Why Ninoy, Cory fought for a one-term President
MANILA - Los Angeles, February 15, 1981.
In a speech before Filipino and American guests at a freedom rally organized by the Movement for a Free Philippines, Ninoy Aquino denounced the dictator Ferdinand Marcos for his maneuverings to perpetuate himself in power beyond the end of his 8-year term in 1972.
"In 1972, Mr. Marcos was already 7 years in office, he had one year to go. He was toying with the idea of fielding Imelda but Imelda showed very poor in the polls so what did Mr. Marcos do? Change the Constitution, sabi niya, so he called a constitutional convention in 1970," the exiled senator said. "We were a few, a handful in the Senate who denounced this, and I told the Senate we should not allow an open constitutional convention because it's very dangerous."
Luneta, the 21st of September, 1997.
Around half a million people took part in a rally to send a resounding message to then-President Fidel V. Ramos -- "Don't fiddle with the Constitution to extend your stay in power."
Leading the rally was Ninoy's widow credited with restoring democracy after the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.
"Kung sa inyong puso ay mayroong pagnanasang tumagal pa sa kapangyarihan, magiging baluktot ang tingin ninyo sa katotohanan. Gagamitin kahit anong dahilan, gagawin kahit anong paraan, manatili lamang sa inyong puwesto. Kaya po sa pagpapasya, ang conflict of interest ay talagang dapat iwasan," the former President said.
It was her 1987 Constitution that Ramos and his backers were thinking of amending to allow him to run for a second term in 1998.
For Corazon Aquino, tinkering with the charter was not merely an ethical minefield for Ramos.
She believed it could pave the way for yet another dictatorial regime to take hold of the country in the future.
She warned that the leader of the country will hear many voices urging him to stay on.
The danger is that those voices will not belong to the people but to lackeys and those with vested interests.
"They will say you are right, when you are wrong. They will say you are successful, when you fail, and will insist you are indispensable, although you are just one of 70 million Filipinos who gave you the rare privilege to be their servant but only for your elected term. They will say that nobody can take your place, when what they mean is that they do not want to give up their places," she said.
Cory said in no uncertain terms, if you've had your turn at the presidency, you should humbly and graciously move on.
"Let me tell you now, the presidency is so great an honor, no one deserves to have it again. It imposes a duty so important - to guide a whole country and protect a whole nation - that you must do it well. And if you did it well, you won't deserve to do it again," she said. "Doing your job well was your duty and not a special favor to the country. There is a secret I would like to share. The honor of the presidency is so great, no one needs to have it more than once."
Cory's last message at the Luneta rally addressed to her successor: let your good work speak for itself.
Allow the democratic processes we fought so hard for take their course and let the true voice of the people be heard.
"I trusted in you when my term was over. Trust in the Filipino," she said.
But some now say it's just as apt a message to her son 17 years later as President Benigno Aquino III entertains the notion of another six years.
In the position his father fought to preserve the integrity of.
In the seat his mother was so willing and so ready to vacate when her time came. - Reports from Willard Cheng and Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News