August being the anniversary of the assassination of Senator Benigno Ninoy Aquino Jr., it merits a closer look at the man and his life. He is currently recognized as a national hero, his death in 1983 being the spark that caused a national outrage against Marcos that culiminated in the 1986 uprising that ousted the dictator from the Philippines.
Our media and minds are filled with memes associated with Ninoy such as “The Filipino Is Worth Dying For” and others, and the common Filipino might treat Ninoy as a person who willingly died to restore democracy to the country.
However, we have to ask an important critical question: did Aquino really want to die? Did he consider himself martyr material? Let’s take a closer look at Ninoy from what scant material we have in the media.
Batas Militar Documentary
Here’s an excerpt from the TV documentary “Batas Militar” which talks about Ninoy’s life and epitomy as a politician. Ninoy in history has always been a great orator and commentator, and his communication skills were excellent tools in politics. However, it is his story as a Philippine martyr that overwhelms most references to him, probably due to the extreme emotional outrage that his death sparked amongst his fellow Filipinos.
Here’s an interview of Ninoy in the Christian show 700 club. More of how Ninoy is able to effectively communicate and use the sensibilities of his audience to rally people to his cause.
Here are few media snippets of his interview prior to his arrival in Manila.
ANC: The Big Picture
Finally here is the best insight into Ninoy’s mind prior to his return. In a recorded conversation with close friend Steve Psinakis, Ninoy shares his motives for coming home and the trump cards he had prepared to garner Marcos’ support.
Some things that isn’t top of mind to the common Filipino about Ninoy Aquino:
- He had nothing to do with the EDSA revolution that led to Marcos’ ouster (that was after the fact, long after he died). And yet, most Filipinos associate EDSA with Ninoy Aquino.
- He wanted to become President of the Philippines at any cost–whether it was against or with the blessing of Ferdinand Marcos, he had no preferences. Until the day of his departure for the Philippines from Boston, Ninoy was heavily entertaining the chance to speak and negotiate with Marcos to sell himself as his successor.
- It is very likely that Ninoy thought that best chance of him becoming President was through Marcos’ endorsement. He was already negotiating behind the scenes to ensure his transition after Marcos–ASEAN, the MILF, the US, and Japan.
- Ninoy Aquino never intended his wife Cory to stand in for him in case of his death.
- The US was less inclined to support Ninoy due to the instability his presence could cause in the Philippines, which threatened the status of US military bases (Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Bay).
History is written by the victors in any conflict. Of Ninoy, we know the hero, but not much of the consummate politican and statesman. Had he survived, perhaps our idea of Ninoy would be very different–not far from how we treat other politicians. He was an old-school player of the game, and a very good one at that–still posing Marcos a threat even while in exile.
Meanwhile, history will always remain played out the way it did–and so will our collective understanding of Ninoy–or the idea of Ninoy, far from the reality that Ninoy really was, or intended himself to be. We can’t rely on the history books for that. Only Ninoy can really say for sure.