OPINION: Ninoy and the foolishness this country needs right now 1

OPINION: Ninoy and the foolishness this country needs right now

John Molo

Posted at Aug 21 2020 04:45 PM

(Editor's note: The author is chair of the Political Law Cluster, UP College of Law, and past president of the Harvard Law School Alumni Association of the Philippines. Republished with permission.) 

For the past several years, we've seen groups and their trolls attack the legacy of Ninoy Aquino. They scoff at his sacrifice with the more callous saying, "Namatay lang, may airport na? Dami namang namamatay araw-araw." "Nabaril? Ano namang kahanga-hanga doon?" For me, the most vile is the "Ninoy was a fool (Kasi tanga sya)" line. The one that says that Ninoy died because he was foolish enough to go back - that he was only after publicity and it got to his head, so he died because of stupidity. This line works. Even in the law school, students sometimes genuinely struggle when asked the question, "So what exactly did Ninoy do that was so extraordinary that he became a National Hero?" Ano ba talaga ginawa nya na kaka-iba? 

As we commemorate his assassination, I think it's time we confront this question directly. And my honest answer is precisely what the trolls say, he was monumentally "Foolish." 

It was never his eloquence. He was a brilliant speaker and writer, yes. But so were [Lorenzo] Tañada, [Jose] Diokno and, yes Marcos. It wasn't just because he fought the dictatorship. Hundreds of fellow patriots did that. It wasn't because he "led" the opposition. The opposition during Marcos was fractured (just as it is today) and had many leaders. It wasn't his hardships during exile. The Aquinos had a comfortable life in Boston. As a student there, I visited the place where they stayed. It was an affluent district with a Church nearby and Harvard just a short subway ride away. Fil-Ams I talked to shared that Ninoy was feted in universities and institutions. They lived better than most Americans. 

Rather than diminish Ninoy, this actually makes it even more clear why he deserves to be a hero. He had everything most of us could hope for there in the US. Fame, stability and the means to fight Marcos in a safe, protected environment. His family finally had a chance to be with their father after years of imprisonment. He had nothing to prove. He had paid his dues. And he threw all of that away. 

Ninoy chose to go home. That is his single greatest act of foolishness. Because only a fool would go back to a country where the ailing dictator, desperate to cling to power saw you as his greatest threat. Only a fool would go back where cronies and lackeys were fearfully watching their leader turn increasingly weak and decrepit. And only a monumental fool would go back after being told point blank by two leaders of the regime that he will be assassinated if he does. 

Yes, katangahan talaga. Biruin mo, he made his wife a widow. He deprived his five children of a father. All because he believed WE are "worth dying for". I have quietly asked myself the question whether I could ever make the same "foolish" choice Ninoy did. I think of my wife and children and reflect, can I subject them to the same anguish? It is by asking these questions that one comes to realize how extraordinary Ninoy was.

In my Constitutional Law classes, I would sometimes show a clip of the last few minutes of Ninoy on the plane. I darken the room, give a short intro and then let the students watch the clip as Ninoy talked to those on the plane, telling them to be ready, telling them that "It" will "happen very fast". And it did. Once the clip ends, I open the lights. There is almost never a dry eye in the room. 

So yes, they are correct, Ninoy died because he was a "fool". And perhaps now, more than ever, this country is in need of his brand of foolishness.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.