Ninoy Aquino, a staunch critic of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, fell to an assassin’s bullet, shortly after he arrived at the Manila International Airport (now the Ninoy Aquino International Airport). Malacañang file photo

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday, August 21 that the country needs citizens like the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

Tuesday marked Ninoy Aquino Day, the 35th anniversary since the senator was assassinated upon his arrival at the then-Manila International Airport after a three-year self-exile in Boston, Massachusetts. 

In a statement from the Malacañang Palace, Duterte commemorated Ninoy Aquino Day and recognized the heroism of the late senator and the father of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

“In this time of real and lasting change, we need more citizens like him so we can steer our country toward the direction where a brighter and better future awaits us all,” Duterte said.

The president’s message added that Aquino “died while fighting to restore peace and democracy in the Philippines.”

Duterte also cited how Aquino inspired the very first bloodless revolt that became a significant turning point in Philippine history. It triggered events that led to the overthrow of Marcos.

After the three-day uprising known as the People Power Revolution commenced along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) in Manila, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. fled to Hawaii on February 25, 1986. It paved the way for the country’s freedom from the regime accused of countless human rights violations and ill-gotten wealth accumulation.

“His (Ninoy’s) profound love of country has inspired a revolution that altered the course of our nation’s history and gave birth to the freedoms we enjoy today,” Duterte’s message said.

Aquino’s wife, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, rose to power as the president following Marcos.

The current president went on to encourage the public to look back at Aquino’s life and acknowledge the nationalism that the latter displayed all throughout his lifetime.

“Let us take this opportunity to reflect on his sacrifice as we honor the courage and patriotism that Ninoy demonstrated during his struggle,” the president added.

Duterte also advised public officials to emulate Aquino as they push for initiatives that would benefit the masses and the general public.

“May his dedication to his cause serve as a guidepost for our current leaders in government as they advance the welfare of our people, especially the oppressed and marginalized,” Duterte said.

The president concluded the statement by asking for the public’s cooperation in addressing the conflicts that are plaguing the society.

“This can only be achieved if we work together to institute meaningful reforms that will put an end to the many social ills that have obstructed our path toward becoming a mature and stable democracy,” the president stated.

Justice remains unserved

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) chairman Dante Jimenez noted that justice for Aquino’s assassination is yet to be seen three decades later.

“Justice remains elusive and still haunts the nation that is waiting for answers,” Jimenez said in a statement.

He also noted that despite all the years that have passed, the real mastermind for the crime has still not been punished or placed behind bars.

“Who masterminded the orchestrated killing of Ninoy Aquino? Because only the soldiers and police security escorts were convicted by the court,” he added.

Family members, friends and supporters of the late senator attended the “Mass for National Transformation” at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City. The mass presided by Msgr. Gerardo Santos was intended to commemorate Aquino’s 35th death anniversary and to remember the casualties of Duterte’s war on drugs as well as Marcos’ martial law victims.

Among those present were former President Noynoy Aquino, Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, former Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, former Commission on Human Rights Chairwoman Etta Rosales, and former education chief Armin Luistro.

Civil society group Tindig Pilipinas also honored Aquino on Tuesday saying that the late senator’s wisdom can help “confront the Duterte dictatorship.”

“Ninoy told us to fight, to be firm, and to hold fast to our principles. Most important, Ninoy taught us our true value, that we are worth dying for,” Tindig Pilipinas said in a statement.

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