Benigno Servillano Aquino, Jr. (November 27, 1932 – August 21, 1983), popularly known as Ninoy Aquino or Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., was a former Philippine senator, governor, vice governor and mayor and a leading oppositionist to the autocratic rule of Ferdinand Marcos. He was assassinated at the Manila International Airport (now named the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in his honor) upon returning home from exile in the United States. His death catapulted his widow, Corazon Aquino, to the limelight and subsequently to the presidency, replacing the 20-year-old Marcos regime.
In myriad ways Aquino bedeviled the Marcos regime, chipping away at its monolithic facade. His most celebrated speech, insolently entitled "A Pantheon for Imelda", was delivered on February 10, 1969, and assailed the first lady's first extravagant project, the P50 million Cultural Center, which he dubbed "a monument to shame". An outraged President Marcos called Aquino "a congenital liar". The First Lady's friends angrily accused Aquino of being "ungallant". These so-called "fiscalization" tactics of Aquino quickly became his trademark in the senate. During his tenure as senator, he was selected by the Philippine Free Press magazine as one of the nation's most outstanding senators. His achievements at such a young age earned him the moniker "Wonder Boy" of Philippine politics.
No chance Aquino was seen as a contender by many for the highest office in the land, the presidency. Surveys during those times showed that he was the number one choice among Filipinos, since President Marcos by law was prohibited to serve another term.
Although suspicions pointed to the Nacionalistas (the political party of Marcos), Marcos allies sought to deflect this by insinuating that, perhaps, Aquino might have had a hand in the blast in a bid to eliminate his potential rivals within the party. Later, the Marcos government presented "evidence" of the bombings as well as an alleged threat of a communist insurgency, suggesting that the bombings were the handiwork of the growing New People's Army. Marcos made this a pretext to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus, vowed that the killers would be apprehended within 48 hours, and arrested a score of known "Maoists" on general principle. Ironically, the police captured one of the bombers, who was identified as a sergeant of the firearms and explosive section of the Philippine Constabulary, a military arm of the government. According to Aquino, this man was later snatched from police custody by military personnel and the public never heard from him again.
President Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972 and he went on air to broadcast his declaration on midnight of September 23. Aquino was one of the first to be arrested and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of murder, illegal possession of firearms and subversion. On April 4, 1975, Aquino announced that he was going on a hunger strike, a fast to the death to protest the injustices of his military trial. Ten days through his hunger strike, he instructed his lawyers to withdraw all motions he had submitted to the Supreme Court. As weeks went by, he subsisted solely on salt tablets, sodium bicarbonate, amino acids and two glasses of water a day. Even as he grew weaker, suffering from chills and cramps, soldiers forcibly dragged him to the military tribunal's session. His family and hundreds of friends and supporters heard Mass nightly at the Santuario de San Jose in Greenhills, San Juan, praying for his survival. Near the end, Aquino's weight had dropped from 180 to 120 pounds. Aquino nonetheless maintained the ability to walk throughout his ordeal. On May 13, 1975, on the 40th day, his family and several priests and friends, begged him to end his fast, pointing out that even Christ fasted only for 40 days. He acquiesced, confident that he had made a symbolic gesture. But at 10:25 p.m. on November 25, 1977, the government-controlled Military Commission No. 2 found Aquino guilty of all charges and he was sentenced to death by firing squad. However, Aquino and many others believed that Marcos, ever the shrewd strategist, would not let him suffer a death that would surely make Aquino a martyr.
In 1978, from his prison cell, he was allowed to take part in the elections for Interim Batasang Pambansa (Parliament). Although his friends, former Senators Gerry Roxas and Jovito Salonga preferred to boycott the elections, Aquino urged his supporters to organize and run 21 candidates in Metro Manila. Thus his political party, dubbed Lakas ng Bayan (People's Power), was born. The party's acronym was "LABAN" (the word laban means "fight" in the Filipino language, Tagalog). He was allowed one television interview on Face the Nation (hosted by Ronnie Nathanielsz) and proved to a startled and impressed populace that imprisonment had neither dulled his rapier-like tongue nor dampened his fighting spirit. Foreign correspondents and diplomats asked what would happen to the LABAN ticket. People agreed with him that his party would win overwhelmingly in an honest election. Not surprisingly, all his candidates lost due to widespread election fraud.
