Speech delivered before the Ateneo Law School
February 1, 1984
I am happy to be here with you this afternoon. When I was invited to this dialogue, I was told that I could speak on any subject. Permit me to talk about the Agrava Commission.
When Mr. Marcos formed the Fernando Commission to investigate the murder of my husband, after he had already declared the killer to be Rolando Galman acting on orders of the Communist Party, I said I would have nothing to do with any body organized by this government. I declined participation in that body in any manner. My reason was that I did not expect to see justice done to my husband and to my family, because I had not seen it done to the great majority in my country – while Marcos is in power. On personal grounds, how can I expect justice from the hand that had brought so much injustice and suffering into my life?
The Fernando Commission collapsed under the weight of the public ridicule that was heaped on it because of the composition of the Board and because its purpose to buy time for the killers of my husband to get their stories straight became immediately evident.
A second Commission was formed. I said I would have nothing to do with this one as well. My reason remained the same. I would not take justice from the hand of injustice. I would not dignify, or legitimize in the eyes of the public, a purported search for the truth conducted at the behest of he who has most to gain from its continued concealment, if not obliteration.
I was told that this Commission was different; that it would be composed of persons of integrity. I had thought the first one was similarly constituted. Remember that I was opposed to the very idea of a Marcos-constituted Commission investigating the murder of my husband. The personal character of the Fernando Commission had nothing to do with my decision to have nothing to do with it. Apparently, there were still people who missed the point I was trying to make.
Well, just the same, here was a new Commission. And it was presented as if it were a favor being done to me and to the millions of Filipinos who had joined my demand for justice. Like it was a favor to us, it was pointed out that this Commission was composed of persons of high integrity who had taken upon themselves the burden of investigating my husband’s murder. Because they had assumed such an onerous burden, it seemed that I should be beholden to them, beholden enough to feel obligated to cooperate with the Commission.
I never asked for this Commission. The Filipino people did not ask for this Commission. There was, indeed, a rising clamor for an investigation of my husband’s murder and the punishment of his killers. But there was none for this particular Commission. For already, after the Fernando Commission, there was well-nigh unanimity that there can be no justice from any body constituted by Marcos.
At any rate, I never invited these men and this woman to seek justice for my husband. I do not recall that anyone, outside the Palace, had ever considered them to be the right ones to do it. They were picked by Marcos to investigate my husband’s murder and for that reason alone, I think, they should pardon me if I hold fast to my skepticism about the ability of any body constituted by Marcos to do justice to my husband and the Filipino people, whose aspiration for a peaceful passage to freedom he embodied.
But they have not pardoned me; or at least one of them has not. She has taken me to task for “holding a grudge against the first family.” She has made an invidious comparison between my brother-in-law, Butz Aquino, who declared participation in the Commission’s proceedings, and the first couple, whom she praises for being “desirous of helping unearth the truth about the death of Mr. Aquino.” She has labeled as “unfortunate” my statement that I expect no justice while Marcos remains in power. Why is it “unfortunate?”
Thirty seconds after Ninoy delivered himself into the bosom of Mr. Marcos’ army, he was dead; dead before he touched the Philippine earth for which he had pined so hard in Boston; dead with my admittedly small hope of someday living a peaceful family life in the service of my husband. Why, indeed, is my skepticism about the possibility of justice under Marcos “unfortunate?”
For seven and a half years, my children and I, not to mention Ninoy, lived a life of fear, humiliation and loneliness.
Fear, as when our visiting privileges were cancelled because I had smuggled out and published abroad Ninoy’s article denouncing the Marcos dictatorship and, for 43 days, no one could tell us where Ninoy was or if he was still alive. We learned later that he was taken to Laur to be subjected to a crueler program of fear, that, unfortunately for the government, produced only a stronger Ninoy, a Ninoy whom suffering had taught to tap a deeper and richer source of courage.
Humiliation, as when my children and I were bodily searched before and after each visit in Fort Bonifacio, or when I had to appeal to high government and military authorities for the most basic of personal and family rights.
And, finally, loneliness because many of our old friends had deserted us, shied away from us as though we suffered from a contagious disease. This was the most painful part – the sense of being alone. It was particularly acute when Ninoy went on a hunger strike. He fasted for 40 days – alone in his conviction that Filipino freedom was worth a slow and painful death. Think back to that time, and ask yourselves if you thought Ninoy’s fast of 40 days and 40 nights was heroic or foolhardy. If you thought it was heroic and done for the sake of your freedom, what did you do to make him know it? As far as we knew, as far as he knew, he was alone. I cannot say he didn’t care. I cannot say that Ninoy was content to be right, even if he was alone in his conviction. Ninoy was not like that. He not only loved the Filipino people, he wanted to be loved, in return, by them.
For seven and a half years, Ninoy, our children and I lived a life of fear, humiliation and loneliness, a darkness relieved only by the example of his courage and his cheerful refusal to admit the fear, humiliation and the loneliness. That was the life we led, a life lived in the shadow of two institutions created by Marcos: the prison in which he kept Ninoy and the military tribunal in which he presented his trumped-up charges of murder, subversion and illegal possession of firearms and demanded Ninoy’s life.
Why, therefore, is it “unfortunate” that I do not believe in the possibility of justice under Marcos?
Those charges were lies; that imprisonment was unjust; the suffering inflicted on Ninoy, on me and on our children was unconscionable. And his murder was – unbelievable, because no one imagined that the injustice would go that far. But it did. Is it any wonder then that I do not believe in the possibility of justice under Marcos?
