President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday admitted that he had wanted to exact revenge against then-strongman President Ferdinand Marcos and his “ilk” after the assassination of his father, former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., more than 31 years ago.
In his speech before the Filipino community at the Robsham Theater at Boston College in Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon (Monday morning in Manila), Aquino reminisced his family’s life while on exile in Boston, where they found a “haven from the persecution of the dictatorship,” apparently referring to Marcos’ one-man rule.
When asked in Manila by The Manila Times if the President was still thinking of seeking vengeance against Marcos, Presidential Communications Sectretary Herminio Coloma said, “No he does not. That was an initial reaction that, early on, he learned to overcome as he realized that his mother and his siblings had a responsibility to carry on what his father had begun—and that this will be done out of a sense of duty to country and people, and without anger or bitterness toward anyone.”
The Aquino family lived in Boston for three years after Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972.
“It was here where we were given a sense of normalcy in what can only be described as very abnormal times back home,” the President said.
“Every aspect of life was controlled by the dictator, and unless you belonged to the favored few, you had very limited rights. There was no such thing as free speech or freedom of assembly,” he recalled.
“A curfew limited the time you could be outside your home, travel abroad required official permission,” Aquino said.
“Accountable to no one but themselves, the dictator, his wife and their cronies turned the public treasury into their private purse. Checks and balances in government were replaced by the dictator being the sole judge, jury and executioner, giving his regime total impunity to abduct, torture, jail and kill its critics,” he added.
Marcos’ widow, Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, is now a congresswoman from her late husband’s native province of Ilocos Norte in Northern Luzon.
Senator Aquino was assassinated when he returned to the country on August 21, 1983.
His father’s death, according to the President, was the lowest point of their lives and it was then that he wanted to get back at Marcos.
“As the only son, I felt an overwhelming urge to exact an eye for an eye. Mr. Marcos and his ilk were like rabid dogs who had lost all reason. There was no longer any potential for dialogue, the only solution when confronted by a rabid dog is to put it down,” Aquino said.
“I knew that he was a formidable foe, and the fight would be impossible, but regardless of this, in those moments, all I wanted to do to Mr. Marcos and his camp, was to do unto him as he had done unto us,” he added.
But Aquino also recalled that then-Consul Takeo Iguchi, his father’s friend, who rushed to their Boston home as soon as he heard news of Ninoy’s death, told him: “Your people will be looking up to your mother and yourself.”
“And it was there that the idea began to take root — that you cannot make decisions just for yourself,” the President said.
Aquino’s visit to Boston coincided with the 42nd anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines.
The President also admitted that it was “fortune’s way of showing its sense of irony” that he met with the Filipino community in Boston exactly 42 years after Marcos imposed military rule in the Philippines.
He said achievements under his Administration are merely the beginning of a new era of national transformation.
“We are at the threshold of sustained, positive change in society, we have corrected the inefficiencies in government, stopped the wrong practices and engendered a shift in the Filipino mindset, from one of indifference and despair, to one where we can dream again, and are increasingly being given the wherewithal to fulfill our dreams,” Aquino added.
The nation, he noted, will be building on what it has already achieved toward a situation that could harness the full potential of Filipinos.
“And I know that if we hold fast, and keep on the straight path, then the transformation in Philippine society can become an enduring mainstream of justice, inclusiveness and empowerment,” the President said