Imperfect justice and PNoy’s memories of Ninoy

Published June 30, 2021, 5:46 PM

by Isabel de Leon

  • In August 2017, Manila Bulletin editors interviewed former President Benigno S. Aquino III about his late father, Senator Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino II for a story to mark Ninoy Aquino Day on August 21.
  • Aquino still clearly recalled how his father Ninoy gave him one wistful look and left the fate of their family to him with the words: ‘Alam mo na lahat ng iyong gagawin (You know what to do).’
  • Hours later, the son he left behind in Boston, would learn about his father’s assassination from a CNN news report and from a phone call.
  • “There’s this picture of my dad when he was first approached by one of the people who took him from the plane. He was seated, he had this smile, how do you describe it? The smile was indicative of something like acceptance of fate and he lost that when one of the people patted his back. We took it to mean that they were checking if he was wearing a bulletproof vest”

One day in August, 2017, the Manila Bulletin team went to the house of former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III on Times Street in Quezon City to talk to him about his late father, former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who died at the airport tarmac on August 21, 1983. It was to be the 34th year since “Ninoy” died a hero’s death, and the interview was for a story marking Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Day.

(Manila Bulletin file photo)

President Noy or PNoy recalled how 34 years ago that fateful day in August, 2017, on the walkway to the garage that fateful day in August of 1983 in their home in Boston, USA, his father Ninoy gave him one wistful look and left the fate of their family to him with the words: “Alam mo na lahat ng iyong gagawin (You know what to do).”

PNoy looked back to that day when his father packed his bag and decided to return to Manila after living in exile for three years.

“There was a kitchen that had a walkway towards the garage. And that was the last time I had an interaction with my dad,” Noynoy said.

“Alam mo ‘yun na parang tumango nalang eh. Parang, o, alam mo na yung dapat mong gagawin ha. Ganun na rin ang sagot ko, tumango na lang ako nun. I don’t remember that we had a conversation in the car, parang pagtingin nya o, alam mo na. So yung we were holding our breath, we were waiting what will happen when he got home. Derecho bang Bonifacio, gumawa ba ng gimmick ang Malacañang para mawala ang credibility ng oposisyon?”

Aquino, who would be the second in his family to become president after his mother, former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, said that if he could only change the course of history, he would rather that his father did not have to leave Boston.

“If you’re going home, why put your whole faith in Marcos’ hands?” Aquino asked his father. He even thought that entering through the back door was a better idea.

Months before Ninoy decided that it was time to come home, Noynoy recalled seeing a rush of visitors to their home in Boston, some of them egged him on his plan to return, some discouraged him.

(Manila Bulletin file photo)

Ninoy took a circuitous route from the United States to several Asian cities before landing in Manila from Taipei via China Airlines Flight 811 on August 21, 1983.

Hours later, the son he left behind in Boston, would learn about his father’s assassination from a CNN news report and from a phone call.

“I was alone in this room adjacent to the dining room in Boston and that was where I learned on TV about the assassination,” Noynoy recalled.

“We were waiting for confirmation. Eventually, the consul of Japan who happens to be a friend of my dad from the 60s came to the house. He had been called by Shintaro Ishihara, again a friend of my dad and a member of the Parliament in Japan at that time. So it was Shintaro Ishihara who first confirmed (the news) to us.”

Years later, Aquino felt that despite his father’s famous words – “the Filipino is worth dying for” – the same Filipino had forgotten about the sacrifices made by those who came before him in an effort to give him back his freedom.

“Dad had to undergo all of that precisely to show us a way out of the darkness. And so many things lead us out of the darkness pero there’s a time that the darkness was the light for the first two years until people realize that wrong cause. And we are still paying a lot of the problem done that period. If a sacrifice had to be made, you had to it,” he said.

Aquino admitted that there remained some anger inside him “not just against those who perpetrated it, but also against those who were part of it, who ordered it, who covered up for it.”

“There’s this picture of my dad when he was first approached by one of the people who took him from the plane. He was seated, he had this smile, how do you describe it? The smile was indicative of something like acceptance of fate and he lost that when one of the people patted his back. We took it to mean that they were checking if he was wearing a bulletproof vest.”

In one of the last interviews that Ninoy had in Taiwan, he sort of predicted his death by saying that his enemies could hit him in the head as he was going to go home wearing a bulletproof vest.

PNoy admitted: “I don’t relish watching it (interview) again. It took me several minutes at least to get to a cool state irregardless of the passage of time.”

In the succeeding years, the Sandiganbayan explained its decision of conviction. Several other facts were unearthed after that.

But still, Aquino believes that “imperfect justice” was rendered to his father.

 
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