SAN FRANCISCO—Noynoy Aquino’s team reacted in the worst possible way to Noynoying: They hit back at it.
They even put out pictures supposedly showing that the protesters were wrong in portraying the administration as a do-nothing presidency.
And so there we have it: Noynoying has become a phenomenon, even drawing attention from the international media.
The way I see it, there could have been a more creative approach: They could have embraced Noynoying. For as they say, when under attack, you roll with the punch.
By rolling with Noynoying, Aquino could have prevented its impact from being magnified.
He could have done this by affirming that he believes in a basic democratic principle: that protest is a good thing. That it’s a basic right of citizens, especially young people. In fact, it’s a sign of a healthy democratic society that the young are able to hold protests, that they are politically engaged.
The fact that they’re protesting peacefully and safely is even better. What can be safer and more peaceful than young people sitting or standing or lying around pretending to be bored or to be in a daze.
Yes, it’s supposed to poke fun at Noynoy, to portray him as lazy and ineffective. The Wall Street Journal even said the protests “taps into old Philippine folk tales about Juan Tamad, or Lazy Juan, who manages to get by doing the least amount of work to get by.”
Did Team Noynoy really think they could counteract that perception by coming across as a whining brat, protesting, “Sinong tamad ha!? Hindi ata. Masipag ako. Ito ang pictures oh. You see, I work hard. Here I am looking dignified with visitors. Here I am carrying these impressive files. Whoa, they’re also heavy. Kita n’yo!”
It sort of reminded me of a blunder by the president’s mother, Cory Aquino, back in the 1980s.
After the 1987 coup attempt, the late columnist Louie Beltran wrote that Cory hid under her bed the rebellion, as a way of criticizing her leadership during the crisis. Cory was not amused and called a press conference in her bedroom — to show that there was not enough space under her bed for her to hide.
Surely, the last thing Team Noynoy should have done is to paint their boss as a hyper-sensitive chief executive — a “presidenteng pikon.”
In fact, Noynoying presented an opportunity for Aquino. He could have used it and turned it around — by joining it. This is especially true with the youth Noynoyers who apparently are really having fun and attracting attention with the protest fad.
Imagine this: Nonynoy declares: “You know what — it’s good to know you care.” He then hauls a bunch of lounge chairs to the protest site, bringing some halo-halo and turon, and joins the party.
He then tells the young activists: “Okay, I’ve got an hour. Let’s hang out and just chill. If you want to tell me anything or ask me anything, fire away. I’m right here. Tambay lang tayo. I even brought some meryenda.”
In other words, turn Noynoying into an opportunity for dialogue.
Yes, it’s a publicity stunt. But it’s so crazy it could blunt the impact of the protest and possibly even create openings for Malacanang in dealing with the youth movement.
It would show young people that the president takes them seriously. That, so long as they are peaceful, they can protest all they want, they can criticize his government or himself.
So long as they stay peaceful.
That’s an important point. Because the fact is, compared to other kinds of protests or mass actions, Noynoying is a tame form of mass action.
It’s far safer than, say, storming Malacanang, or hanging banners from a bridge, or suddenly trying to stop traffic on a busy Manila street or intentionally leading a violent march to provoke trigger-happy policemen to respond with violence.
Compared to these daring, sometimes dangerous acts of political protest, Noynoying is actually amusing, creative and, as the attention it has drawn proves, including from Aquino, it’s pretty effective.
If he had rolled with the Noynoyers, Noynoy could have even tied it to the tourism campaign by saying, “Protesting — it’s more fun in the Philippines.”
On Twitter @KuwentoPimentel. On Facebook at www.facebook.com/benjamin.pimentel