Sangil: Ninoy Aquino of Tarlac

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THE news at home back then was that President Ferdinand Marcos, the strong man who declared martial law in 1972, was ailing and will die anytime soon. Senator Ninoy Aquino, who was viewed to succeed Marcos, was still in Boston in the United States. His political supporters asked him to get back home. He did, and history was written.

Let us recall who Ninoy Aquino was. He was the youngest elected mayor of his hometown In Concepcion, Tarlac. He was elected the youngest governor of his province. He was covering for the old Manila Times the Korean War in 1951. He was one of the best known speakers. In short in his time, he was the most exciting and controversial political figure that came into the political scene in the country.

First, here is one of the memorable jokes of Ninoy Aquino, who could have been the best or the worst president the Philippines, if only fate had not intervened. And that will depend which side you are on. He was addressing a crowd in one function hall in Los Angeles, USA.

Here is his joke: "Nagpasyal daw si Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos sa National Mental Hospital at nagtalumpati siya doon. Kada minuto daw habang nagsasalita si Marcos, sinasalubong siya ng masigabong palakpakan ng crowd. Noong pagkatapos ng kaniyang talumpati, tinanong ang direktor ng ospital: Bakit napansin ko iyong isang nakaupo sa third row lahat pumapalakpak, bukod na lang siya at ni hindi nangingiti? Sagot daw ng direktor: Mr. President magaling na po kasi siya at lalabas na siya bukas."

Ninoy, the would-be president of the Philippines hadn't President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law in September 21, 1972, was enjoying his freedom in the United States with his family whom he have missed for many years due to his incarceration. He lived a peaceful life in Boston, Massachusetts with wife Cory and their children. He was a sought-after lecturer in some universities in the United States. He often received media and political friends in his Boston residence and got updated what was the latest about Marcos and the country under the dictator's rule.

And in August 21, 1983, he decided to return to the Philippines after receiving the news that the dictator was very sick and may expire any day. Ninoy was forewarned that if Marcos will die and he was not in the Philippines, he will lose his chance to succeed the ailing dictator. So he packed his bags and accompanied by foreign media on his way back home. But he returned from exile only to be killed at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, now Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), renamed after him. That gunshot that felled Ninoy was heard all over the world, and public outrage was the response of the people.

Numerous demonstrations coming from the ranks of student activists and civil society groups became constant. Civil society, progressive students and various organizations rose in unison against the repressive regime. But the Marcos administration ignored the clear messages the rallies were sending. And aside from the police actions initiated by the minions of Marcos in the police and military organizations against the activists, the whole propaganda machine of the government painted a picture of stability. Which was not so.

It was not until in February 1986 when two of his men, then secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos turned their backs against him and the Edsa people power followed. The rest is history. The Aquinos got more than what Ninoy could wish for. The housewife, Corazon Cojuangco and only son Noynoy became presidents of our country. A brother, Agapito and a sister, Tessie became senators. And his youngest daughter became a celebrity.


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