Ninoy Aquino in our minds


“IF IT IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME, even a thousand prophets will not make a difference. If it is the right time, one prophet is enough”.

This was the answer of former President Noynoy Aquino when asked how his late father, former Senator Ninoy Aquino managed to have his message get across the nation despite the control of media by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. And Ninoy being incarcerated for years.

Last month we commemorated the 35th death anniversary of the slain senator at the tarmac -one who has been recently described by President Digong Duterte as a “patriot who fought for what is just and right in his career.”

Noynoy recalls that he drove his father to the Boston airport en route to the fatal return to the Philippines and Ninoy asked his only son “Ikaw na bahala, alam mo na ang gawin.”

Ninoy told his son -that against all odds- he will return to the Philippines “to talk with the dictator Ferdinand in order to stop the nation from falling into an abyss.” On August 21, 1983- Aquino was shot dead.

No one can talk of contemporary Philippine politics without mentioning the name of the Aquino family. Ninoy’s death led to a peaceful revolution that ended the tyrannical rule of Marcos in 1986. His widowed wife- reluctantly became president thereafter and brought the long denied democracy and liberty – back to her nation.

Cory Aquino, on the one hand, survived several coups by rightist elements but her behavior as president will be a moral standard to measure all other presidents after her. Her son Ninoy, survived a bullet in his back in one of those coups.

Noynoy became president in 2010 and his straight path and fiscal reforms brought an unprecedented 6.1% average GDP growth from 2010-2016.

Meantime, it seems that the relationship between President Duterte and former president Aquino has been rather ambivalent. Noynoy had pledged to keep his quiet for one year after he descended from the Palace. When he first made a negative comment on the Duterte drug war, he was called “gago” by the president.

However, Duterte defended Aquino in the “Mamasapano” incident-saying as commander in chief of all the armed components of the republic- the president (Aquino) then could not have usurped any authority. No one was above him.

Ironically, even though Duterte had favored the burial of the late dictator Marcos in the “Libingan ng mga Bayani”, he also had the highest respect for Ninoy who last week the president called a “patriot both as a journalist and a politician working for positive, meaningful changes in society.”

President Digong was more profuse when he said: “Then at a time when hope was lost, he remained steadfast in his struggle to restore democracy through non-violent means. His deeds taught us that we should always aspire for the common good even if one must go against the grain- and do what is necessary.”

Marcos’ exit from power was precipitated by the ruthless murder of Aquino. Marcos left behind 10,000 human rights victims and corrupted the business, judicial and military sectors. The nation’s small US$2-B foreign debt in 1970 ballooned to US$30- B by 1986 and no international bank wanted to lend to the country.

Marcos’ idea of industrialization was to adopt cronies- who took over major industries with great walls of protectionism and tax incentives. When the peso devalued- the gargantuan foreign debt and the huge oil bill led to the collapse of the economy.

Ninoy Aquino was a constant critic of the excesses of the Marcos Conjugal Dictatorship. That’s why he was arrested alongside media, labor and peasant leaders, activists, clerics and opposition politicians upon declaration of Martial Law.

Aquino, the charismatic leader with a cherubic smile was Marcos’ nemesis. He networked with everyone -and is even credited with introducing Bernabe Buscayno (Kumander Dante) to Jose Ma Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Buscayno became the founder of the New People’s Army. He used to work in the sugar farmlands of the Cojuangcos in Tarlac.

Sometime in 1970, while the Editor of this paper attended a College Editors Guild of the Philippines seminar in the hilltop of Cebu City, senator (then) Ninoy Aquino came down a helicopter as one of their guest speakers.

We asked the brilliant, eloquent senator in the Q and A time, whether he was Kumander Dante himself or if not, how close they were. Aquino let loose a loud guffaw that shook the seminar room and said: “Hahaha, my boy, no. Dante was once our farm boy -in fact, he looks like you. Haha.”

That was 100 pounds ago. From then on, the colleagues of the Editor called him Kumander Dante-forever.

After EDSA I, Kumander Dante was one of the freed political prisoners by Cory Aquino. He became a cooperative leader joining mainstream society.

Meantime, Ninoy Aquino stays in many minds of baby boomers as a trueblue patriot even though he may just be a “famous name” in the consciousness of the millennials and the newbies.

But his role in the relentless fight for freedom and democracy during the darkest chapters of our nationhood – is a historical fact that will forever emblazon the pages of Philippine contemporary political history with heroic color.

We, therefore, remember him on his 35th death anniversary with the deepest of respect and admiration.

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