Former senator Agapito “Butz” Aquino – the younger brother of Ninoy – who became one of the leaders of the opposition forces in the waning years of the Marcos regime — passed away of “natural causes,” his nephew Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino announced Monday afternoon. He was 76.
Butz – who was touted as the “pasimuno” (perpetrator) of People Power when he ran and got elected to the Senate in 1987 – served two terms as senator before getting elected to represent the second district of Makati City in the House of Representatives.
His profile posted on the Senate website read:
“Senator Butz Aquino has always been cold to politics. He was hesitant to enter this field on the belief that Philippine politics was merely elitist, ‘a ballgame of the rich’. He also did not think much of the system of government saying that it was “ too slow ” in delivering basic services to the people.
“But all these perceptions took a sudden turnabout upon the death of his brother, Ninoy, a well-known opposition during the Marcos era. Whereas before he was merely impressed with the sacrifices that Ninoy went through, he now felt that after Ninoy died, he should try to seek justice and continue what his brother had died for. Thus, he helped form the August Twenty-One Movement (Atom) and Bansang Nagkakaisa sa Diwa at Layunin (Bandila) and organized street marches and rallies.
(Atom was at forefront in the organizing of daily ‘confetti’ rallies along Ayala Avenue that culminated in rallies at the Ugarte field in the immediate aftermath of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination, weekend protest runs along Roxas Boulevard that preceded the ‘Tarlac to Tarmac’ run among other protest actions – Ed.)
“His efforts finally came into full bloom with the 1986 EDSA Revolution, where Butz was the first figure to publicly exhort people to gather at the Isetann Department Store and march toward the military camps and rally their forces together against the Marcos dictatorship.
“After two and a half years in the Parliamentary of the streets, Butz took the most decisive step in his political career. He ran for and won a seat in the real parliament – the Senate. Surprisingly enough, instead of becoming hardened by this exposure to the game of politics, Butz still remains an idealist at heart. He has come out as a tireless champion of cooperativism – movement that, according to him, holds the key to solving the country’s most pressing problem, namely, widespread poverty. As a senator of the Republic of the Philippines, he has authored several landmark pieces of legislation, most notably, the Magna Carta for Small Farmers, Seed Act, and the Cooperative Code of the Philippines. This last has contributed greatly to the recent resurgence of Filipino cooperatives. This new law, along with Republic Act 6939 (Creating the Cooperative Development Authority) could very well galvanize the cooperative movement into a potent force for socio-economic change.”
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda paid tribute to Aquino, remembering him as a “committed public servant.”
“Agapito ‘Butz’ Aquino had originally chosen a quiet life as an entrepreneur, but in the face of the dictatorship’s tyranny, he became one of the frontline fighters for the restoration of our democracy,” Lacierda said in a statement.
Lacierda described Butz as a lawmaker “known for his optimism, his wit, and his steadfast dedication to the ideals of his brother Ninoy and sister-in-law Cory.”
Vice President Jejomar Binay – who was a member of the human rights lawyers group Mabini – was with Butz in the so-called “parliament of the streets”.
“Butz and I were together for a long time – from the parliament of the streets until he retired from politics. We marched together in Makati as members of Atom,” Binay’s statement in Filipino read.
“During these times, Butz demonstrated courage and fought for his principles. And even when he became a senator and congressman, he never flaunted his position and his being a member of the Aquino family for his personal interests,” he added.
“We remained very good friends up to his last moment.”