Ninoy and our impossible dream

ariel nepomuceno_1Thirty-two years have passed since the killing on August 21, 1983, of a man who pursued his impossible dream, and such heroic act still continue to challenge and hound our problematic democracy.

Ninoy Aquino,  a journalist,  provincial leader, senator,  martial law detainee, opposition leader, and currently  one of the most inspiring martyr heroes that the Philippines was fortunate to have, shall  never fail to constantly remind our nation’s short memory of what we are capable of doing as a nation.

Elusive dream

The political principles and agenda of Ninoy were fundamentally clear. They were not complicated by the trappings of a top heavy ideological framework. In his memorable speeches while on exile in the US,  he posed basic questions on what he thought was wrong with Philippine society. While he made constant references to his belief in  Christian socialism, Ninoy simply asked the basics—why bullets and not ballots?
While the majority wins in a democracy, why not respect minority rights? Should capitalism be improved so as  to allow everyone the opportunity to create and enjoy the benefits of the country’s wealth?

He exposed the evils of monopolies and cronyism in the Philippines with a government acting like an economic and political patron to a few rich clans. Even then, the beloved senator emphasized that a small country with a very limited resources like the Philippines must efficiently manage its economy. The essence of a democracy, in his view, was to create an environment of equal opportunity for everyone.

He discouraged political confrontation or aggression. Ninoy firmly believed in the ideals of peace, the value of continuously engaging, educating and enlightening even his fiercest opponents, Marcos included.  He did not want war for the Philippines. He even went to the extent of encouraging Marcos to voluntarily give up political power, conduct a free and honest election, recognize the right of other political parties, and respect the mandate of the people in a democratic exercise. But all these efforts and ideals were in vain, amid the brutalities of the dictatorship.

People Power

After Ninoy was assassinated, the country was galvanized by the common pain inflicted by long years of abuse and deprivation. The middle class, the masses, religious groups, business community, student activists, politicians, and a significant faction of the military finally fought as one and toppled Marcos. The iconic Cory Aquino was installed as president of a popular government after the snap elections failed. The world applauded the new democratic weapon called People Power. We basked in the new sense of hope and freedom that the Edsa I revolution unleashed.

Dream still possible

But 32 years after Ninoy’s death, are we finally free, progressive and democratically stronger?

We are still confronted by the same dilemma of economic poverty, weak democratic system and institutions, communist rebellion, Muslim separatism, corruption in the government and worsening criminality. Even the significant efforts, achievements, and advocacies of the current administration of Ninoy’s only son are dwarfed by the huge problems of our country.

The commemoration of the martyrdom of our modern day hero, Ninoy Aquino, must revive our collective goal of improving our lives. People power must be reengineered as a daily sustained revolution where we individually work for the ideals and aspirations that Edsa I defined.

We must concretely see that we strive very hard as one nation in our daily activities. Organizations, corporations, clubs, civic groups must all be consistently involved. The achievement of our country’s ultimate economic and political success is only possible when each of our citizenry will contribute in terms of discipline, integrity in our dealings, choosing the best leaders during electoral contests, and molding ourselves into the best possible roles that we can be for the country.

As Ninoy once uttered: “I will never be able to forgive myself if I will have to live with the knowledge that I could have done something and I did not do anything.”


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