Remembering Ninoy

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - August 19, 2008 - 12:00am

Yesterday, August 18, was a non-working holiday declared by Malacañang to commemorate the 25th year death anniversary of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. The celebration was advanced in lieu of August 21 by virtue of a Presidential Proclamation which moves to the nearest Monday all holidays, excluding those religious in nature.

The best of Ninoy’s statesmanship came out when he said, “The Filipino is worth dying for”. This embodied a vision that he had set for his countrymen and a willingness to sacrifice his very life to attain this vision of true democracy for the nation — which he did. On August 21, 1983, he went back from exile to Manila, fully aware of the  threat on his life. He had been warned of the consequences if he came back, but he still did, because he believed he had a mission to fulfill. Despite the presence of his own security guards and government troops on the tarmac, he was fatally shot in the head on that day, as he was escorted off the airplane at Manila International Airport.

While a prisoner at the Fort Bonifacio with a death sentence to die by firing squad, he had exhorted the teachers of the Republic on the eve of the election that was to take place. We can remember that he, along with 20 others, ran as candidates of the Lakas ng Bayan (People’s Power). Following are excerpts from his moving address to the teachers:

“Exactly seven days from today, on April 7, 1978, you will discharge the most awesome responsibility in our Republic. On your integrity and dedication in the exercise of this duty will rest the survival or death of our democracy struggling to be reborn”.

“Philippine democracy is anchored on the bedrock of free and honest election. Corrupt the ballot, manipulate the electoral process and you stifle the people’s will and smother this democracy in its resurrection.

“Without a free vote, might becomes right and power emanates from the end of a gun’s barrel. When this happens, when legal reforms become impossible, as the tragic lesson of so many places tell us, revolution becomes inevitable . . .”

Sadly, the determination of the teachers to do their job well was overshadowed by the intent to manipulate the election results in favor of the Marcos administration. This was one of the events that precipitated the EDSA Revolution, spurred by Ninoy’s assassination.

Ninoy had a vision for his country. Because of this vision, he was martyred. He has awakened the Filipino’s consciousness that being part of a democracy is being free and being able to enjoy his rights. Most of all, he had taught the people that in togetherness and oneness of purpose, even the impossible can be conquered.

He now holds a distinctive place of honor in our history as a hero. Let us not fail to inspire our children with his fervor and love of country.

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