POSTSCRIPT / August 19, 2003 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Ninoy message: Reform via peaceful, legal means

PATH OF PEACE: The 20th anniversary on Thursday of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino is the perfect backdrop for reminding the impatient among us, including mutinous soldiers, that reform is best achieved by peaceful and legal means.

As Exhibit A among the thousands of victims of the bloody dictatorship, Ninoy had compelling reasons to fight the Marcos machine with equal force. But he did not.

With reports rife that the health of the dictator was fast deteriorating, Ninoy decided in the summer of l983 to make a final attempt to talk some sense into his fraternity brother Ferdinand Marcos. He had in mind a peaceful dialogue before it was too late.

His friends and the oppositionists who had rallied around the charismatic leader and obviously wanted to preserve him for Liberation Day were warning him that sure death awaited him in Manila.

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MARK OF A HERO: The sharp analyst that he was, Ninoy himself knew of the perils he faced.

On the last leg of his flight, from Taipei to Manila — that was on Aug. 21, 1983 — he wore a bulletproof vest under his favorite safari jacket and even kidded about the morbid fact of assassins possibly getting him in the head. (They did!)

But there was no turning back from his rendezvous with history. Like a cruise missile gliding inexorably to its target, Ninoy surged on, impelled by the conviction that the Filipino was worth dying for.

Without mounting a coup, or firing a shot, Ninoy the pacifist was able to stir up the people into rising to put an end to the dictatorship.

Three tumultuous years after Ninoy’s death, People Power was born — becoming a model for similarly oppressed people elsewhere. With his widow Cory Aquino as transition president, the country made it back to its democratic moorings.

Of course Ninoy died doing it. But then, such is the mark of an authentic leader, a martyr, a hero.

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BIG DIFFERENCE: A leader of the rebel soldiers who holed up at the Oakwood condo in Makati last July 27 asked at the Senate hearing why the military elements of the 1986 Edsa Revolt were praised while their contingent was pilloried.

Trying to sound hurt and unfairly treated, the officer asked what the standards were for judging the success or failure of such rebellious action of the military.

It was a good thing Sen. Joker Arroyo, who was executive secretary of then President Aquino, went back to give some fatherly counsel to the coup leaders. By that time, they had turned off most of the gallery and the bigger crowd monitoring the proceedings on radio and TV.

Joker said the big difference was that the Edsa Revolt had popular support, while the Oakwood caper failed to get people to come out and support the rebel soldiers. People support determines the success or failure of a coup, he said.

If you had people support, he told the officers, your coup would have succeeded and you would now be the ones running things.

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REMEMBERING NINOY: Elementary and high schools have started to fly the flag at half mast to mark Ninoy’s death anniversary. Schools are encouraged to hold classroom discussions on the significance of his death and sponsor essay- and poem-writing contests on him and his ideals.

In Manila, motorists and promenaders on Roxas Blvd. experience a stirring sight of huge yellow streamers with Ninoy’s face stenciled on them flying in the breeze. Ninoy commemorative features have been on radio and TV lately, as are articles in print media.

This is part of a campaign not only to recall his martyrdom, but also to focus on the significance of his death and his message of effecting reforms through pacific means.

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LAND DONATION: The siblings of Ninoy have donated the remaining area in the estate of their late mother, Dona Aurora, in Concepcion, Tarlac, to the parish church and the public school there. They said this was per wishes of their mother and in fulfillment of Ninoy’s dream.

Sen. Tessie Aquino Oreta said that their parents “had no intention to leave them the land they own in Concepcion, because their legacy was even more lasting — the education they received from the best schools.”

“The true essence of people power is giving people the right to choose or improve their lives, and one can have the power of choice only through education,” she said. “An educated Filipino has the power to chart his or her life.”

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PPA APOLOGIA: We are amused by frantic efforts of some people at the Philippine Port Authority to play down reports that the temporary access road built a year ago at the Batangas Port reportedly for almost P60-million (from the original estimate of P16 million) will have to be removed as work on the port progresses.

The road will stay only if the planned expansion of the international port project will not push through. But its expansion has been approved by government planners and, more importantly, by the lending Japanese bank.

F. F. Cruz, a partner of Shimizu, the Japanese builder who holds the contract to Phase II of the port project, confirmed to us yesterday that the temporary access road would have to give way to the expansion of the project.

He added, however, that while the port expansion is not yet creeping into its location, the road would continue to be used by truckers and haulers. He said they would try to prolong use of the road so the millions poured into it would not go to waste.

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EXPANDED PROJECT: F. F. Cruz said that they had started work on the permanent road that will eventually replace the one-year-old access road.

The new road is thicker, longer (almost twice as long), wider (with six lanes compared to its present four lanes) and of better quality. It can be finished by December or January, he added.

The government decided to expand the Batangas port project to take advantage of a P5.5-billion loan made available by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

Applying for an additional loan later would entail too much time (three to four more years) and costs would have gone higher by the time the new loan is approved. So government planners decided to take it all in one sweep.

From its 400-meter berthing space that could accommodate only one ship at a time, the 2,000-meter space in the expanded port would be able to handle four Panamax-type vessels.

The modern port will look and feel like an international airport, except that instead of planes ships would be coming and going.

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DESPITE PINATUBO: US-based columnist Ben Simpao, reacting to our last Postscript on Clark Field in Pampanga said the place looked inviting the way it was featured. He asked if it was the right place for his retirement.

We emailed him back: “If I had the money, I would invest on Clark and the area around it. Magaganda ang mga plans from the time of President Ramos to President Arroyo. The area will boom, especially when GMA is elected in 2004.

“Right after the Pinatubo eruption, owners of mansions and cottages in the plush villages outside Clark were actually paying people to live in their residences and protect them in the forced absence of the owners or the tenants (mostly Americans).

“Many of the owners sold out at bargain prices. The few who had the foresight to buy despite the bleak situation were lucky. When the cleanup and rehab got under way, prices started to go up again. Ngayon sobrang taas na naman ng real estate prices.

“But if you were here right after the eruption, I’m sure you would not buy even if you had lots of money to gamble. Everything was ash and brown and desolate. There was not one green leaf in sight.

“I was convinced at that time that Pampanga was a goner. I was going around extensively and my conclusion was tapos na ang Pampanga, di na makababangon. But it did rise again from the ashes!”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 19, 2003)

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