THE most eye-catching of Marcos political rivals was Senator Benigno Aquino, scion of the powerful “familia hacenderos” in Tarlac. Our man “Ninoy” had created a “superboy” reputation on a remarkable political career. He is the man who “would-be-president.”
He quit his studies at the Ateneo de Manila to become a Manila Times reporter at 12, was elected mayor of the town of Concepcion at 22, governor of Tarlac at 30, and senator of the Republic of the Philippines at 35. At 38, he was the likeliest successor of Marcos in 1973. He was the first presidential aspirant from the landed elite since Sergio Osmeña.
Quick-witted and combative in a manner loved by the Filipinos, he became the nemesis of the Marcoses, lambasting Imelda’s ambitious projects and warning of Marcos hidden desire. Later, along with other opposition leaders, he languished in a military jail, entirely at Marcos mercy.
Like Ninoy Aquino, some 50,000 from the political opposition, the critical press, the militant students, and the organized masses were arrested nationwide upon the proclamation of Martial Law. More went underground, (just like some of my fellow student council presidents). Some went to the hills. The rest 40 million cowards and some SOBs continued to circulate.
Ninoy, who was under exile in Boston, knew he had to do something and it should be fast. He was certain that Filipinos did not want a bloody revolution or embraced communism. Many believed in their hearts that the reform within the system was still possible. There was also a growing feeling that the days for peaceful change were running out.
Our “superboy” knew that at the side of Ferdinand, there was Imelda Marcos sometime provincial beauty queen and aspiring singer, became Governor of Metro Manila, Ministry of Humans Settlements, ambassadress-at-large, patroness of the arts, and dispenser of position and favor.
Imelda’s brother Kokoy was at her side, in spite of reported difficulties with the English language, was one time or another ambassador to Washington, Peking governor of Leyte, member of the Parliament, and palace trouble-shooter. There was also Chief of Staff Fabian Ver, the cousin of Ferdinand, former driver-bodyguard, and most trusted confidant.
After 10 years of Martial Law, the NPA was reported to have an armed strength of 7,000 operating in 50 of 73 provinces. It enjoyed tactical cooperation with the Moro National Liberation Front, a Moslem secessionist movement that had been battling government forces in Mindanao since early 1970’s
Ninoy decided it was time to come home. He was assassinated. His martyrdom galvanized into a massive, open, protest movement. The too much insulted Filipinos pushed the family of “Malakas” and “Maganda” out of the Palace.
Today, we remember our “superboy,” Ninoy! Are we just up to remembering?