In mid-March 1980, Aquino suffered a heart attack, possibly the result of seven years in prison, mostly in a solitary cell which must have taken a heavy toll on his gregarious personality. He was transported to the Philippine Heart Center where he suffered a second heart attack. The doctors administered ECG and other tests and found that he had a blocked artery. The surgeons were reluctant to do a coronary bypass because of their unwillingness to be involved in a controversy. Additionally, Aquino refused to submit himself to the hands of local doctors, fearing possible Marcos "duplicity", preferring to either go to the United States for the procedure or to return to his cell at Fort Bonifacio and die.
On May 8, 1980, Imelda Marcos made an unannounced visit to Aquino at his hospital room. She asked him if he would like to leave that evening for the U.S., but not before agreeing on two covenants: 1.) That if he leaves, he will return; 2.) While in America, he should not speak out against the Marcos regime. She then ordered General Fabian Ver and Mel Mathay to make necessary arrangements for passports and plane tickets for the Aquino family. Aquino was shoved in a closed van, rushed to his home on Times Street to pack, hustled to the airport and put on a plane bound for the U.S. that same day accompanied by his family.
Aquino was operated on at a hospital in Dallas, Texas. He made a quick recovery, was walking within two weeks and making plans to fly to Damascus, Syria to contact Muslim leaders, which he did five weeks later. When he reiterated that he was returning to the Philippines, he received a surreptitious message from the Marcos government saying that he was now granted an extension of his "medical furlough". Eventually, Aquino decided to renounce his two covenants with Malacañang "because of the dictates of higher national interest". After all, Aquino added, "a pact with the devil is no pact at all".
Aquino spent three years in self-exile, setting up house with Cory and their kids in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. On fellowship grants from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he worked on the manuscripts of two books and gave a series of lectures in school halls, classrooms and auditoriums. He traveled extensively in the U.S. delivering speeches critical of the Marcos government.
Marcos and his officials, aware of Aquino's growing popularity even in his absence, in turn accused Aquino of being the "Mad Bomber" and allegedly masterminding a rash of bombings that had rocked Metro Manila in 1981 and 1982. Aquino denied that he was advocating a bloody revolution, but warned that radicalized oppositionists were threatening to use violence soon. He urged Marcos to "heed the voice of conscience and moderation", and declared himself willing to lay his own life on the line.
Throughout his years of expatriation, Aquino was always aware that his life in the U.S. was temporary. He never stopped affirming his eventual return even as he enjoyed American hospitality and a peaceful life with his family on American soil.
In the first quarter of 1983, Aquino was receiving news about the deteriorating political situation in his country combined with the rumored declining health (due to lupus) of President Ferdinand Marcos. He believed that it was expedient for him to speak to Marcos and present to him his rationale for the country's return to democracy, before extremists took over and make such a change impossible. Moreover, his years of absence made his allies worry that the Filipinos may have resigned themselves to Marcos' strongman rule and that without his leadership the centrist opposition would die a natural death.
Aquino decided to go back to the Philippines, fully aware of the dangers that awaited him. Warned that he would either be imprisoned or killed, Aquino answered, "if it's my fate to die by an assassin's bullet, so be it. But I cannot be petrified by inaction, or fear of assassination, and therefore stay in the corner..." His family, however, learned from a Philippine Consulate official that there were orders from Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to issue any passports for them. At that time, their visas had expired and their renewal had been denied. They therefore formulated a plan for Ninoy to fly alone--to attract less attention--and the rest of the family to follow him after two weeks. Despite the government's ban on issuing him a passport, Aquino was able to acquire one with the help of Rashid Lucman, a former congressman from Mindanao. It carried an alias, Marcial Bonifacio (Marcial for martial law and Bonifacio for Fort Bonifacio, his erstwhile prison). He eventually obtained a legitimate passport from a sympathizer working in a Philippine consulate. The Marcos government warned all international airlines that they would be denied landing rights and forced to return if they tried to fly Ninoy to the Philippines. Aquino insisted that it was his natural right as a citizen to come back to his homeland, and that no government could prevent him from doing so. He left Logan International Airport on August 13, 1983, took a circuitous route home from Boston, via Los Angeles, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taipei, before heading towards Manila. He had chosen Taipei as the final stopover when he learned the Philippines had severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan. This made him feel more secure; the Taiwan authorities could pretend they were not aware of his presence. There would also be a couple of Taiwanese friends accompanying him.
