have to make a habit to not just base it from other people and lousy media misleading BUT facts! Seriously, their reputation precedes them. Worse they are taking advantage of the people who are incapable of research! Shame on you! and I Hope karma will come soon!

        • Paid Anti-PNoy Blogger, your reputation precedes you. You are accepting stolen money from your Thieving Master. Karma will come to you and to your Master soon! Shame on you!

  1. It’s not about HIM being effective in leadership. The Filipinos are very patient and persevere, indeed. I would like to say he is just plain lucky and Filipinos are wanting to get rid of dirty politicians who have abused in power but are now partly being prosecuted by his administration. I wish HIM well, though I am beginning to think of Venable & Venable.

  2. I agree. Pnoy is credible enough to carry out the reforms that so many Filipinos are longing for. Hopefully we will see some legislators in jail before this year end. I also wish infrastructure projects will be started soon to generate more local jobs and encourage more investors.

    • Seriously, PLEASE do STATE facts! State what he did, other than pointing fingers, credit grabbing, criticizing, etc..Pfft! Really? huh! Base matters on facts and just just from media and from other people. Make it a habit that before believing what others sAY, YOU RESEARCH! We have a mind of our own. And you are easily imposed by others, what are you puppets?? o.O

  3. Naniniwala ako sa leadership ni PNOY at hindi nia dudungisan ang magandang pangalan nang kanyang mga magulang at katulad din ni Tita Cory ay hindi rin
    magnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan.

    • Excuse me? seriously, you have to make a habit to not just base it from other people and lousy media misleading BUT facts! Seriously, their reputation precedes them. Worse they are taking advantage of the people who are incapable of research! Shame on you! and I Hope karma will come soon!

  4. ! Mind-conditioning, again! Leeches! Huh! No matter you are trying to make up stories, that does not change the fact that these are all lies and made up! pfft Come on! Who are you fooling??? Not us! But yourselves!

  5. The reason why Aquino is ‘so popular’ is this: he has the money and can afford to hire spin doctors and propagandists who can easily mislead the idiots in the Philippines. It is a sad fact that there are more idiots in this country than the thinking ones. There are 7 idiots in every 10 Filipinos, that is the reason why the likes of Aquino are very popular.

  6. i’m not pro-pNoy or what.. but if i’m going to choose, then i’d rather choose p. Lacson or lim or even miriam santiago lol! but people, try to think… as far as i’ve known for the past decade, only pNoy made our economy.. little by little but he did made it rise! didn’t you notice about the changes? how about the traffic? unemployment rate? funds? country security? agreement etween countries for ofw’s? or maybe you’re just too busy being a hater.. and not even having time to read the news.. oh well i cannot blame you for that because i, myself don’t believe in most of it because it is toooo exaggerated..anyway, let’s just give him a chance. he’s just starting. i just wish that he is not that too PRO-LIFE. because the crime rate really pissed me off.

  7. No wonder kaya masyado mabango yung article kay PNOY kasi tuta yung writer ng mga Lopez. Masyado pinakaganda yung imahe ng mga aquino, nakakatawa kasi kung titingnan natin yung situation ng mga ordinaryong tao sa Pilipinas eh masasabi nating kalokohan lang itong article na ito. Sa totoo lang ang gumaganda yung buhay eh yung mga businessmen and mga politicians, pero tayong mga ordinaryong tao nalugmok na lalo. Bibilib lang ako sa pnoy na yan kung bababa yung mga bilihin, mabawasan yung crime rate, and ipakulong ang mga governement officials na lantaran na nangungurakot. Kahit isa lang na may maipakulong xa or kahit na si janet napoles lang.

    • Pwede sigurong ipakulong ang lahat ng me katiwalian sa gobyerno but kahit saang lugar siguro aLAM natin na walang bumababang bilihin kundi sale….Habang lumalakad ang panahon ay umuusad pati prices ng kahit ano. tumataas kasi ang sahod eh, kaya tumataas din ang mga prices.

      • Siguro malaki sahod mo kaya di mo ganu nararamdaman yung sinasabe ko pagtaas ng bilihin kagaya ng bigas. And kakarampot lang naman yung pagtaas ng sahod, di parin sasapat sa doble doble pagtaas ng mga bilihin. Sa totoo lang iilang tao lang yung nararamdaman yung pag-ayos ng economy, sana maramdaman din naming mahihirap. I am not against pnoy kaso ang punto ko lang eh wala naman nagbago, di parin natigil yung corruption mas naging lantaran pa nga. Saan na yung tuwid na daan?

  8. I agree with the writer. I’ve always wondered why an economist and very intelligent President like Gloria Arroyo brought the country’s economy into its downfall while a simple and no records of exemplary performance as a politician like Pnoy could boost the country’s economy. Maybe, it has something to do with good breeding…Pnoy got good breeding from his family while the other one….well your guess is as good as mine….

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