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Friday, February 25, 2011

Cory Aquino: An inexhaustible gift to democracy

Tribute for Cory at Times Street 

Author's note: This article was re-published by this author from An express permission was sought from the website owner. In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of EDSA People Power Revolution, and although this article was written in time for Cory Aquino's death, this is a fitting tribute to the bloodless revolution in 1986. The last part [in bracket] was edited to keep up with the recent developments in the Philippine political and administrative system.


LAST AUGUST 5, 2009, more than a hundred thousands of Filipinos from all walks of life—young and old, rich and poor—have lined up the streets of Manila, braving the heat, rain and dust just to get a glimpse and offer their final words of thanks to their humble and beloved hero, President, Corazon C. Aquino, who passed away on August 1, 2009 after more than a year of battling with colon cancer.

Filipinos came in droves and kept pace with President Cory Aquino’s cortege from Manila Cathedral in the historic walled city of Intramuros to Manila Memorial Cemetery in the suburb Parañaque.  Thousands of supporters wearing yellow, likewise, joined the crowd by lining up the streets.  They unceasingly chanted in chorus “Cory! Cory! Cory!”.  They brought with them banners, memorabilia, photos of the late president, candles and silent prayers as the cortege passed by.  Some groups of students were singing “Bayan Ko!” expressing their support to the Aquino family, their love for the late president, as well as their undying support to the restoration and guarding of democracy in the country.  Everyone was waving “L” with their hands, signifying “Laban,” which literally means “fight” that became the symbol of the late President Corazon C. Aquino during her bid for presidency against the tyranny and dictatorship of the Marcos regime.

For many Filipinos, it was reminiscent of the funeral of her late husband, Ninoy Aquino, who was assassinated on August 21, 1983, seconds after he stepped on the tarmac from the China Airlines plane he boarded on his way back from his US exile to Manila.  It was reported that around 2 million Filipinos and supporters of the late Ninoy joined the funeral march from Sto. Domingo Church to the Manila Memorial Cemetery in Parañaque City.  It took the procession 8 hours before Ninoy was finally laid to rest.  Cory’s funeral procession took almost the same.

MessagesFor Cory Aquino, a simple homemaker to then political detainee, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. who was a staunch political rival and critique of then dictator President Ferdinand E. Marcos, joining politics was out of her mind.  However, in prayer, she sought the answer to her question whether or not to file her candidacy against the fourteen-year martial law regime of political strongman, Ferdinand E. Marcos.  Cory, with the intercession of prayer, finally announced her bid for presidency, primarily because she shared a common principle with her late husband, I believe in the compelling truth that an ordinary Filipino can overcome a dictatorship. Thus, Cory, who was not even as glamorous as Imelda Marcos, became a compelling face of the opposition, who can topple the dictator.

Capped by a massive and blatant election fraud during the February 1986 snap elections called by then President Marcos, the tumultuous years of the Filipino people under the Marcos dictatorship had come to a historic end.  The opposition led by Cory Aquino held nationwide daily mass actions and rallies that culminated in the famous bloodless and peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution.  Hundreds of thousands of infuriated Filipinos converged at the Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and shouted slogans “Tama na! Sobra Na! Palitan Na!” (Stop! It’s Enough! Time to Change!). They held rosaries and said their prayers, offered flowers to the soldiers, literally held their bodies against armored trucks, tanks, and military forces before Marcos could order to quell and annihilate the angry mob.  Eventually, his growing unpopularity, waning political support, and the absence of a military back up, led the dictator to abandon his post, flee from Malacañang, and seek refuge in the US for political asylum.

Under her revolutionary and transitory government, President Cory Aquino put up the Constitutional Convention that penned the 1987 Philippine Constitution that, in turn, restored the Bicameral Congress and breathed upon Judiciary to life.  She brought back the ailing nation to life by attracting foreign and domestic investors to do business in the country.  Nongovernment organizations (NGOs), which were indiscriminately accused and branded as Communist groups by Marcos, came into the open and helped the government in healing the wounded nation through various community organizing and community development programs.  Government employees worked with a renewed commitment and were proud again to be called as public servants.  The press has finally regained its freedom.  Political leaders who were unjustly detained had their new lease in life.  She resumed peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).  She distributed lands through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) even to the consternation of the elites and the landlords.  The ordinary Filipinos, once again, took pride in being a Filipino.  Everyone was in high spirits.  Indeed, it was a glorious moment for the Philippines and its people.

JN302003This transitory and revolutionary government, however, was not a bed of roses for the new President.  Her presidency was marred with eight military coup attempts to topple her administration.  There was a lot of spillovers of socio-economic problems under the fourteen-year martial rule.  Those difficult years did not also spare her from attacks against her integrity and capability as the President.  However, her steadfast leadership, her calm disposition and resiliency to preserve peace and order and democracy, as well as with the strong support from her constituents, she was able to finish her presidency and end her term with integrity and have a much lauded graceful exit after six years in office.

Even after her term and presidency, Cory Aquino was still a prominent icon and a strong crusader for freedom, democracy and good governance.  A mother to her nation, she told her successors to behave.  She led rallies to unseat an inept President, became a prominent figure against imminent attempts to bring back martial rule and those who have tried to amend the Philippine’s 1987 Constitution so that they can cling to their powers beyond their term.  As history can tell, she made Presidency a symbol of simplicity, servanthood, trust, and most of all, integrity and high moral standard.  Thus, any successor to her leadership comes to a point of comparison especially when her successor are not bereft with scandals, deceit, abuse and corruption.

Her passing away, not only becomes a reminder to the Filipinos of the legacy of her administration.  For Filipinos, Cory Aquino becomes a national symbol for integrity and democracy.  Moreover, she epitomizes the soul and spirit of the Filipino people—one with innate courage and strength and resiliency to face all the odds, and strong belief in God.  In her words:  “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoong Diyos na ginawa niya akong isang Pilipino.” (I thank God that He made me a Filipino.).  More importantly, she becomes a symbol for Filipino’s strong valuing for peace and freedom, more so that this peace and freedom have been regained from a corrupt and dictator regime.

She always believed in the greatness of the Filipinos.  If her husband, Ninoy Aquino, once said, “The Filipino is worth dying for,” for Cory Aquino, “The Filipino is worth living for.”  Again, she further stressed the belief that the Filipino people, as a nation, can be great again. During her last State of the Nation Address (SONA), she said, “I believe in the inexhaustible giftedness of the Filipino people.”

For Filipinos, her death also ushers a renewed love of country and freedom from tyranny and dictatorship, and the birth of crusade and public vigilance against power grabbers and leeches, corruption and abuse.  More importantly, this is a fitting reminder to the national leaders that real and genuine power emanates from the people, and that only the people can bestow trust and respect to its leaders. To the last of her breath, a leader like Cory became an inexhaustible gift to her nation and democracy.

The Philippines is still sailing rough in its political tides.  [With the national elections barely 9 months away, the Philippines will become another testing ground for the virtues that Cory has set as examples.  Now that Cory Aquino has joined her God, who will continue her legacy for integrity and good governance.  Who will continue to champion the cause for truth, justice and democracy?]
Adddendum: History will tell us that her son, Noynoy Aquino has taken over the Presidency.  PNoy, as we fondly call the President, vowed to continue her legacy for integrity and good governance, as well as to champion truth, justice and democracy.  

Despite this development, the question remains.

JN302082Will all these be gone as the icon fades away?  

Still, the new president has a lot to hurdle, but as we say, governance does not dwell on the presidency alone.

Only the Filipino people—can answer that question.
And only Filipinos can choose to carry the torch to make Cory's legacy live again.

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