It would have been perfectly convenient for the Marcos government if Aquino had stayed out of the local political arena, however Ninoy asserted his willingness to suffer the consequences declaring, "the Filipino is worth dying for." He wished to express an earnest plea for Marcos to step down and seek a peaceful regime change and a return to democratic institutions. Anticipating the worst, during a pre-return interview held in his suite at the Taipei Grand Hotel, he revealed that he would be wearing a bullet-proof vest, but he also said that "it's only good for the body, but for the head there's nothing else we can do". Sensing his own doom, he told the journalists accompanying him on the flight that they "have to be ready with your camera because this action can become very fast...in a matter of 3 or 4 minutes it could be all over...and I may not be able to talk to you again after this... " In his last formal statement that he wasn't able to deliver, he said, " I have returned to join the ranks of those struggling to restore our rights and freedom through nonviolence. I seek no confrontation."
On August 21, 1983, while on his way to Manila, Aquino was accompanied by several foreign journalists to ensure his safety or, at the very least, to record events for posterity in case rumors of a planned assassination proved to be true on China Airlines Flight 811. Despite a convoy of security guards (all assigned to him by the Marcos government) and a contingent of 2,000 military and police personnel on the tarmac, Aquino was fatally shot in the head as he was escorted off the airplane. Government investigators claimed that he was gunned down by Rolando Galman, who was immediately shot dead by the aviation security. No one actually identified who pulled the trigger, but Rebecca Quijano, another passenger, testified that she saw a man behind Aquino (on the stairs) point a gun at the back of his head, then there was the sound of a gunshot. A post-mortem analysis disclosed that Aquino was shot in the back of the head at close range with the bullet exiting at the chin at an angle which supported Quijano's testimony. Even more suspicions were aroused when Quijano described the assassin as wearing a military uniform.
The government claimed that Aquino was killed by a Communist hitman. However, politicians and diplomats found evident contradictions between the claim and the photos and the videotape footage that documented the time before and after the shooting. The footage had circulated throughout the Philippines at that time.
Everyone from the CIA, to the United Nations, to the Communist Party of the Philippines to First Lady Imelda Marcos was accused of conspiracy. President Marcos was reportedly gravely ill, recovering from kidney transplant when the incident occurred. Theories arose as to who was in charge and who ordered the execution. Some hypothesized that Marcos had a long-standing order for Aquino's murder upon the latter's return.
The Marcos government then ordered two independent bodies, the Fernando Commission and Agrava Fact-Finding Board, to investigate. The men on the tarmac, the rank and file of the military, were found guilty and are currently serving life sentences at National Bilibid Prison. They have recently filed an appeal to have their sentences reduced after 22 years, claiming the assassination was ordered by a Marcos crony and business partner (and Corazon Aquino's estranged cousin), Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., who was eventually cleared by the Aquino family.
Aquino's funeral procession on August 31 lasted from 9 a.m.--with a funeral mass officiated by the Catholic archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, and held at Santo Domingo Church--to 9 p.m., when his body was interred at the Manila Memorial Park. Two million people lined the streets during the procession which was aired by the Church-sponsored Radio Veritas, the only station that covered the procession. The procession reached Rizal Park, where the Philippine flag was brought to half-staff.
"... Ninoy was getting impatient in Boston, he felt isolated by the flow of events in the Philippines. In early 1983, Marcos was seriously ailing, the Philippine economy was just as rapidly declining, and insurgency was becoming a serious problem. Ninoy thought that by coming home he might be able to persuade Marcos to restore democracy and somehow revitalize the Liberal Party ..."and called him:
"...The Greatest President, We never had ..."
The death of Benigno Aquino transformed the Philippine opposition from a small isolated movement to a massive unified crusade, incorporating people from all walks of life. The middle class got involved, the impoverished majority participated, and business leaders whom Marcos had irked during martial law endorsed the campaign--all with the crucial support of the military and the Catholic Church hierarchy. The assassination showed the increasing incapacity of the Marcos regime—Ferdinand was mortally ill when the crime occurred while his cronies mismanaged the country in his absence. It outraged Aquino's supporters that he, if not masterminding it, allowed the assassination to happen and engineered its cover-up. The mass revolt caused by Aquino's demise attracted worldwide media attention and Marcos' American contacts, as well as the Reagan Administration, began distancing themselves. There was global media spotlight to the Philippine crisis, and exposés on Imelda's extravagant lifestyle (most infamously, her thousands of pairs of shoes) and "mining operations", as well as Ferdinand's dictatorial excesses, came into focus.
