Government agencies mum on Ninoy Aquino Day, an official holiday

Jonathan de Santos - Philstar.com
Government agencies mum on Ninoy Aquino Day, an official holiday
In this Aug. 21, 1983 photo, the remains of Ninoy Aquino, President Ferdinand Marcos' staunch critic, lies on the ground shortly after he alighted from the plane.
Presidential Museum and Library / PCDSPO / Asiaweek

MANILA, Philippines (Update 4, 6:19 p.m.) — Most official government social media accounts were silent Sunday morning amid muted commemoration of Ninoy Aquino Day, marking the opposition figure's assasination at the Manila International Airport in 1983.

Social media accounts of the Maritime Police Stations of Batangas and Quezon provinces even had posts declaring the former senator, whose murder helped galvanize opposition to the Marcos dictatorship, "not hero."

In posts against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army, the police units also accused the murdered Aquino of being a guerrilla.

UPDATE: PNP says to probe Batangas, Quezon police units over 'NinoyNPA' posts

There was no commemorative statement from the Palace as of Sunday noon. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines, which had marked August 21 with social media posts in 2020 and in 2021, was, on Sunday morning, promoting a webinar on the Spanish-era Filipino Propaganda Movement. The NHCP eventually reposted a tribute to Aquino by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts early Sunday afternoon.

Among the few posts about Aquino was one from the Human Rights Violations Victims' Memorial Commission — a body mandated "to establish, restore, preserve and conserve a Memorial Museum, Library, Archive and Compendium in honor of the human rights violation victims during the Marcos regime." A Human Rights Victims' Claims Board previously validated and processed claims for compensation from victims of Martial Law and their surviving relatives.

"Ninoy was a key figure in the opposition to the Martial Law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. His assassination in 1983 became a turning point in galvanizing the resistance movement. This culminated in thousands of Filipinos unitedly taking to the streets three years later to oust the dictator," the memorial commission said.

"As Ninoy pleaded a day before his death, and in honoring his legacy, let us come together in true unity and understanding, to realize and stand against the tyranny that divides us all."

The Philippine Information Agency, the government's official public information arm, was meanwhile tweeting about the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism — a United Nations day of remembrance established in 2017 that the agency only began tweeting about on Sunday.

The Senate, which posted a tweet last year remembering its former member as a "symbol of the Filipino’s fight for freedom and democracy" also had nothing to say about him on Sunday.

Aquino, who was killed as he was getting off a China Airlines flight that brought him back from exile in the US, had been honored as a democracy icon by previous administrations.

Republic Act No. 9256, passed into law in 2004, designates August 21 as Ninoy Aquino Day, and tasked the EDSA Commission with "[planning and implementing] appropriate ceremonies" in commemoration. Part of the EDSA People Power Commission's mandate was transferred to the NHCP in 2017.

The election of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had raised concerns over whether events like the Aquino assasination or the 1986 People Power Revolution would still be celebrated.

The 19th Congress has seen the filing of bills to rename the Ninoy Aquino International airport, either back to its original name or after the sitting president's father and namesake.

FROM INTERAKSYON: What’s in a name? A lookback on petitions filed to rename NAIA

Activists, victims remember

Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), said it was "joining the nation in remembering the events of  August 21 — the Plaza Miranda Bombing of 1971 and the assassination of opposition leader Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1983," which it said "showed the brutality of the Marcos regime."

It said that the elder Marcos' regime was "ultimately responsible" for both incidents as it noted attempts to sanitize the history of Martial Law.

"As an organization formed at the height of the struggle against the US-Marcos fascist dictatorship, Bayan is committed to keeping alive the lessons of history, holding to account the Marcoses, and opposing any attempt to reimpose the same tyrannical rule of the ousted dictator," Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

In a separate statement, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law recalled how the nation was shocked and grieving on August 21, 1983.

CARMMA — which has Martial Law victims and survivors among its members — added that August 21 "stood as a reminder and a beacon of light, shining over a nation fed up with the autocratic and despotic Marcos rule" and that the assasination led to louder calls for justice and for an end to the Marcos dictatorship.

"CARMMA especially remembers when we as a people raised our fists and marched forward with banners demanding 'Justice of Aquino, Justice for All!'. We remember when wave after wave of rallies and mobilizations calling for justice were repeatedly seen, not only in Metro Manila, but also in key cities all over the country," it also said.

"It was a movement that culminated with the People Power Uprising that kicked out the Marcoses from Malacañang, ending the dictator's hold on power in 1986." 

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