Blank slate


Wednesday is the 30th anniversary of former senator Benigno Aquino Jr.’s murder at Manila International Airport tarmac. What do you remember?

“They’ve killed Aquino,” screamed copassenger Rebecca Quijano. Time magazine  reported: “Col. Vicente Tigas yanked  her away and whispered: ‘Don’t talk. Or you’ll get in trouble’.”

Eight hours later, then President Ferdinand Marcos, ailing from lupus disease, pledged to investigate. Before the details could be established, he released the probe’s “conclusion”: A hitman from the Communist Party killed Ninoy. Truth, too, was cut down.

South Africa, in  contrast, created a Truth Commission which confronted its apartheid past. It made amends to victims, like Nelson Mandela who, after 27 years of imprisonment, became president. Other countries like Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Bosnia created truth-seeking bodies. “The memories of men are too frail a thread to hang history from.”

The Philippines cringed from confronting reality. We later  crafted Republic Act No. 9492 which mandates “Ninoy Aquino Day.” Can that reverse amnesia? Eight out of 10 students, barely recall “Ninoy,” a survey found.

Our cook is now 64 years old. Nita remembers the stunned silence after the deadly gunshots reverberated in Manila. Our helper is 28 and a third-year college dropout. Airen is clueless about Wednesday’s rites. Historian Ambeth Ocampo dubs this blank slate “tabula rasa.”

“We have little collective memory of the past,” Ateneo University’s  Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, told the “Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship” conference. “We tend to live in a perpetual present. Thus, we cannot see well into the future.”

Punishment is not revenge or even justice, Fr. John Carroll, SJ, told the gathering. “It is the community reaffirming values seriously violated. Not to react as a community would be to reduce a community’s values or ‘common conscience’ to personal preference—and invite collapse…. That willingness to forget (Marcos’ crimes) reflects a weakness of common conscience…. Unless, the nation rises up it may be condemned to wander forever in the wilderness of valueless power plays among the elite.”

Come Aug. 21, the same question resurges like a phoenix: Is  the Ninoy murder a closed issue? Is it worth pursuing? Or will  amnesia finally smother it?

The killing is a “closed book,” two sisters of Benigno Aquino III, the incumbent and 15th Philippine  president, declared. “We  know who was behind it,” said Ma. Elena “Ballsy” Cruz and Aurora “Pinky” Abellada. “But we’d  rather see Noynoy devote his time to serving the people. Our  parents got the love of our countrymen. Parang tama na siguro ’yun.” (We think that should be enough.)

Does forgiving smudge a bitter past?  “A healed memory is not a deleted memory,” we are reminded. “Instead, forgiving  what we cannot forget creates new ways to remember. We change our memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

Pope John Paul II pardoned Mehmet Ali Agca for shooting him thrice at St Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. The pontiff  visited Agca in prison in 1983, but he did not intervene in the judicial process. Thus Agca moldered for 29 years in prison.

Isn’t that replayed in the unsolved Aquino murder? President Gloria Arroyo pardoned 13 of the convicted enlisted men after they spent 26 years in jail. Earlier, three had died in prison. Never unmasked, is(are) the mastermind(s) still out there?

“I  pardoned and prayed for those convicted,” Corazon Aquino said. But she wished that the main plotters be named,  “even if they could no longer be brought to justice.” Such knowledge would help prevent a similar tragedy.

Communal amnesia would expunge all “New Society” crimes. “The Marcos family never expressed any remorse,” Inquirer’s Randy David pointed out.  “They do not seek forgiveness.” They saw the plan  (House Resolution No. 1135)—to sanction the burial of  the dictator’s mummy in Libingan ng mga Bayani—“as a vindication of his innocence.… They want the nation to revise its remembrance of the past.”

This would reverse People Power’s verdict. It would shove, into an Orwellian memory shredder, crimes—from shell foundations in Lichtenstein to bogus war medals, to confiscated 60-piece Roumeliotes jewels. Add 3,257 persons “salvaged,” 737 desaparecidos, plus thousands detained without trial, under the “New Society.”

The Marcoses perfected the art of the blank stare. Asked if he would run in the 2016 presidential elections, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. played coy. “If the situation is right,” Junior said, dodging queries on the US federal court’s $353-million contempt fines. “Right” is when amnesia spreads from the Ilocos to blanket the whole country?

Many who figured in the Aquino murder are now dead. “Imelda Marcos and Eduardo Cojuangco are alive,” notes San Francisco-based lawyer-journalist Rodel Rodis. “They know  who ordered the hit on Ninoy.” Both  zipper their lips. “Is an antemortem or death-bed statement more compelling?” asks Manuel de la Torre, now a Minnesota resident.