The assassination thrust Aquino's widow, Corazon "Cory" Aquino, willingly or unwillingly, into the public eye. Convinced by leaders of the opposition that she was the person to best Marcos, Cory Aquino went on to campaign tirelessly in the 1986 snap elections which were called by Marcos to pacify rampant public discontent. In 57 days of trying to win people's votes before the February 7, 1986 election, her UNIDO party took to the streets, visiting all but a few of the Philippine provinces. On the campaign trail, Mrs. Aquino was greeted by throngs of people throwing confetti and cheering "Cory! Cory! Cory!". Despite the Marcos-controlled Commission on Election's declaration of a Marcos' victory, the majority of the Filipino people refused to accept the allegedly fraudulent outcome, prompting the People Power Revolution that drove Marcos into exile and placed Cory Aquino in the seat of power.
While no Filipino president has ever been assassinated, Benigno Aquino is one of three presidential spouses who have been murdered. Aurora Quezon was killed along with her daughter and son-in-law in a Hukbalahap ambush in 1949, while Alicia Syquia-Quirino was murdered by the Japanese along with three of her children during the Battle of Manila in 1945.
Directed by award-winning documentarist Butch Nolasco and written by Ben Tangco (also an award-winning writer), it aims to reintroduce Ninoy (especially to the Filipino youth) and the values that he stood for and provide an accurate and comprehensive account of events leading to and following Ninoy’s assassination through a comprehensive review of key eyewitness accounts and vital evidence, using competent and independent-minded forensic experts while seeking to go beyond the forensic evidence and arrive at a firm conclusion as to who was ultimately responsible for Ninoy’s killing in the context of the unique historical circumstances and powerful political forces at play during the time.
Combining a painstaking research with state-of-the-art CGI (computer generated imaging) technology, it recreates Ninoy’s assassination accurately from angles never seen before. This is the first time that full-scale CGIs were used (in some scenes) in Philippine television for a forensic documentary. Ultimately, the FWWPP intends to sear the Filipino consciousness with the hideousness of the murder and the larger injury inflicted on the nation by the failure to give Ninoy justice and to punish the real perpetrators of the crime. “Beyond Conspiracy” was shown on ABS-CBN last Aug. 24 (National Heroes Day) at 10:30 p.m. and was hosted by Tina Monson-Palma.
The core message of the campaign is the selfless giving of the best of ourselves for our countrymen and women and the advancement of the country as a whole. Hence, the campaign is designed to create innovative mechanisms and systems for the participation of corporate brands and their customers in schemes that contribute to causes and projects that enhance the welfare of the poor and marginalized Filipinos. Concretely, the corporate campaign partners has committed to manufacture and sell iamninoy goods and/or services as part of their participation in this campaign. In turn, BSAF grants our corporate partner the non-exclusive and non-transferable usage of the iamninoy brand and logo in the marketing and selling of their Goods & Services. For the privilege of the grant of this usage, our corporate partner commits to donate a portion or a percentage of the income from the sales of its iamninoy goods and/or services during the campaign period to a worthy cause of their choosing in their name and that of the iamninoy campaign. The campaign will run for a year beginning August 21, 2008.
The public as consumer is also an integral part of the campaign. By purchasing iamninoy items from the campaign's retail partners during the campaign period, they are directly supporting important national causes and projects. In fact, they may directly choose a beneficiary supported by the campaign and then identify the company that is giving to their chosen cause. The primary target audience of this campaign is the youth who were either too young to remember Ninoy Aquino and what he stood for or were not yet born during that period. The campaign hopes to engage the youth to learn about the values Ninoy stood for and to continue his legacy for generations to come.
The iamninoy brand concept has been developed with multi-awarded advertising agency McCann Erickson to ensure that the campaign will appeal to today's Filipino youth.
