Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in white, close to his staged gunman Rolando Galman in blue. Who was really assassinated that day? The former senator’s wife and son became presidents of the Philippines, each having a term of six years each, but neither disclosed the findings as to who really masterminded the celebrated death that eventually made it easy for the Americans to enforce a regime change against President Ferdinand Marcos.

(Part 1: An empty rhetoric)

I am prefacing my column with an article Jose Alejandrino wrote on Ninoy Aquino that starts here:

On August 21, 1983 Ninoy Aquino returned from self-exile in the US. He was the sharpest critic of Ferdinand Marcos who allowed him to leave for the US for a bypass heart operation.

On the China Airlines plane which brought him back, he told the journalists on board that things could go very quickly once he landed at the Manila International Airport. He had a premonition he was going to die and clutched his rosary beads as he was picked up by soldiers and escorted out of the plane.

Before he got to the last step of the stairway down the plane, he was shot from behind with a .22 calibre pistol mounted with a silencer by his escort Sgt. Rogelio Moreno. Then other gunshots followed.

Ninoy was dragged on the tarmac not far from Rolando Galman who was lying dead. Rogelio then handed the .22 pistol to an officer waiting inside a car with tinted windows.

This was all recorded on videotape. The CIA got hold of the tape but never released it because there would be too many questions asked as to who took it and how the CIA had obtained it.

Gen. David Frankel saw the videotape and told me how the execution was carried out. He told me Marcos had nothing to do with the assassination and that it was part of a family feud inside the Aquino-Cojuangco family. It was no secret that Ninoy and Danding did not get along together and that Danding, a capitalist, did not share Ninoy’s socialist views.

Nor for that matter did Cory. She once told me that Ninoy had married her for her money which he needed to advance his political career. It was also no secret that Ninoy had presidential ambitions.

When I told Cory what the CIA knew, Cory said, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” I had the impression she already knew and that is why she did not pursue the investigation of Ninoy’s death. It could open a can of worms.

Besides, blaming Marcos was politically convenient. It led to Edsa and the election of Cory, and later, her son Noynoy to the presidency.

Behind Cory’s concern was always the preservation of Luisita Hacienda. When GMA and CJ Renato Corona wanted to dismantle it, they both paid the price when Noynoy was president.

Ninoy, Gen. Frankel told me, was forced to come home because Harvard didn’t renew his fellowship. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation submitted a report to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis that Ninoy was organizing communist cells in Boston. Dukakis passed the report to Harvard and Ninoy’s fellowship was terminated.

All these I wrote in my memoirs published in the US in 2009.

Was Ninoy a hero?

If we go by the definition of a hero who is admired for his courage, his outstanding achievements, and noble qualities, Ninoy falls short.

No doubt he had courage but what were his outstanding achievements as a Tarlac governor and as a senator? Certainly he was intelligent and an excellent orator, and probably did love his country in his own way, but is that enough to qualify him as a hero?

I prefer to see him as a martyr, as someone who was killed for his political beliefs.

Ninoy was quoted as saying the Filipino is worth dying for. No doubt Ninoy was ready to die for the Filipino in pursuit of a political ambition but that to me is the mark of a martyr more than a hero.

Compare Rízal to Ninoy. Rizal had no political ambition.

In fact, he turned down Andres Bonifacio’s invitation to lead the revolution when my granduncle Pio Valenzuela y Alejandrino went to see him in Dapitan to extend Bonifacio’s invitation.

Rizal placed his country’s interest above his personal interest. Did Ninoy do this? Or did he place his personal interest above his country’s interest?

If you are a communist or socialist, you would of course argue Ninoy was a hero. But if you are neither one nor the other, you would not. It all depends on where you are coming from.

Still, Ninoy died at the hands of someone because of his political beliefs. And that is worthy of any person, regardless of whether we agree with those beliefs or not.

The real question we should ask, however, is was his sacrifice in vain? To answer that question, we have to look at the record of achievements of the Cory and Noynoy presidencies.

