For all the “mamamayang Liberal,” what is the significance of August 21? We all know, of course, that it is a special non-working holiday in commemoration of the death of Ninoy Aquino.
But, is that all there is to it? What change did Ninoy’s death bring about for our country?
C’mon, let us take a quick look back at history and, together, let us find out how August 21 has figured in the most critical periods in our annals and how it has managed to change the course of our history.
1971 – Plaza Miranda bombing
On the evening of August 21, 1971, at the height of the Liberal Party’s miting de avance at the Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, two hand grenades exploded at the exact time that then LP Pres. Gerry Roxas was proclaiming on stage the senatorial and Manila local candidates that the party was fielding for the oncoming midterm elections.
It was an attempt to decimate the LP senatorial slate.
9 died and 95 got wounded as a result of that nefarious incident.
Among those who were seriously injured were then Senators Gerry Roxas and Serge Osmeña Jr., LP senatorial candidates Jovito Salonga, John Henry Osmeña, Genaro Magsaysay, Ramon Mitra Jr., Salipada Pendatun, Melanio Singson, Eddie Ilarde, and Eva Estrada-Kalaw (a Nacionalista guest candidate of the LP), and Ramon Bagatsing, the LP’s Manila mayoral candidate.
A few days after the grim and bloody Plaza Miranda bombing, Marcos assumed emergency powers and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
During the November 1971 elections, Marcos’ senatorial candidates experienced a terrible and unexpected defeat — a sign that Marcos was losing his political grip on the nation that was beginning to turn against him.
In September of 1972, Marcos declared Martial Law.
1983 – Ninoy Aquino assassination
After three years of self-exile in the US, and in spite of then First Lady Imelda Marcos’ prophetic statement that “If Aquino gets home, he is dead,” Ninoy decided to go back to his beloved country. His decision was prompted by two factors: the declining political situation in the Philippines and the deteriorating health condition of Ferdinand Marcos.
Despite all the possible safety precautions that Ninoy took (he used a passport bearing a different name, he took a circuitous route, he wore a bullet-proof vest, and he was escorted by several international journalists during his flight home), Ninoy was gunned down at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.
In the back of his head.
At close range.
In broad daylight.
With 1,000 soldiers supposedly sent for his security.
Ninoy Aquino, Marcos’ staunchest opponent and most vocal critic, was groomed by LP to be its standard bearer in the 1973 presidential elections that never took place because of the Martial Law declaration. He was referred to by Sen. Jovito Salonga as “the greatest president we never had.”
The cold-blooded murder of Ninoy sparked widespread outrage among the Filipinos previously cowed by Marcos’ tyrannical rule.
Two and a half years later, further galvanized by the victory of Marcos in a snap election that was marred by blatant fraud and violence, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life trooped to EDSA in what was to be known as the People Power Revolution.
The 21-year reign of the Marcoses and their cronies came to an end when the first family fled Malacañang and was flown to Hawaii.
I didn’t think I would ever resort to this but, to conclude, I am hereby quoting Rigoberto Tiglao (yes, the same Rigoberto Tiglao who serves as the Gloria Arroyo apologist and attack dog that all democratic warriors regard with disdain!).
The tragedy on August 21, 1971 “triggered the events that led to the imposition of martial law and the start of Marcos’ 13-year dictatorship.” The tragedy on August 21, 1983, meanwhile, “triggered the events that led to the fall of that dictatorship.”
2019 – ?!!!
Under the present administration, our democracy is under attack. Sen. De Lima is languishing in jail for 2-1/2 years now due to trumped-up charges, CJ Sereno had been illegally removed from office, and most of the prominent voices of the opposition are now facing sedition and other charges based solely on the testimony of a convicted criminal that Spox Panelo himself once called a liar cum information peddler. The press is threatened, the Church is relentlessly trashed, and the women and the LGBTQ+ community are constantly subjected to disparaging remarks. Thousands have already been murdered – the poor, minors, human rights defenders, farmers, and IPs alleged to be drug users/peddlers/pushers or communists/insurgents. The culture of impunity is back with a vengeance. The administration is also treacherously turning us over to China –on a silver platter, no less. Most importantly, the very fiber of our values as Filipinos is now weakened, damaged or flawed.
In order to restore everything that we have lost, we need to effect genuine change.
Are you now ready to take on that task as part of our responsibility as citizens of this country?