WHILE the nation debated on whether the remains of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos should be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the death of Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr. – the single most crucial incident that precipitated Marcos’ downfall – passed largely unnoticed by the general public last Sunday, August 21.
“Ninoy” was the opposition leader who stood up to President Marcos in those crucial years leading to the declaration of martial law in 1972. He was among the very first to be arrested when President Marcos suspended the nation’s institutions of government, including Congress, along with the basic rights of citizens, to protect the country, he said, from a Communist takeover.
In the next eight years, “Ninoy” was detained in military prisons and tried by a military court, which found him guilty of murder and subversion and sentenced him to death. After he suffered a heart attack in 1980 while in prison, he was moved to the Philippine Heart Center where he had a second heart attack. He was allowed to go to the United States for coronary artery bypass surgery. He returned to the Philippines in 1983.
On that day of his arrival on August 21, he was shot dead on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. His funeral procession on Aug. 31 lasted from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with an estimated two million people lining the funeral route along Quezon Ave., in Quezon City, España in Manila, through Quiapo, to Roxas Blvd, to his final resting place in Paranaque, where his remains lie today. Three years later, in February, 1986, the people massed at EDSA to end the Marcos regime.
All that happened 33 years ago and most of the millions who mourned “Ninoy” have since passed on. The nation has also moved on, after electing his widow Corazon C. Aquino president in 1986 and his only son Benigno S. Aquino III in 2010. After all these years, after two Aquino administrations, his death has never been fully resolved. To this day, it is not known who fired the gun that killed “Ninoy” and who gave the order to that gunman.
And so last Sunday, the nation – the few who remember and the many who appreciate what “Ninoy” did for the country, both in life and in death – observed the 33rd death anniversary of one of the truly authentic heroes of our land. His remains do not lie at the Libingan ng mga Bayani but they could lie anywhere and he would be remembered and honored by his countrymen.