Although Aquino was recognized as the most prominent and most dynamic opposition leader of his generation, in the years prior to martial law he was regarded by many as being a representative of the entrenched familial bureaucracy which to this day dominates Philippine politics. While atypically telegenic and uncommonly articulate, he had his share of detractors and was not known to be immune to ambitions and excesses of the ruling political class. However, during his seven years and seven months imprisoned as a political prisoner of Marcos, Aquino read a book entitled Born Again by convicted Watergate conspirator Charles Colson and it inspired him to a religious awakening.
As a result, the remainder of his personal and political life would undertake a distinct spiritual sheen. He emerged as a contemporary counterpart of the great Rizal, who was among the world's earliest proponents of the use of non-violence to combat a repressive regime. Many remained skeptical of Aquino's redirected spiritual focus, but it ultimately had an effect on his wife's political career. While some may question the prominence given Aquino in Philippine history, it was his assassination that was pivotal to the downfall of a despotic ruler and the eventual restoration of democracy in the Philippines.
As part of Republic Act No. 9256, the Monday nearest August 21 was declared (SECTION 1. Section 26, Chapter 7, Book I of Executive Order No. 292, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987) a nationwide special holiday (Ninoy Aquino Day) by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines and approved on July 25, 2007 by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines.
August 24, 1983 – Ferdinand Marcos sent a fact-finding commission headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Enrique Fernando to investigate the Aquino murder (composed of 4 retired Supreme Court Justices who resigned, after its composition was challenged in court and thereafter, Arturo M. Tolentino declined appointment as board chairman.
October 22, 1983 – Marcos created another fact-finding committee known as the Agrava Fact-Finding Board, headed by former Court of Appeals Justice Corazon Agrava, Chairman, with lawyer Luciano E. Salazar, businessman Dante G. Santos, labor leader Ernesto F. Herrera and educator Amado C. Dizon, as members (3 P.D. 1886 dated October 14, 1983 and P.D. 1903 dated February 8, 1984). It held 125 hearing days from November 3, 1983 (including 3 hearings in Tokyo and 8 hearings in Los Angeles, California), heard 194 witnesses recorded in 20,377 pages of transcripts.
October 22, 1984 – Agrava Board released the reports concluding that military officers, including then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver, conspired to kill Ninoy Aquino and the Supreme Court assigned the case to the Sandiganbayan.
September 28, 1990 – 16 of the suspects were sentenced to reclusion perpetua. Convicted of the crime were the Avsecom chief, Brig. Gen. Luther Custodio, Capt. Romeo Bautista, 2nd Lt. Jesus Castro, and Sergeants Claro L. Lat, Arnulfo de Mesa, Filomeno Miranda, Rolando de Guzman, Ernesto Mateo, Rodolfo Desolong, Ruben Aquino and Arnulfo Artates, supposed gunman Constable Rogelio Moreno, M/Sgt. Pablo Martinez, C1C Mario Lazaga, A1C Cordova Estelo and A1C Felizardo Taran. No mastermind was named.
August 21, 2007 – The 24th anniversary of Ninoy’s murder. Chief Justice Andres Narvasa appealed for the closure of the case; Juan Ponce Enrile asked for the review for clemency in favor of the 14 convicts; Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo, chairman of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) asked pardon for the convicts; Corazon Aquino and Benigno Aquino III forgave the 14 soldiers but opposed their appeals for clemency or parole (which Sec. Raul Gonzales submitted to the President on 2004); Eduardo Ermita stated that the Bureau of Pardons and Parole had recommended a grant of executive clemency.
August 24, 2007 - Eduardo Ermita officially announced that due to political implications, the appeal for clemency by the 14 soldiers was archived, even if the Bureau of Pardons and Parole presently reviews the plea. The executive secretary refused to give a time frame for the review.
November 22, 2007- After more than 21 years, Pablo Martinez, one of the convicts in the Aquino-Galman double murder case in 1983 was released from the National Bilibid Prisons after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pardoned him for humanitarian reasons. Martines stated:
"Kung nakikinig man kayo Madam Cory Aquino patawarin ninyo ako sa nagawa kong pagkakasala noon."
("If you are listening Madame Cory Aquino, forgive me for the wrongdoings that I did before.")
March 14, 2008- Former Cpl. 1st Class Mario Lazaga one of the 16 convicted soldiers died of hypertension at the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City. Two other convicts had already died in detention since M/Sgt. Pablo Martinez’s pardon.