PNoy apologizes to Diokno family
FORT MAGSAYSAY, NUEVA ECIJA - President Aquino struggled to keep his emotions in check as memories came rushing back on the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.
In a speech during the inauguration of the refurbished Aquino-Diokno Memorial, Aquino recalled how he saw his father, the late Senator Ninoy Aquino, suffer when he was placed in solitary confinement, along with Jose "Pepe" Diokno.
The Memorial houses Aquino's and Diokno's detention center, which has been preserved and turned into a mini museum.
Aquino remembered how his father was stripped of his clothes, wedding ring, and eyeglasses, which triggered headaches.
At one point, Aquino had to apologize for breaks in his speech, saying memories of his father's ordeal came rushing back.
"Kaya madalas na sumakit po ang kanyang ulo noong mga panahong iyon dahil talaga pong napakaimportante po iyong salamin sa aking ama. Sa loob ng maliit, masikip, at mainit na silid-Pasensya na ho kayo, marami akong naalaala nitong mga oras na ito-malalaman lang nilang dalawa na sila'y buhay pa kapag kumanta ang isa ng Lupang Hinirang, at tumutugon naman ang kabila sa pag-awit ng Bayan Ko," he said.
Marcos rule 'like a wild dog'
Aquino admitted that it is still hard for him to watch the video of his father's assassination.
He said that as the only son, he had wanted to exact revenge from his father's oppressors.
"Aaminin kong hanggang ngayon, mahirap pa rin sa aking balikan at panoorin ang mga video ng huling mga sandali sa kanyang buhay: kung paano siya kinapkapan para tiyakin kung may suot na bullet proof vest o wala, at kung paano siya pinabagsak ng mga putok ng baril. Bilang nag-iisang anak na lalaki, mauunawaan siguro ninyo kung gaano ko ninais na gumanti sa nang-api sa aming ama, at sa ating bayan. Itinuring kong isang sinasapiang aso ang rehimeng Marcos na gusto kong wakasan," he said.
The President realized that the best way to move forward is to sacrifice oneself.
"Ang paninindigan ng aking ama, at ang ibinunga ng kanyang sakripisyo ang nagbigay ng sagot sa aking mga katanungan. Tulad nina Rizal, Gandhi, at Mandela, anuman ang dinaanan niyang pagdurusa, hindi natinag ang kanyang prinsipyo. Sa halip, lalo itong yumabong. Umuwi siya ng Pilipinas na puno ng pag-asa sa kakayahan ng Pilipinong bumangon, at sa pananampalataya sa Diyos. Nakahanda siyang itaya ang lahat, kahit na ang sarili, sa paniniwalang ito. Para sa kanya, ang paraan lamang upang maiwasan ang pagdanak ng dugo ay ang kahandaang isakripisyo ang sarili."
Finding justice for Ninoy
Speaking to reporters, the President indicated that there are efforts to convince those who had received the orders to kill his father to reveal what they know.
"'Yung conspiracy napatunayan na naman 'yon sa paglilitis nila ng Sandiganbayan pati na ng Korte Suprema. At saka nakailang kaso na naisampa patungkol dito. So, dahil doon nakulong 'yung sila General Custodio, at saka mga miyembro nung noong tinaguriang AVSECOM," Aquino said.
"Ngayon, 'yung pagdating doon sa lampas pa nung level nila batid naman natin na nakatakas 'yung mga sinasabi ko ngang parang gitna doon sa talagang nag-utos. At ito'y sinusubukan pa rin nating i-follow up, ano, na baka makumbinsi itong mga ito na medyo may edad na rin na maisawalat 'yung kanilang nilalaman."
But the President sees no breakthrough soon.
"Pero sa totoo lang at siguro maging practical tayo dito, nakinabang silang itikom 'yung kanilang mga bibig so, baka magpatuloy sila doon sa kanilang desisyon na 'yan. So, kung titingnan lang natin 'yung naipatunayan na sa akin,, at least, lumabas sa korte, parehas 'yung usapan doon, pinangalagaan ang karapatan ng lahat ay napatunayan na merong conspiracy sa pagpaslang sa aking ama.
Apology to Diokno family
In his speech, the President apologized to the Diokno family, saying that Senator Diokno was dragged into solitary confinement only because of the article that his father wrote against the dictatorship. The article was published in Bangkok Post.
"Siguro samantalahin ko na rin ang pagkakataon humingi ng paumanhin sa mga Diokno. Alam po n'yo, ang sumulat ng artikulo tatay ko lang. Ang pinarusahan tatay ko at saka si Senator Diokno. Nadamay lang ho si Senator Diokno dito at baka ho never kaming nagpasalamat sa inyong pakikisama at humingi ng tawad sa pagkadamay n'yo, kaya publicly humihingi ako ng paumanhin sa ngalan po ng amin pong pamilya," he said.
Ills of martial rule
The President spoke of the ills of martial rule, which led to atrocities and made poverty in the country worse.
He said things are different now. He pointed out that the "concentration camp" that had served as his father's detention cell has become a reminder of the excesses of the past.
"Ang lugar na ito na minsang ginamit ng diktadurya upang pagmalupitan ang nanindigan para sa katwiran, ay isa nang pananda na magpapaalala sa atin sa mga kamalian ng nakaraan. Ang Hukbong Sandatahan na dati'y kinasangkapan sa paniniil ng mga Pilipino, maaasahan nang kabalikat sa pangangalaga sa kapakanan ng sambayanan," he said.
Their respective cells now contain life-size wax figures of Aquino and Diokno along with their bare furnishings, depicting how they endured their 30 days of detention in Laur.
Other rooms are similarly preserved, including that one of the officer-in-charge of the detention facility, then Lt. Voltaire Gazmin who happened be Ninoy Aquino's wedding godson.
"Ninoy didn't recognize his godson, who was in civvies, until the latter greeted him as 'Ninong.' Lt. Gazmin apologized to his godfather, saying he was just following orders. Ninoy told him that he understood," a label outside the room reads.
Gazmin later became the chief of the Presidential Security Group during the presidency of Cory Aquino and was appointed Defense Secretary by the current President Aquino.
Only Cory, Noynoy didn't cry
The President's eldest sister, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz recalled how shocked the Aquino family was when they were finally allowed to see Ninoy who had lost significant weight.
It became more painful to see their father cry. Ballsy said only her mother Cory, and her brother Noynoy were able to control their emotions.
"It was obvious that Mr. Marcos wanted to break dad's spirit. It was in solitary confinement though that my dad discovered a deeper sense of being. Prayer and reflection gave himself the strength and clarity of mind to carry on. Dad was never alone. God's hand worked at every moment," Bally said in her speech.
Ballsy then recalled how Gazmin would give Ninoy powdered milk when Ninoy refused to eat the food he was given lest he be poisoned.
AFP human rights dialogue
The President also inaugurated the AFP Center for Human Rights Dialogue, meant to serve as a venue for regular interaction between the military and human rights stakeholders and other sectors.
It houses rooms named in honor of Aquino and Diokno.
The AFP says The Memorial and Center signify the commitment of the military to democracy and human rights.