Ninoy Aquino 26th Martyrdom anniversary

Today, the nation marks the 26th year since Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. was assassinated at the tarmac of the then-Manila International Airport. The 1983 assassination is currently regarded as one of the sparks that ignited the last waves of massive public outrage that eventually lead to the ouster of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

A few days ago, I appeared (very) briefly in GMA 7’s 24 Oras newscast on a segment about Ninoy Aquino. The segment focused on the relationship between the late senator and the late dictator and strongman Pres. Ferdinand Marcos who both belong to the same fraternity, the Upsilon Sigma Phi. The popular theory, among brods especially, is of course though the rivalry was real, Marcos couldn’t have made a martyr out of his main political rival, and much more so out of his own fraternity brother. Aside form the fact that at that time, Marcos was bedridden and simply too sick to orchestrate and mastermind the assassination, we simply weren’t indoctrinated that way. Marcos also had very little political gain to compensate the great political risk entailed by doing the deed. This may be speculation to some, but for brods who understand the unique personal dynamics existing among fraternity brothers, it is a ‘theory’ worth more than a grain of salt.

Puzzled, the reporter asked me to explain how, in my opinion, the intense political rivalry between Marcos and Aquino, could have existed among two fraternity brothers. I told him (though, all these got cut from the final segment that went on air), it was a natural consequence of putting two ambitious politicians in the same fraternity.

I added, that though we were indoctrinated to strive for a prosperous and progressive country, we were free to choose the means to achieve what we believed was for the good of the Filipino people.

Fraternity history recounts how the brods, especially in the late 60’s and 70’s were found in all sides of the political spectrum, from the side of the dictator and his ‘cronies’, who believed in authoritarian leadership to achieve prosperity, to the mainstream political opposition, who believed in the ideals of “liberal” democracy, to the communist left who believed in the Maoist armed rebellion and national democracy with a socialist perspective.

From my experience, I recounted how even in the university today, brods are encouraged to exercise their beliefs and fight for their principles by being active in their own political parties. In UP for example, while most of my brods were leaning towards conservatism and compromise activism, I was allowed to and encouraged to stay in the militant formation I belonged to even before I joined the frat.

When I was in the University Student Council, the chairman then was a brod who belonged to a rival party, and a fraternity batchmate of mine belonged to the third party, and we had many principled differences and arguments with regard to various campus issues, but at the end of the day, we treated each other with great respect and still shared many fellowships.

[photos from Albert Domingo] Anyway, last night, the brods, me included, were also interviewed on Monster Radio RX 93.1. We were asked how relevant Ninoy is to young people today, most of whom were born after his martyrdom in 1983. From 10 PM to 11, we talked about our opinions with regard to Ninoy Aquino’s heroism and how it is important today. I simply said that for as long as we have not achieved the prosperous and progressive nation that Ninoy, and all of us, aspire for, and for as long as our nation’s development is stunted by corrupt and oppressive leaders like we do today, the ideals and the memory of Ninoy, his martyrdom as well as the martyrdom of the thousands of other freedom fighters through the decades, will always be relevant.

The dictator and his brothers

At this time of the year when the country remembers the horrors and the atrocities of the Martial Law years imposed 26 years ago, my fraternity, the Upsilon Sigma Phi, traditionally gets some flak for, well, being the fraternity of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos and some of his alleged cronies and allies, from Roberto Benedicto to Estelito Mendoza to name some. The standard way of neutralizing the flak is to invoke the memory of the traditional political opposition that fought the dictatorship, from the likes of Salvador “Doy” Laurel, Joker Arroyo to Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Rarely is it done any other way.

Today, let me take the opportunity to invoke, too, the memory of communist martyrs Merardo Arce and Melito Glor, martyred rebels, fraternity brothers all the same, who integrated with the masses and took the armed means of liberation, and from whose honor the names of the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations and the Southern Tagalog commands of the New People’s Army are named after.

Cliche as it may sound, we must always look at our present conditions without disposing of the lessons of the past. At times when basic conditions of widespread poverty and oppression persist, our remembrance must transcend mere commemoration, to a realization that perhaps the same roots that bore the resistance of the Marcos years, has only entrenched itself further and as such, creates similar tragic conditions and creates the need to sustain the struggle for genuine change.

Valid opposition

Ninoy AquinoBenigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Today we are celebrating the anniversary of his assassination. I hadn’t been born when he was gunned down at the Manila International Airport, nor had I been born on or before the peaceful revolution three years after. I’m afraid whatever material or stories I have and will continue to absorb now will have already been heavily romanticized. Though some say he was part of a political dynasty from the ruling landlord class, advocating just a moderate revolution through peaceful means to overthrow a dictator, what he espoused was a revolution nonetheless–in a time of injustice and repression. Let us remember that, too.

Researching on cronies

I found myself drowned in research work this afternoon at the high school library. Out of my own will. I had hours to waste before the school shuttle came, so I decided to waste it on books. It’s amusing. I find my research very interesting. A comparative thesis on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the late Philippine despot, President Marcos. Other than that, I’m reading up on Investigating Corruption by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

You know what, I noted down the names of those many of Marcoses’ cronies. And then I dared myself to find the relatives of these people in my “elitist” school. I’m sure to find a handful. Or probably not.

I’ve been watching DVD’s of different movies I borrowed from my classmate. I borrowed and watched three for the past week and I just want to note them down.