August 21, 2012 5:48 PM
MANILA, Philippines – As his only son Benigno III stood on another tarmac, in Bicol, grimly awaiting the remains of friend and trusted aide Jesse Robredo on Tuesday, the late senator Ninoy Aquino’s friends, relatives and companions in the anti-dictatorship movement gathered at the international airport bearing his name, to recall his heroism as he was killed on the tarmac on August 21, 1983.
Leading the speakers was Ninoy Aquino’s nephew Bam Aquino, who exhorted the crowd at the NAIA to emulate the martyred senator’s example. He said the nation’s sense of loss in August 1983 found echoes in its mourning over the sudden death of Robredo, whose body was fished out of the Masbate Sea early Tuesday, four days after his plane crashed enroute to Naga City.
President Benigno Aquino III was unable to grace the annual commemoration of his father’s heroism, as he personally supervised the transfer of Robredo’s remains from Masbate to his hometown of Naga City.
Other Aug. 21 messages: Rule of law, human rights
On the 29th death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino, other messages resounded from various quarters, besides Bam Aquino’s exhortation at the airport.
The Kabataan party-list called on President Aquino III to “honor” his father by granting “general, unconditional omnibus amnesty” to political prisoners in the country.
And in a separate statement, former three-term Manila mayor Lito Atienza, one of the few opposition MPs in the Batasang Pambansa, said August 21 is significant to the nation in two ways: for Plaza Miranda bombing which gave then President Marcos the context to crack down on critics and eventually declare martial law; and the Ninoy assassination which provided the final spark for ending that dictatorship.
He said that while the government’s move to raise the bounty on high-profile fugitives from justice like retired general Jovito Palparan is laudable, Filipinos should never forget that August 21 stands for a commitment to uphold the rule of law and due process, at all times. He found it ironic that the “real brains” behind the two dastardly crimes– the Plaza bombing and the airport murder, were never found.
Atienza, then seeking a post as Liberal Party councilor for Manila, was among those onstage when two grenades were hurled at the LP stage at Plaza Miranda on August 21, 1971.
On human rights, Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino urged Noynoy Aquino: “Mr. President, there is no more fitting way to honor your father’s death than by granting a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to all political prisoners and swiftly address the growing number of human rights violations in the country.”
“The president must remember that his very own father was a political prisoner, a victim of human rights violation during the Marcos dictatorship. It is appalling that Ninoy’s own son is not only ignoring the worsening human rights situation in the country, but is even denying the very existence of political prisoners in the Philippines,” he added.
Palatino was reacting to a statement by Palace Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda who earlier denied the existence of political prisoners.
Despite the government’s denial, there are around 385 political prisoners in the country, 107 of them incarcerated under Aquino’s term as president, according to the group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights.)
Political prisoners are defined as citizens incarcerated for their political beliefs, who are usually arrested due to fabricated cases. Such cases include the arbitrary arrest of cultural activist Ericson Acosta and the recent case of Agnes Tadeo-Mesina, a former member of Migrante Australia who returned to the Philippines to work as a community worker, Palatino said.
“Every year, Aquino promises to resolve human rights violations, to no avail. His promises ring hollow, as his very regime continues human rights abuses by promoting the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” he said.
Quoting Karapatan, Palatino said there are now over a hundred cases of extrajudicial killings and 11 cases of enforced disappearances recorded under Aquino’s term as president. Majority of victims are farmers, indigenous peoples, and activists, including Italian priest Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio and Dutch missionary Wilhelmus Lutz Geertman.
Bam: Bad things happen to good people, but . . .
In Manila, Bam Aquino said: “If we are going to ask ourselves, why must bad things happen to good people . . . but then if you look on Tito Ninoy’s life you will see that because of his death many of us found our heart, many of us found our bravery and many of us found bigger things to fight for than ourselves.
“Maraming tumayo nung nahulog si Ninoy Aquino maraming naging bayani pagkatapos niyang ipakita ang pagkabayani niya and maybe hopefully with Secretary Robredo passing away, maybe again many of us will stand up and say, ‘well he lived a good life; he was a good person, he did his best for what is good for our country. Maybe it’s time we do our share for doing good things for the country,” Bam Aquino added.
The Manila International Airport Authority hosted the celebration of Ninoy Aquino day in commemoration of his 29th death anniversary at the NAIA Terminal 3.
A wreath and flower offering at the foot of Ninoy Aquino’s bust sculpture and the awarding of the First Ninoy Aquino Medal for freedom fighters was held by program organizers.
The celebration was attended by program participants and visitors headed by Yellow Ribbon Movement, Chino Roces Foundation, Spirit of EDSA, LABAN, Fil-Canadians for Ninoy and Cory, Cory Veterans, MMDA, Mindanao People’s Causus, Balay Rehabilitation Center, UNESCO Dream Center, Seoul Institute of the Arts and MIAA authorities headed by Senior Assistant General Manager Vicente Guerzon.
MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado missed the celebration, as he joined President Aquino on board an air force C-130 aircraft to Masbate to personally witness the retrieval of the body of Robredo.
The celebration started with a wreath laying and a song from former Senator Joey Lina, “Impossible Dream.”
Bam Aquino said that at their prime, Ninoy and Jesse served the Filipino people, who were abruptly deprived of such services.
He said many people found their voice and courage as Ninoy fell on the tarmac, and he hoped that with Robredo’s passing, many Filipinos will be inspired to do their best for their country.
A silent prayer was made in memory of the passing of Precious Bello Lotilla, the wife of anti-dictatorship martyr Evelio Javier. Reports from Lira Dalangin Fernandez and Eric B. Apolonio, InterAksyon.com