Ninoy's assassination led to a powerful People's Power Revolution that we remember this week. Thirty years ago this week, millions of Filipinos, inspired by his sacrifice, stood in front of tanks to protest the dictator's attempt to steal an election. Their slogans were "Laban!" [Fight!] and, in homage to Ninoy, "Hindi ka nag-iisa" [You are not alone].
The extraordinary People's Power revolution toppled a ruthless dictatorship, and it did so peacefully. It happened primarily because Ninoy and his wife, Cory, were icons of peaceful resistance. Their examples have allowed the Philippines to grow over the past 30 years into a stable and increasingly prosperous democracy.
I got to know Ninoy through our mutual friend Raul Manglapus. He was smart, passionate and charismatic. It is no surprise that the Marcos dictatorship feared his return to the Philippines. With Ferdinand Marcos suffering from serious illness, Ninoy posed a real threat to their regime.
Ninoy understood the risks. He had a clear sense that someone in the Marcos dictatorship might kill him. Some reported that he had been warned of the possibility.
But, he said, "The Filipino is worth dying for."
The problem now is, more than half of all Filipinos alive today were not born when Ninoy sacrificed his life for their freedom. As the memories of his sacrifice are fading, some have found an opportunity to promote the myths of martial law.
Today, as the Philippines gets ready to elect a President, a Vice President, Senators and Congressmen, I wonder how many Filipinos understand why Ninoy risked his life for them. Do they understand the tyranny of dictatorship that took the Philippines off the path of growth and progress? Do they understand the kleptocracy that diverted the wealth of the Philippines to the Swiss bank accounts and global property holdings of a tiny elite? Do they understand that, no matter how messy democracy may feel today, Filipinos are far better off than they were under a state of martial law?
This election season, it is my strong hope that Filipinos once again will say, "Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa."
John Howley, Esq.