On Ninoy Aquino’s 90th birthday

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Ninoy Aquino was born Nov. 27, 1932 to Aurora Aquino and Benigno Aquino Sr., a politician and landowner from Tarlac. His grandfather, Servillano Aquino, was a general during the Philippine Revolution.

How can a single individual fight tyranny and inspire people to restore democracy to their nation? How can a single man restore pride to a nation and leave the legacy that the Filipino is worth dying for? There are very few stories in the Philippine saga as inspiring as that of Ninoy Aquino.

Today, one question often asked is what makes for successful government in a democracy.

There are many voices with different views that have tried to present coherent answers to this issue. There are visionaries who believe the Philippines must first create a genuinely new social order before there can be a truly successful democracy. This requires removing the monopoly of power from the elite by granting the middle and lower classes equal access to economic and political power.

However, this process of transformation can be attained only after generations of education and reform. The shortcut has always been the axiom that every immediate change in the social order is inaugurated by a phase of revolutionary violence. According to the revolutionary writer Regis Debray, “Force is the ultimate arbiter of social change not simply because no possessing class gives up real power without a struggle, but also because no popular movement which fails to challenge the ruling power’s monopoly of violence will be capable of the social energy necessary to invent a totally new order of society.”

There is no question that force has always been decisive in changing or in maintaining the social order. The problem, therefore, is not so much acknowledging the decisive role of force as determining the form that it should take. Will the revolution come in the form of a popular uprising or a military coup d’état?

But are there less violent alternatives? Br. Armin Luistro, FSC, former secretary of the Department of Education and presently first Filipino Superior General of LaSallian Brothers worldwide, believes the answer lies in “restoring faith in democracy.” The path to this requires the supreme sacrifice by our leaders to give up not just power but also the quest for more of it. This is a message echoed by spiritual leaders in this country and by those who still seek change through the constitutional process.

The irony in this whole debate is that our political leaders all argue that their primary reason for grabbing power is the welfare of the poor. They also claim that they are not to blame for the current state of poverty and social injustice.

In fact, their proposed solution, as in the case of a parliamentary form of government, is to increase their power by centralizing it in one body – the Congress.

The problem seems to lie in what is meant by “good government.” Benito Mussolini, former prime minister of Italy, was said to have a good government because he made the trains run on time. However, in the end, his own people turned on him and caused his death.

Almost all regimes in the Philippines seem to measure good governance in terms of budget deficits, Moody ratings and the ability to stay in power. The congressional group believes the national budget should be converted into a national pork barrel fund because they contend they know best what their constituents want. In fact, to them, the Philippines is merely a collection of congressional districts.

Then, we have the different interest groups with their own views. The business sector, of course, believes that whatever is good for business is good for the country. Therefore, increasing minimum wages, workers’ benefits and accepting the right of workers to organize are considered evil propositions that will lead to national economic disaster.

In management, we are taught that an organization is judged on the basis of results and not efforts. Also, the final judges are the customer constituents who are the real reasons for the existence of an organization.

In a democracy, a successful government is judged on the basis of its results, by the majority of the population without sacrificing the interests of the minority.

If the majority of the population believes poverty alleviation, job creation and social justice matter more than anything else, then government must be judged as a failure. For those who believe that education, the environment and peace and order are the most important indicators of good government, then this government that cannot achieve all these goals must be judged accordingly.

In the end, it will be the people who will make the final decision. The only question is whose voice will serve as their inspiration. Will it be the voice of a genuine hero or another charlatan who will lead us to another period of suffering?

Ninoy Aquino has joined the ranks of Filipino immortals like Rizal, Mabini, Quezon and Magsaysay. It can only be hoped that people will continue to be inspired by his heroism which saved a nation from a dictatorship. Wherever this great man is now, he will know that his sacrifice will remain as a beacon of hope for a suffering people. His colossal courage will certainly continue to inspire those who still want to make a difference in the lives of Filipinos.

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