Ninoy Aquino’s legacy    

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Four days before the 40th anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s martyrdom, Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. was expelled from the House of Representatives. It was a historic moment, the first time since the restoration of bicameral Congress in 1987 a member was expelled. More than two-thirds (265) voted to remove Teves from the House with no objection and three abstentions. What a swift revenge of karma on Arnie Teves.

On the day Bongbong Marcos (BBM) assumed office, Teves filed a bill in Congress seeking to officially insult and undo the legacy of Ninoy Aquino. Teves on June 30 last year proposed to rename Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Ferdinand E. Marcos International Airport.

The reason Teves cited for the proposal is based on false information. Under House Bill 610, Teves said it is “more appropriate to rename it to the person who has contributed to the idea and execution of the said noble project.” This is wrong.  NAIA (formerly known as the Manila International Airport) was constructed during the time of President Manuel Roxas in 1947 and not during the rule of Marcos senior.

Teves also sneered at the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt, the principal outcome of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination on August 21, 1983. “The EDSA revolution has lost its effect…It’s no longer significant to the people today.” Dr. Jose Victor Torres of De La Salle University-Manila looks at Teves’ bill as an effort to remove the dark past of martial law in the country. The move of Teves is designed to erase the legacy of Ninoy Aquino and advance an alternative history based on lies and falsehoods.

Nearly a year since Teves tried to dilute the legacy of Ninoy Aquino, the legacy remains secure. Teves on the other hand is a fugitive, accused as the alleged mastermind of the murder of his family’s political rival and a wanted terrorist. The House expelled him and as he cries political harassment, Teves should read the memoirs of Ninoy Aquino, the most famous political prisoner of the Marcos dictatorship. Perhaps, Teves can learn a thing or two from Ninoy Aquino’s experience, particularly what it means to be a victim of injustice and political persecution. Then he can reflect on his attempts to undo the legacy of Ninoy Aquino and his mockery of the spirit of EDSA.

Tomorrow, the 40th anniversary of the death of Ninoy Aquino in the hands of his security escorts at Manila International Airport (MIA) is a national holiday. Under BBM, the country will have a muted and hushed celebration of one of the most significant dates in the country’s history. This is part of the concerted effort to diminish and downgrade the importance of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination and revise history.

For decades, the legacy of Ninoy Aquino is under constant attack through disinformation, misinformation, historical distortion, outright lies and falsehoods. This is mainly done in social media through troll farms and factories, mercenary vloggers and paid hacks. Destroying the legacy of Ninoy Aquino is the only way for the fabricated history advanced by the Marcoses to gain ground.

The life and legacy of Ninoy Aquino is intertwined with the truth and facts about martial law and the corrupt and brutal Marcos dictatorship. Fiction like the “Golden Age,” Tallano gold and similar claims are easily unmasked once contrasted with the legacy of Ninoy Aquino. His travails as a political prisoner of the Marcos dictatorship and the injustices he was subjected to are antidote to historical distortion proliferating in the digital world. Hence it is important to hold on, maintain and defend the legacy of Ninoy Aquino in a time it is under siege and brazen attack by the merchants of lies.

What is the legacy of Ninoy Aquino’s life and martyrdom which the nation celebrates tomorrow?

Valuing freedom and democracy is the chief legacy of Ninoy Aquino. There was a dark time in the nation’s history, a period where Filipinos lost their freedom and democracy was destroyed. This was when Marcos senior declared martial law in 1972 and placed the country under the bayonet.

Ninoy Aquino and thousands of Filipinos fought for freedom and democracy. The freedom and democracy that Filipinos enjoy today were fought, won and paid in blood by Ninoy Aquino and others against the Marcos dictatorship. Present and future generations of Filipinos must be constantly reminded not to take for granted the freedom and democracy that they have today. Without the sacrifices of Ninoy Aquino and thousand others, they would not enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy.

That freedom unfortunately includes the freedom to embrace “fake news.” Ironically, that democracy tragically also made it possible for the Marcoses to return to power. Nevertheless, it does not matter wherever one stands in the political divide. The fact that one is free to believe in something and hold on to it is the legacy Ninoy Aquino bequeath to the nation and the Filipino people.

Ninoy Aquino’s life reminds Filipinos of the dangers when freedom and democracy are taken for granted and the dire consequences. Once freedom and democracy are devalued, people can lose them. When people stop caring about freedom and democracy and no longer cherish them, they are ultimately destroyed.

Quoting Archibald Macleish, Ninoy Aquino asked. “How shall freedom be defended?  By arms when it is attacked by arms; by truth when it is attacked by lies; by democratic faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, and in the final act, by determination and faith.”

The grateful Filipino people should celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s martyrdom by affirming their commitment to justice, freedom, democracy, and above all to TRUTH.