Earning Our Tomorrow


I write this column four days after former President Benigno S. Aquino III or, to me, simply President Noy, passed away on June 24. The time was 6:30 a.m., as officially declared by the Capitol Medical Center.

Soon after the official announcement and confirmation of President Noy’s death, tributes from all over the world came in. Soon enough too, the paid master troll swung into action, ordering his minions to put a negative spin on the late president’s death and the subsequent outpouring of grief. The trolls’ bosses couldn’t muster that kind of sympathy.

So, obediently, the trolls accused the Aquino family and sympathizers of neglecting President Noy and leaving him all alone in his home to fend for himself. Saying that the mourners and sympathizer were paid to attend the wake and line the streets. These were the trolls’ predictable reactions. Their frame of reference was “I need to be a troll because I benefit from it. It all protects my masters so they can continue getting benefits for themselves and for me.” Pathetic.

Anyway, we’re done with the trolls. We’ll just consign them to the circular file where they and their masters belong.

As we recall President Noy’s life, our mind races back to the first time we became aware of him and the rest of the family. Housewife Cory Aquino had been the main pillar of the family in the absence of husband Ninoy. The rest of the family had dutifully stayed in the background and avoided drawing attention to themselves. Marcos had locked up their father in jail together with thousands of other political opponents.

Benigno Aquino III, Noynoy, was only 12 when Ninoy was hauled off to several jails. Ninoy, Marcos’s most vocal and popular adversary, had been incarcerated since Sept. 23, 1972, two days after the official declaration of martial law was signed by Marcos. The document was known as Proclamation 1081.

On Aug. 18, 1973, almost a year after the imposition of martial rule, my wife, Margie, and I were invited to the Aquino home on Times St. to observe in private the birthday of the eldest Aquino child, Maria Elena or Ballsy. We were told that Marcos might allow Ninoy to spend a few hours with his eldest on her birthday. As we drove that rainy night to the Aquino home from our place, about five minutes from Times St., I thought that “martial law was not all that bad after all.” The dispensation was allowing its fiercest enemy to visit his daughter on what was reportedly her 18th birthday. We arrived Times in driving rain.

In my excitement and to avoid being drenched, I hurriedly ran toward the entrance. In my haste, I accidentally slipped on the slope leading to the door of the family home.

Once inside, we joined the small group of Aquino relatives and friends — at least those who dared to be identified with the family.

Seated on one table was a long-haired young man, to whom Margie and I were introduced. The young man turned out to be Benigno Aquino III or “Noynoy,” then 13 years old, I was later to find out. He had his own guests. On the surface, no one in the family seemed anguished by the treatment given by the autocracy to Ninoy and to them. Everyone was, however, expectantly awaiting the arrival of Marcos’s prized catch. After some time, Ballsy announced that her father was not allowed to join her on her birthday. The temporary joy evaporated. The power of a dictator to manipulate and play with one’s emotions was very clear again at that instance.

Fast forward to April 10, 1975, when, in protest over his — a civilian’s — trial on trumped up charges before a military tribunal, Ninoy embarked on a 40-day fast that was to end on May 13.

As the fast progressed, family and friends of Ninoy gathered in celebration of the eucharist. a novena was being held in different churches and was attended by those who were not afraid to be “Aquino-tagged.” As the Aquinos themselves narrated, “‘friends’ avoided us as if they were stricken with leprosy.”

Fortunately, in days to come, and as if to encourage the family, the novena was well attended. One of the venues, St. Mary the Queen in Greenhills, was filled to capacity one sweltering summer night.

Present of course at the novena were the Aquino children, including Ninoy and Cory’s only son, Noynoy. He was, as usual, silently observing the proceedings and making a mental note of those who dared attend the novena.

Noynoy’s silence and his desire to merely observe have been mistaken for some kind of abnormality or ignorance of the political situation and, worse, for apathy and indifference.

During his mother’s presidency, he engaged in the same quiet observation and analysis. He observed how President Cory’s cabinet and other officials were carrying out their duties of governance. Silence did not mean lack of insight and informed judgment. It meant, however, that he was forming his own framework of analysis and governance based on personal experience, actual hardships of the family, and sentiments of people who were willing to be candid with him.

This framework would later form the basis of the basic principles of his governance. This was clear right at the start of the campaign. He was going to wage a campaign against corruption because corruption created poverty and poverty deprived people of their basic human rights to food, shelter, education: “walang mahirap, kung walang corrupt” (there would be no poor if there are no corrupt). And it wasn’t just a slogan. He meant every word of it. And so was the “daang matuwid” (straight path) theme. It came about because he was personally aware of the consequences of a crooked path.

At his inaugural speech, he expressed his disgust for the “wang wang” mentality. To President Noy, the “wang wang” — siren — was a symbol of entitlement and immunity from prosecution. It was an unacceptable “in your face” display of the inequality between the haves and the have nots.

The other part of the many parts of that framework was human rights. And on this issue, he needed no further insights. But if he added any other insight, President Noy discerned that poverty prevents people from exercising their basic human rights.

It is no surprise therefore that President Noy devoted his entire presidency to transparent and inclusive economic and infrastructure development. Based on his quiet studies, he was conscious of the ultimate impact of inclusivity on human dignity.

As some statesmen have said, the principle of human dignity is in most accord with democracy.


Philip Ella Juico’s areas of interest include the protection and promotion of democracy, free markets, sustainable development, social responsibility and sports as a tool for social development. He obtained his doctorate in business at De La Salle University. Dr. Juico served as Secretary of Agrarian Reform during the Corazon C. Aquino administration.