By Herbert Vego
YESTERDAY marked the 39th anniversary of the assassination of a hero. I will never forget that Sunday of August 21, 1983. I was then 33 years old.
As early as 9:00 a.m., I was drinking beer and munching pulutan in a neighbor’s house in Lagro, Quezon City. We were celebrating; former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. would be flying home from exile in Boston, Massachusetts. And so we were all glued to the transistor radio.
Ninoy’s brother Agapito “Butz” Aquino was on the air, but all he could say was that Ninoy had opted to keep his flight data a secret for security reasons. He estimated the number of people who had gathered around the Manila International Airport to be around 5,000.
The next voice we heard on the air at past 1:00 p.m. was that of a sobbing Senator Salvador “Doy” Laurel breaking the bad news: Ninoy had been shot dead while descending from a China Airlines plane to the airport tarmac.
I ran back to our apartment crying. By then, the TV channels were showing video clips of a military general telling the media that one Rolando Galman had breached airport security and shot Ninoy dead. In my mind, however, it was a military operation aimed at altering the course of history.
Until that unfortunate incident, most Filipinos had hoped that Ninoy would one day be elected President.
Succeeding events would see the trial, conviction and imprisonment of soldiers responsible for the assassination. But none of them revealed the mastermind behind; he has remained unknown.
I rubbed elbows with Ninoy for the first and last time in 1970 during a convocation at the Manuel L. Quezon University, where I was news editor of the school paper, the Quezonian.
Ninoy was only 50 on the day he died. By then, most Filipinos had grown weary of the dictatorial government of President Ferdinand Marcos. Although he had already lifted martial law, he was still in absolute control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
If you readers who were unborn in that era could not imagine how Marcos ruled, please visualize how our immediate past president, Rodrigo Duterte, did it.
Ninoy Aquino could have run and won in the 1973 presidential election. But the second-termer Marcos, who was constitutionally banned from seeking a third term, had declared martial law a year earlier on September 21, 1972, allegedly “to build a New Society.”
No other Filipino leader in those days was as popular as Ninoy. His eloquent speeches aired here and abroad were both serious and humorous, instilling in listeners the determination to become part and parcel of unfolding events aimed at restoring democracy.
The sudden decision of Ninoy to return to the Philippines in 1983 coincided with the rumor that Marcos was terminally ill due a renal disease.
Ninoy was hoping to persuade Marcos to work out a peaceful transition to a duly-elected government. He feared that by hanging on to power till the end of his life, Marcos would only succeed in bringing about a chaotic, mad scramble for power among his wife Imelda, the military chief Gen. Fabian Ver and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.
At the same time, Ninoy knew that his return to the Philippines might provoke Ver to eliminate him.
Needless to say, Ninoy’s death paved the way for his widow Cory to be what he himself had wished for – to be President of the Philippines – in 1986.
And Cory’s death likewise initiated the march to Malacañang of his son Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III in 2010.
All three – Ninoy, Noynoy and Cory – are now resting in peace. But the memories of their idealism remain alive in our hearts.
MORE POWER EXPANSION A MATTER OF TIME
DURING a chance meeting with MORE Power president Roel Z. Castro, I learned that the requirements of a new law expanding the company’s power-distribution franchise from Iloilo City to Passi City and 15 towns of Iloilo province had been complied with, except one more.
If I heard him right, what remains to be accomplished is authority to proceed from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Meanwhile, we learned from MORE Power’s Engr. Wilmar Gonzalo – a recent guest on the multimedia program “MORE Power at Your Service,” hosted by Joy Fantilaga – that the ship carrying the new 30-KVA mobile substation imported from Turkey would be arriving in Iloilo in the last week of September 2022.
It should be ready in time to augment the company’s power requirements during the initial expansion work in the municipality of Pavia.