The ranks of the now grey Filipinos lashed by martial law are thinning. “Soon, we too will be gone,” muses the nun in   “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” the 1928 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Thornton Wilder. So was the memory of the five who died when the finest Peruvian bridge collapsed in 1714.

“Even memory is not necessary for love,” she adds. “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”


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  • tgomeziii

    The commentaries are loaded with saboteurs tinkering with the sanctity of Philippine history. Mercenary revisionists are all out in force. It is evident that this abominable orchestration has been laying in ambush to sabotage the commemoration of Ninoy’s assassination. Enjoy the payola while you can. The tempest of karma awaits you all.

  • Guest

    What is EDSA Revolution?
    EDSA Revolution was the biggest open street party in 1986 attended by close to 2 million partygoers and merrymakers from all over Metro Manila. The party was so successful that another one was organized in 2001 known as EDSA 2. The advent of social media & smartphones in recent years should make it a lot easier to organize an even bigger party in the same location today. Note however that EDSA 1 was exclusively for residents of Metro Manila only.

    Who organized the EDSA Revolution?
    It happened by accident. The original organizers were random nobodys who just wanted to have fun. Nobody expected much from it. It was supposed to be just a small open streety party among friends, friends’ friends all the way to the sixth degree of separation. Phone brigades got to work to gather as many people as they could, flipping through the big fat yellow pages and phone dials. The outcome was completely unexpected and phenomenal. Some years later however, a group of people clad in yellow with some strange hidden agenda grabbed the credit for the greatest street party on earth at the expense of the random nobodys who originally organized it.

    What were the tanks, nuns with rosaries and military troops all about?
    To jazz it up and make the party more fun, the organizers decided to add more props and assign different groups to come in colorful costumes. Some people came as nurses, policemen, firemen, nude artists, greasy people or taong grasa, doctors, hard-hat engineers, day-laborers, bakers, stenographers, typists, construction crew and the whole nine yards. You could say they were the pioneers of Cosplay, even before Anime became big in the Philippines. We heard that some years after that first big party, a group of copycats in China attempted to do the same in Tiananmen Square. There was a huge misunderstanding between the party organizers and authorities that led to all hell breaking loose.

    • tuldok

      The Marcoses’ handsomely-paid foreign PR Group at work….

  • Gerald Abueva

    Ninoy married into the Cojuangco family. In the clannish patriarchal world of the Chinese, that’s like a man giving up his identity and dignity to become part of his wife’s family. By Ninoy’s generation, the Aquinos had fallen on hard times. Growing up poor and fatherless, Ninoy developed the survival instincts of an opportunistic predator. Ninoy could have had the virginity of Imelda for the asking but he did not. Under reduced circumstances, Ninoy sought the best available bride in the market in order to marry up, move up the social ladder and claim his place in this world. Ninoy knew right from the start what he was getting into. He needed Don Pepe, his father-in-law, in order to realize his highest political ambition. Don Pepe didn’t mind having a smart cunning son-in-law, which he did not have in Pete and Peping. But when Ninoy got a little too full of himself, he became inconvenient for the Cojuangco family. Truth be told, for all the troubles Ninoy brought upon his adopted family, Peping did not mind seeing his brother-in-law done away with and his sister widowed. When Ninoy was detained during Martial Law, Cory and her children did not lack for anything. Financially, they were doing just fine even without Ninoy. When Cory came to power, Peping milked the PCGG dry and Danding was his newfound crony. Clearly, the Cojuangco clan have in varying degrees already kissed and made up even then. Cory and her family knew right from day one who killed Ninoy. And it certainly wasn’t the guy suffering from lupus.

    Whatever happens, blood will always be thicker than water for the descendants of the pigtailed El Chino Cojuangco. In his death bed in 1976, Don Pepe repeatedly reminded his daughter Cory to put the clan above all else — clan above oneself, above siblings, above spouse, above society and above God. The rest, as they say, is history.

    • joni_depp

      Cory Aquino implicated Danding Cojuangco in her husband’s murder. But that was before the Cojuangco cousins kissed and made up, for obvious political and financial considerations. Since then, Cory and her family have not bothered to get to the bottom of Ninoy’s murder. Nag-iisa na lang si Ninoy. And his murder remains the biggest unsolved homicide in modern Philippine history.

      • Gerald Abueva

        Kinasangkapan lang si Ninoy. Stepping stone. Haha.

    • tarikan

      There is a ring of truth here. Kaya ni Ninoy mag-asawa ng beauty queen because of his good looks but he used his brain and married Cory. Peping reminds me of Babalu (RIP, Babs). So, if the Cojuangco clan knew from day 1 who masterminded Ninoy’s murder, couldn’t they share it with the public so history could be corrected accordingly? Or they are afraid of that relative. If I were PNoy, I’d go to the ends of the earth to unmask the mastermind(s). Go to H.e.l.l. my siblings if you don’t share my sentiments. A father is a father is a father.

