Thirty-three years ago today on August 21, 1983, former senator Benigno Aquino was shot dead while being led out by a group of soldiers through a side door of an aircraft that brought him back to the Philippines after several years of medical furlough and exile in the United States.
He could have stayed in peace and quiet away from politics with his whole family in the US with wife and former president Cory, now deceased, son and former president PNoy and daughters.
But he vowed to get back to his country and did it on August 21, 1983 even if he was already told by friends that he would be jailed again the then-president Ferdinand Marcos. But in a speech before Filipinos in Los Angeles, California in 1981 [please view his speech on YouTube above], he vowed to get back home to help restore democracy in the country.
In a stop-over in Taiwan before arriving in Manila, he told the media he was prepared to face whatever awaited him and even joked prophetically that he could be killed even with a single bullet. The worst scenario that he predicted materialized — a single bullet that snuffed his life!
QUESTIONS: Who among the battle hardened NPA commanders or guerrillas or officers or enlisted men in the armed forces or even macho artista (movie star) is ready to stake his life on the line, what Ninoy did in 1983?
Who among the bravest politicians, military or police officers, action movie stars and other toughies in the Philippines today will willingly and gladly surrender himself or herself to authorities to be jailed for an indefinite period, like Ninoy did in 1983?
He already spent nearly eight years, most of that period in solitary confinement. And yet, he willingly flew back to Manila in 1983 even if he knew that he would likely be jailed again by Marcos who was then very much in control of the Philippines under martial rule.
Why? Why did Ninoy Aquino did what he did? Why did he willingly sacrificed his life for what he described as his quest to help restore democracy in the Philippines?
Is he crazy or insane? Or is what he did heroic worthy of emulation of all Filipinos in 2016 and many decades more beyond this year?
Unfortunately, scores in Freedom Society Facebook page describe him as a fake hero, a Communist leader, a scam, a mere creation and figment of imagination of the media. He is derided and accused of various wrongdoings as Philippine society today is sharply torn between those who support on one hand Duterte’s decision to have Marcos buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes) and those who bitterly oppose such move, notably victims of martial rule imposed by Marcos.
Some Filipinos who attack Aquino as a fake hero apparently failed to take a close and more intelligent look at the multitudes of people who came out on the streets on the day he was buried.
QUESTIONS: Who among top government officials drew such huge crowds on the streets to pay their last respect to someone before he or she is laid to final rest? Were these people paid money just to come out of the comfort of their homes just to pay their respect to a fallen former politician?
Why did huge crowds patiently lined up along Times Street and surrounding areas (including this writer) just to see his body during funeral at his home? What was there massive outpouring of respect and apparent affection for this man?
Until today, no concrete proof has emerged that then president Ferdinand Marcos or his wife Imelda or Marcos crony Danding Cojuangco was responsible for ordering Aquino’s assassination. Until today, there are lots of speculations, including one which says that Marcos is very intelligent and it was very unlikely that he was the one who ordered the killing of Aquino. He likely anticipated that Aquino’s death could provoke the sympathy and anger of his followers.
So, is Ninoy Aquino still relevant today, mid 2016, 33 years after his death?
Yes, he remains very relevant today and in the coming years in the following areas:
First, SENSE OF HISTORY.
How many Filipinos today have a proper or shallow sense of history? Accusations that Aquino is a fake hero brings into sharp focus the sense of history of many Filipinos. With mobile phones serving ultra easy gadgets to communicate with friends for free via Facebook and other social media, they can also serve to do online readings in Google and other websites to dig up a wealth of information about our former leaders, like Ninoy and Ferdinand Marcos. But online search and readings also require a healthy dose of common sense and intelligence. Distinguish between authoritative and reliable sources of information and unreliable and rubbish information sources. There is absolutely no sufficient reason or excuse not to find out the realities — however harsh they may be — that prevailed in our country in the past few decades, notably those that covered the time of former president Marcos and Aquino.
Second, UPCOMING MAJOR CHANGE IN THE PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION.
President Duterte and his allies in Congress have openly spoken about the need to introduce and adopt major changes in the current constitution of the country. Whatever changes that are made will have a major impact on the lives of future generations, not just those in the next three or more years. While most elected members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are patriots who vowed to serve the best interests of the country, Filipinos in general — including netizens in Hong Kong and other parts of the world — should be vigilant and should express their views in cyberspace and other information platforms if they see any proposed changes in the constitution that will adversely affect the genuine interests of Filipinos in general.
Third, WHICH FORM OF GOVERNMENT IS REALLY SUITABLE TO FILIPINOS — A SHIFT TO FEDERAL OR RETAINING THE CURRENT PRESIDENT FORM OF GOVERNMENT?
Aquino’s incisive insights on the changes in the form of government during the martial law years under Marcos can provide much food for thought for leaders, led by President Duterte, who are determined for the Philippines to change our current Manila-centric presidential form of government into parliamentary. Since Duterte’s allies control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, a change toward a parliamentary form of government is as certain as the rising sun every morning. But the most critical thing that comes next after a change in government is whether an appropriate check and balance can be instituted and put in place after the change. Over the past so many years until today, many mayors and other local officials treat and use public funds like their own, with hardly any effective controls. Agencies tasked with stopping misuse of funds at the local levels are thinly spread and weak. Aquino has warned against potential risks in any major change in government.
Fourth, HEALTHY MUTUAL RESPECT BETWEEN TWO STIFF POLITICAL RIVALS
In the 2016 national and local elections, bitter rivals for even the lowest local posts killed each other, and this was widely reported in the media. In spite of the occasional caustic verbal exchanges between Aquino and Marcos, it was clear that there was a healthy mutual respect for each other as national leaders. There was never any exchange of personal insults and exchanges were focused on substantive burning issues of the day, martial law and its excesses, people’s clamor for the restoration of freedoms, changes in the political landscape, etc. While Aquino spoke out about the hardships endured by people, like him and others, who defied martial law, the communication lines between him and Marcos were always open, reflecting mutual respect despite sharp differences in political convictions.
Finally, Aquino’s spoken words and body language while delivering his speech in Los Angeles, shown in the YouTube link above, clearly showed his character as a patriot, a statesman and an ordinary person, subject like any other person to loneliness, unhappiness and depression.
Certain major points can be gleaned from his speech and these are the following:
# He was against the use of violence to effect changes in society as he favored as a better alternative the road to peace, saying violence begets violence
# He was a true patriot as he willingly staked his life on the line and lost it by flying back to the Philippines to help restore freedoms and democracy that were lost during the martial law years
# He openly declared that he harbored no hatred for Marcos even if the latter ordered him jailed for nearly eight years, adding he did not advocate revenge or blood for abuses perpetrated during the martial law years
# He values freedom and democracy too much, and wanted to share that extraordinary zeal and commitment with all Filipinos even at the cost of his life
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NOTE: Please visit http://www.ofws4change.wordpress.com for announcements about the November 5-6 Global Forum on the burning issues affecting all overseas Filipinos to be live streamed on Facebook and YouTube during the dates of the conference. It will feature the top officials of government agencies dealing with OFWs, followed by panel discussions led by this writer. This global forum is to be undertaken by the Alliance of Overseas Filipinos for Change, based in Hong Kong and headed by this writer.