Ninoy’s testament
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2019 - 12:00am

This is a period of turmoil all over the world. There are demonstrations by ordinary people in the most repressive states – Iraq, Morocco, Sudan, Hong Kong, Russsia, and other countries. In some, the demonstrations seem like futile attempt; but, the people keep rallying. How do we describe the environment today? Most of the time I turn to history to make sense of what is happening.

In September 1972, Marcos declared martial law and thousands of opposition political figures, journalists, intellectuals, students, labor and farm leaders and ordinary citizens who were in the way. Among those arrested was Senator Ninoy Aquino. 

While in prison, he wrote a book Testament From a Prison Cell. In 1984, the book was finally published – a year after Ninoy was assassinated. The heart of the book was Ninoy’s explanation why he opposed the Marcos regime and why he would not  relent. 

Ninoy wrote the book himself. After all he was a journalist and an avid political writer. He used his old manual typewriter in his cell at Fort Bonifacio. His wife, Corazon Aquino, and his children smuggled out his manuscript page by page during their visits to his prison cell. 

After his assassination, the papers were turned over to Teddy Boy Locsin to prepare them for publication. A writer who later reviewed the book wrote: “ This then  is Ninoy writing in white heat, burning with indignation and not just constitutional  violations but at the cruel and painful suffering inflicted by the dictator’s torturers on those who followed their consciences.”

To the millions around the world that are marching in protest, here are Ninoy’s inspiring words:

“The cry of protest of a newborn child is the first sign of life.. So are the fearless protests of citizens a testimony to the vibrant health of a democracy. Protest is part of the democratic  evolution of man. And democracy is enlarged and strengthened rather than eroded and weakened by conflict and dissent. To a citizen of democracy to protest is not only right, it is a duty and it imposes an obligation on the government to listen, to consider, and be guided by what the community says.

Indeed, as Mr. Marcos own decrees he has taken away the right to , free vote, free government – and of course their freedom from illegal entry into their home, illegal seizure of their belongings ,and illegal arrest of their persons. By my non participation, at the cost of my physical freedom and jeopardy of my beloved wife and children, I hope to arouse the conscience of our people who ultimately can put an end to this nightmare of a dictatorship. They are our country’s real and true sovereign.

I have reached my decision in the faith that “right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”I believe that to live but a single day in defense of liberty is better than living a hundred years in fear or in service to tyranny.”

Power corrupts

One of the major characteristics of a dictatorship is the rampant and wanton abuse of power. There is the old adage: “ Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ninoy wrote about this:

“Marcos constantly brags about the dramatic improvement in the nation’s economy. But he never mentions the massive external debt that his regime incurred. Eleven years ago when he assumed the presidency, the Philippine external debt amounted to $500 millon...Today the external debt has surpassed the $6.4 billion mark and is still increasing.. Among the five ASEAN countries, the Philippines has the highest interest rates. Corruption, tagged as one of the major reasons for martial rule, has become more rampant in Marcos’ New Society. Today greed runs amuck, unchecked by an inquisitive Congress and a vigilant press. The total corruption of this debt ridden but extravagant martial  law regime is equalled only by its lack of regard for basic human rights...Fortune magazine after a survey of businessmen operating in the Southeast Asia region, reported that the Philippines as the second most corrupt government in Southeast Asia – second only to Indonesia.

Ninoy’s struggles

Ninoy has a moving explanation for his struggles:

“My struggle is against a system of justice that enables one man to judge the truth of his own accusations. My  struggle is against a system that enable the dictator to own, control  and manipulate...the mass media so he can distort the truth, mislead the people by making vice as virtue and weaken their resolve to be free. My  struggle is against a system that pretends to save democracy while actually destroying it:

Marcos claims to have established a New Society. What we have is the oldest society known to man, one that dates back to  the divine right of kings when one man ruled and his will was Law, his person the State.”

History has shown that dictators come and go – even the most powerful ones. Every dictator will be judged not only by his generation but by all future generations yet to be born. 

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Oct. 19 (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone session) at Fully Booked BGC.   For details and registration,  email

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