End of article.

One cannot really answer Alejandrino’s question because as he said to do so is to be subjective. It depends where you are coming from.

A few weeks after August 21, 1983, I produced for San Beda College, an issue of The Bedan exclusively lionizing the man onto his death, for I too was part of the protest movement at that time. It was to welcome his widow, Cory, to the campus he went to high school in, the only school he could show a diploma from.

Later, Ninoy’s surviving classmates celebrated the Eucharist with her. The college library should have all these records.

After a year, I would join former vice president Emmanuel Pelaez campaign for Senator Salvador Laurel campaign for president under UNIDO, but that bandwagon would be overtaken by the Cory Aquino for President Movement, and the senator agreeing to be her vice president.

Both would lose the snap elections.

But re-elected Ferdinand Marcos would be challenged by a coup by his defense secretary and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM).

I would join a million people at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, called by Cardinal Sin to buffer the putchists and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prevent bloodshed. The people did not go to Edsa to depose a sitting president, much more a duly-elected president declared winner officially by the Commission on Elections.

The United States, however, perfected the regime change by intervening through its fifth column and puppet General Fidel Ramos, ironically a cousin of Marcos by blood. The Americans kidnapped Marcos and his family and exiled them to Hawaii, where the deposed head-of-state would eventually die.

Alejandrino is correct in saying the real question that should be asked is did Ninoy, the man whose death started a series of events leading to the removal of the Marcos regime, die in vain?

Why so? As we always say, history will eventually be the ultimate judge of the probity of any event, person or thing. Subsequent events are the only norm by which his sacrifice would have any positive contribution to the development of the country and its people.

Otherwise his cadaver which was used for many days to elicit the sympathy of the people, still unwashed bearing the bloodstain of his gruesome murder, exhibited at his residence at Times street, and then Sto. Domingo Church and paraded from Quezon Avenue all the way to the Luneta Park all the way to the South Expressway, finally to a memorial park in Sucat, Paranaque, netting a crowd of maybe close to five million along the way, would have just served like what he only achieved during his life – an empty rhetoric.

His lifetime record, the only thing that could be remembered was his Study-Now, Pay Later Plan for poor and indigent students, which was even being claimed by Raul Roco when his former chief of staff himself ran for president in 2004, was also not only null but was just public relations.

Gil Santos who was with the wire services that covered the Korean War, could not recall a single story filed by Ninoy for the Manila Times.

Aquino’s facilitations of the “historic” surrender of Luis Taruc to President Ramon Magsaysay was scripted. The Huk Supremo coming down from the hills could not have happened even without CIA Edward Landsdale choreographing it.

He did not have any achievements as mayor of Concepcion or governor of Tarlac.

Jose Maria Sison writes that “Even before the CPP was reestablished in 1968, Ninoy had maintained a certain amount of good relations with the old people’s army units headed by Bernabe Buscayno in Tarlac.”

His dalliance with Jose Maria Sison of the Communist Party of the Philippines, made them plan the 1971 bombing of the Liberal Party proclamation rally at Plaza Miranda. Ninoy was the only candidate in the senatorial slate that was not on stage when the grenades exploded.

 There is no legislative track to return to his tenure as senator, except misleading the Filipino people about the fake Jabidah massacre that created the Moro insurgency in Southern Philippines in 1972 and the botching up of the Philippine claim to Sabah.

 After the proclamation of martial law on September 1972, Ninoy would serve his remaining days under detention, until he was sentenced to death by musketry by a military tribunal in 1977.

In 1980, through the intercession of First Lady Imelda Marcos, he would be sent to the United States to receive treatment of his heart ailment. After recovery, he would spend his time exercising his vocal chords attacking he Marcos administration, fast-forwarded to the time he would die at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport in 1983.

No probity in life, but did Ninoy Aquino die in vain?

Thirty years of yellow regime from Aquino the mother to Aquino the son (1986 -2016), did all it could to put this man on a pedestal. Has it all been worth it?