In the years from my husband’s arrest to his murder, I have seen justice under Marcos assume many shapes. I have seen it as the Supreme Court turning a deaf ear to Ninoy’s pleas to be accorded protection of his basic rights as a Filipino and a human being. I have seen it as Military Commission No. 2 proceeded, with undisguised malevolence, to trump up charges upon perjured testimonies against Ninoy. Through all its disguises, I could always discern the one mark that distinguished it from all other kinds of justice: justice under Marcos sought Ninoy’s life. Is it any wonder then that I should assume, in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, that any body constituted by Marcos to do justice is the self-same justice still seeking to destroy in death what it had failed to destroy with Ninoy’s life: his steadfast refusal to accept the permanent loss of our democratic rights and liberties.
I therefore remain steadfast in my refusal to have anything to do with this Commission. I will not comment on the work it has done, nor on some of the surprising evidence it has stumbled upon.
Let me tell you why I am so skeptical.
Almost eight years ago, on August 3, 1976, Ninoy declared before Military Commission No. 2 and I quote:
“To be able to put up adequate defense, I believe:
1. The present prevailing atmosphere of fear and coercion must first be removed. This means: Martial Law must end.
2. With fear, whether imagined or real, removed from the minds of people, many witnesses I am sure, on their own, will retract their false testimonies. I have no doubt that I will be able to secure the testimony of people in my favor if I can assure them that they will not be harassed or detained by martial law authorities or threatened with fabricated charges as has been done and is still being done today.” End of quote.
Although I know that there are witnesses to my husband’s murder, I hesitate to ask them to appear before any Commission constituted by Marcos for fear that they may be subjected to the same treatment accorded witnesses during my husband’s trial.
Again, let me quote from Ninoy’s statement:
“Of the teen (13) civilians, at least eight (8) were detained by martial law authorities without charges being brought against them for varying periods ranging from a week to several months. I know at least one of these civilian witnesses who was tortured during his interrogation and had to be hospitalized in a private clinic. All were released from detention only after they had agreed to testify against me.” End of quote.
It was bad enough that my husband was perjured with false testimonies, but to later accuse him of being responsible for the deaths of the same witnesses is to insult the sanity and intelligence of the Filipino people.
Let me cite the case of Commander Melody, one of the witnesses against my husband. Allow me to read to you this news item which appeared in the Marcos-controlled Daily Express on Monday, July 12, 1976. And I quote:
“Former NPA leader Benjamin Bie, alias Commander Melody, was slain in a 30-minute gun battle last night inside the Nepomuceno Mart after an altercation with PC soldiers.
According to 1st Lt. Jose Leonardo of the 173rd PC Zone, Bie and four companions were eating in a restaurant inside the compound when a CIS team, headed by Lt. Rafael Santos arrived, looking for one Eliseo Dizon, a friend of Bie who was recently indicted in a murder case in this City.
Bie, Leonardo said, resented the intrusion. After an exchange of words, a fight followed, resulting in the death of the former NPA leader and the wounding of Santos in the upper left shoulder.
Bie’s companions – Redentor Salonga, Jessie Manalo, Lamberto Pineda, and Victorino Agustin – were picked up for questioning.
The killing of Bie, who sustained 24 gunshot wounds, was the third fatal incident in the city in a span of two weeks.” End of quote.
There are so many questions regarding Ninoy’s death which beg to be answered. If the military really meant to secure Ninoy, why did they not send General Josephus Ramas whom Ninoy knew, and who had been in-charge of Ninoy’s security since the beginning of his incarceration?
When we left for the United States on May 8, 1980, we were escorted by the then Deputy Minister of Defense, Carmelo Barbero, Vice-Governor Mel Mathay, General Josephus Ramas, and many many officers and soldiers from the military security unit of Fort Bonifacio. And to think that there were no assassination threats against Ninoy then and yet, we were afforded maximum security! In addition to this, Ninoy was given complete media coverage. What puzzles me is the fact that when Ninoy arrived, despite the supposed assassination threats against him, he was met by only a few junior military men, all unknown to him, and all allegedly unarmed!
What is even more deplorable is the fact that after Ninoy had been shot and had been thrown into the van, why did the authorities not inform my mother-in-law who was at the airport at that time? It was only through Radio Veritas that my mother-in-law found out after two hours that Ninoy had been brought to the Fort Bonifacio station hospital. And when she went there, instead of leading her to Ninoy, they actually prevented her from going in and she had to wait until Captain Grant finally arrived and escorted her to the room where Ninoy was left on a stretcher on the floor!
Ken Kashiwahara, my husband’s brother-in-law, was on the same plane and he wanted to accompany Ninoy, but again the military refused and they also prevented the rest of the media to continue filming Ninoy as he left the airplane. In other words, what were the authorities trying to hide from us, the public?
President Marcos has claims that he has sent a message of sympathy and condolence to me and to the rest of the Aquino family. To this day, I have still to see such a message of sympathy.
And so I ask certain individuals not to take me to task for “holding a grudge against the First Family.”
I would not be true to myself if I proclaimed to you and to the rest of my fellow Filipinos that I believe in Mr. Marcos and his government.
I do not have faith in Mr. Marcos even if he is indeed the most powerful Filipino at the moment.
I share Ninoy’s thought when he said in Washington, D.C. on August 21, 1980, exactly three years to the day he was assassinated. And I quote:
“In all humility, I think it was my faith in God and in His ultimate justice that sustained me through those years of loneliness and solitude.”
“Today, it is my unshakeable faith that justice will ultimately triumph and every man will be made to account for his deeds. It is this same faith that assures me that soon, very soon, the Filipino will regain the freedoms stolen from him by a leader who betrayed his trust.” End of quote.