Who is Ninoy Aquino?
…some revealing notes about the guy
who gave Marcos a headache
For political observers, Benigno Simeon Aquino, Jr. was the impediment that stood in the way of Ferdinand Marcos in the latter’s quest for ultimate power which he eventually got, when he declared Martial Law. When it was declared in September 21, 1972, a Thursday, Aquino was the first “casualty”, with no other than Col. Romeo Gatan, a personal friend from way back when the latter was the head of the Constabulary in Tarlac, serving the warrant of arrest. Senator Aquino was then, attending a meeting on tariff concerns at Room 1701 of Manila Hilton. The arrest was so timed minutes after the “ambush” of Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the planners of Martial Law which was translated into Presidential Decree 1081. Later, it was revealed that the ambush was “staged” to finally give Marcos the green light to declare Martial Law.
As a flashback, Ninoy Aquino was among the “escorts” of Imelda Romualdez who was three years older than him, when she came to Manila from Tacloban. During the time, Imelda was employed by the P.E. Domingo Music Store along Escolta, singing and playing for potential customers. Later, she was employed by the Central Bank as a clerk. Aquino would fetch her from the music store for strolls in Luneta, or to enjoy the sunset from Manila Bay promenade while sharing sandwiches. In time, however, their intimacy stopped, as according to stories, Aquino said that Imelda was too tall for him. In 1954, Ninoy married Corazon Cojuangco.
Born on November 27, 1932, Ninoy Aquino had no outstanding scholastic accomplishment. He even admitted that during his college days, he would skip classes to participate in political campaigns and worked as a copywriter at the Manila Times. At the outbreak of the Korean War, he volunteered for a field assignment in that country – at the age of eighteen. As a young correspondent, he became close to Marguerite Higgins, a popular journalist of the New York Herald Tribune, and who was known for her anti-Communist views. He earned such special friendship with Higgins when he volunteered to drive for her at times.
Aquino was a typical intrepid and adventurous journalist who took every opportunity that came his way. He was able to interview Chiang Kai-shek who told him that, “the internal problems of Asia can never be solved until the root causes – the Kremlin and Peiping are crushed” (today, becoming true). He covered nationalistic uprisings in Europe that were crushed by prevailing powers. He was also in Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Out of his observations from these travels, he expressed that:
To the Asian, the western argument that “if communism wins, Asians stand to lose their
Liberties”, is meaningless. To the Asian now jailed by the French in the numerous prisons of Vietnam for being “too nationalistic”, civil liberties have no meaning. To the Asian jailed on St. John’s Island in Singapore, for possessing intelligence and nationalistic spirit above the average, civil liberties are likewise meaningless. The Filipino is aware of and has enjoyed America’s benevolence; but to the rest of Asia, the American looks like the Frenchman, the Britisher and the Dutchman. To Asians, these people are the symbols of oppressions. And, many Asians would prefer Communism to western oppression.
Aquino had fervent personal quests driven perhaps by the political blood that flowed through his veins. His grandfather had been a general during the revolution against the Spanish colonists and later, against the Americans. His father served as a senator, speaker of the Assembly and a cabinet Minister. On the other hand, Ninoy who was dubbed “perpetual talking machine”, was elected Mayor at the age of twenty-two, the youngest ever. He also became the youngest vice-governor in 1957, and later, youngest governor at the age of twenty-eight. At the age of thirty-two, he became the youngest senator of the Philippines.
The greyish side of Ninoy’s life casts a gloomy shadow over the story on the “Taruc surrender”. He was an adviser of President Ramon Magsaysay, then, and as such he was involved in the preparation of “position papers”. According to Aquino’s version of the “Taruc surrender” story, he sought the approval of Magsaysay to meet with the Huk Supremo, which he successfully did after trekking over mountain trails and through dense forests. Months later, Taruc surrendered.
Unfortunately, Taruc himself, revealed the true story behind his surrender which was caused by fear for his life inside the Communist party due to internal squabble for leadership. This has been corroborated by Ed Lansdale of CIA, who said that the surrender of Taruc was already settled, but when Aquino learned about it, he “rushed into the hills to grab some glory”. Most importantly, Lansdale also insisted that contrary to what Aquino claimed and boasted, he never worked with the CIA.
The CIA story that floated around the life of Aquino came about when in 1954, he was sent to the United States by Magsaysay to observe “training methods in American spy schools”. Although denying that he had a “contract” with the CIA, Aquino was steadfast in his claim of “working” with its people, which the agency vehemently denied, especially, its Manila officials. Aquino, however, voluntarily provided the agency with information, as claimed by the officials. There was also a story on his working with the CIA to overthrow President Sukarno, which was also denied by Joseph Smith, who at the time was the CIA official in Indonesia.
When Marcos tried a tough stance in taking back Sabah from Malaysia, Aquino exposed the plan, part of which was the secret training of “commandos” in Corregidor, but who were not told about their secret mission. Expectedly, when the issue exploded, there was a furor that led to the so-called “Jabidah massacre”.
A story also came out about the “other” plan of Aquino to come home from exile in the US, via Malaysia with the help of Iqbal, moving spirit behind the Bangsamoro autonomy. Unfortunately, this did not materialize, because Ninoy flew straight to Manila where he met the fatal end of his political career – on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport 1, now named after him, to honor his “martyrdom”. Because of that story, observers on the issue of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), now, Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BL-BAR), are one in saying that Pnoy has a reason for insisting the passing of the Law before he comes down in 2016.
Both Ferdinand Marcos and Ninoy Aquino had many things in common: both were charismatic, gifted orators, dashing and popular, and great “prevaricators” as put in by observers, especially, the Americans who knew them well.