    • johnllander

      Another blind loyalist of the thief dictator!

  • clanwolf

    Oh Inquirer in necroworship mode again? It’s getting to be a monthly tradition that makes you yawn…..and all over an overrated corpse. Meh.

  • joni_depp

    The Cojuangcos, Aquinos and the oligarchy are using Ninoy Aquino’s death to propagate their own revision of history.

    Ninoy was nothing but an ambitious scoundrel who miscalculated, and paid for it with his life. Ninoy had no ideals and no principles. He could change his image like a chameleon. He moved between Communists, like Luis Taruc, Kumander Dante and Joma Sison, with the same ease that he mingled with oligarchs, such as his wife’s family, and politicians like Diosdado Macapagal and Ramon Magsaysay. Ninoy even used Taruc and Kumander Dante, then Hukbalahaps, to harass and intimidate the Spanish owners of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac into selling the properties to his Cojuangco in-laws. He also convinced Magsaysay to facilitate the foreign currency loans to buy the properties.

    Ninoy often met with Communist Party of the Philippines chief Jose Maria Sison. Kumander Dante has stated that it was Ninoy who introduced him to Sison. From those meetings came about the New People’s Army. Victor Corpuz declared that Ninoy was the catalyst, and one of the founders, of the New People’s Army. It was inside Luisita that the NPA grew and was nurtured. According to Rodolfo Salas, who succeeded Kumander Dante as NPA Commander-in-Chief, Ninoy provided arms, training and lodging for the NPA. In return, the NPA never attacked Luisita.

    What Ninoy never suspected, was that someone from his own wife’s oligarchic family would be involved in his murder.

    EDSA was the triumph of the oligarchy and the political class. It was a victory that they snatched from the Filipino people. Events after EDSA have proven this to be true. While the politicians and the oligarchy have prospered, the rest of nation has either stagnated or deteriorated. Of course, the oligarchy tries to portray EDSA as the triumph of democracy, a myth if ever there was one. There may be semblances, but there is no true democracy when only the ruling classes corner all the political and economic powers and opportunities. There is no real democracy when the majority of Filipinos are incapable of feeding, sheltering and educating their families. No real democracy when most Filipinos are reduced to scrounging for crumbs and vainly waiting for some benefits to trickle down.

    • alfie

      Kung ang babasa ng comment mo m. joni_depp ay ipinanganak after martial law he/she will never believe they do not know ninoy (Dante, Aquino, N(forget), Tanada, Eva Kalaw). Dante is an acronym it is not a name.

    • AlexanderAmproz

      EDSA I and II were obviously Puppet’s removals.
      EDSA I, was run by : Sin, Enrile and Ramos, all of them known as US asset’s.
      EDSA II, Erap was an anti American opportunist, under the Marcos’s Gangs control thank’s alcohol, prostitutes and tons of bribes. “Chateau Petrus” the world most expensive wine(50 Thousands Pesos for 0,75Liter) driven him drunk like a Pork day and night, a Puppet caricature.
      GMA pleased the US for a stinky colonial action in Iraq where Palparan became a General to cut short the inconvenient questions about the Parliament “Butcher”

      Then, since Marcos the country went down by the day, the Cronies opposite.

      Marcos dummies where the beneficiaries of a run away Marcos, I agree with you, Danding is strangely the first among them.

      You should cure your communism obsession, every European Parliament has communists, even the Italy highly respected President, Giorgio Napolitano, nick name “The Red Prince”.
      I am an anti-communist too, but it isn’t an obsession, I am used to respect peoples with different opinions.

  • josh_alexei

    The Commission on Inquiry Act in most countries including South Africa was established very long time ago as the tools for seeking the Truth if anything else failed. As Compared to any Congressional Investigation like the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Inquiry, the Inquiry established under this Act is not for FAULT finding in pursuit of Prosecution but for Remedial Measures…That is how the countries that were not soo long time ago, as Bad or worse than the Phl in Governance, Peace and Safety, Public Service reformed themselves and now have become economically progressive and relatively peaceful and least corrupt..A good example that in most very Functional Democracy, elected Officials can not and will not intervene in the functions of an independent agency as it will be a Conflict of interest and Influence Peddling. And here is a very good example…a Transportation Minister whose Transport Business was put in the Blind Trust once he was appointed to the Cabinet was reported to have been seen in his Company property and when confronted, his ” alibi” was that he met with his wife to discuss their children Education…Not good enough, he was reprimanded and was taken out of the Cabinet…Granting that he did not discuss business, the Perception will always be that he Did.

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