Cabaero: Remembering August 21 movement

THE assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. 33 years ago today was an incident that galvanized the people to opposing the abuses of the Ferdinand Marcos regime.

In our contemporary politics, there is no need for any leader or political figure to be martyred. There is, however, a rising need for a civil society force that is vigilant and ready to act. It may be critical of yet collaborative with an administration not two months old but has done forceful measures to end the drug problem.

Many have praised President Rodrigo Duterte for his unrelenting war against illegal drugs; others have pointed to the dangerous tendency to act without respect for due process. Plus, there is the unsmooth relations between the three parts of government – executive, judicial and legislative. Duterte’s statements against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Sen. Leila de Lima have not contributed to strengthening relations among equals.

Here is a situation ripe for a movement to monitor government, study consequences of deeds and pronouncements, and decide on a course of action that could gather popular support.

August 21 every year since 2004 is a non-working holiday to mark the assassination of opposition leader and former senator Aquino by airport security personnel at the tarmac of the then Manila international airport. He returned despite pleas of family and colleagues for him to stay put to be safe from Marcos’s assassins.

His assassination emboldened Filipinos in their opposition to Marcos, and led to the staging of the People Power Revolution that forced the ouster of Marcos from power. Aquino’s wife, Corazon or “Cory,” was elected president. Their son, Benigno III, rose to power also and just concluded his term as president on June 30, 2016.

The August 21 Movement, headed by the former senator’s brother, Agapito or “Butz” Aquino, organized mass mobilizations during the funeral parade throughout the country for the fallen opposition leader and during the People Power Revolution. What started as an opposition group became a nationwide protest movement that brought together young and old, professionals, Church workers, urban poor and students. Butz Aquino died last year from complications from his diabetes.

There is no monster in government who is the subject of resign calls, no target yet of wide protests nationwide. There is no dominant opposition to Duterte’s government after political parties blurred the lines to allow for cooperation and those in the militant Left have joined government offices.

One lesson Filipinos can take from the August 21 Movement is to be prepared to take action when government goes against basic democratic principles, commits abuses and resorts to illegal measures.

There is no need for martyrdom or for anyone to die. What is necessary is agreement to defend basic ideals that hold society together. Ideals such as respect for life, uphold due process and be tolerant of others different from us in religious or political beliefs.



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