UPDATE 2 (May 10, 2014): All videos are accessible again. The playlist also includes (a) an undated speech by Ninoy in Dallas, Texas, USA and the last recorded phone call of Ninoy Aquino.
UPDATE 1 (May 12, 2012): Part 1 of the speech has been blocked by ABS-CBN Corporation due to copyright grounds. I have already e-mailed NinoyAquinoTV regarding this issue. The other parts, however, are still available. You may skip to Part 2 after seeing the copyright notice.
UPDATE (April 12, 2011): I have seen many websites wherein this transcript was copied (in some instances, edited) without my acknowledgment. If you wish to repost this, don't forget to link to this page. To those sites that have reposted this, cite this page as well. Maraming salamat po!
The video of the speech is viewable after this notice.
Note: I would like to thank NinoyAquinoTV for providing the title, introduction and some of the words I could not have, otherwise, understand; Marvin Matias for providing the entire video of the speech for the public to see and most of all; to Ninoy, whose sacrifice led to the restoration of freedom and democracy in the Philippines. His speech took me 5 days to transcribe but it’s all worth it.
Please do not copy it to other sites or print and claim it as your own. Instead, cite this post.
Please view the video as an accompaniment for this speech. Thank you.
On February 15, 1981, less than a year after he went on a furlough to seek medical treatment in the United States, Ninoy Aquino has been invited to a freedom rally symposium by the Movement for Free Philippines (MFP) before a capacity crowd of Filipino and American guests at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles, California; where he spoke with enthusiasm and humor about his life and struggle under the martial law dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, his pompous and ambitious wife Imelda...and much more!
Mr. Danny Lamila, my dear friend Serge Osmeña, Mr. Alvarez, my brothers and sisters,
I am filled with happiness to be with you here this afternoon because this is the first experience in my life. For the last twenty-five years I have been a politician, we used to pay people to hear us. This is the first time people paid to hear me. As I was sitting down there, listening to Danny Lamila, I only have one advice to him. Don’t ever go back to Manila or you’ll be a captured eagle.
I was asked why I am in crutches. Is it because of my heart operation? The answer is no. I was already running two miles four months after my operation. I was already very good, and my wife can attest to that. But unfortunately last December 6, I was invited to Columbus, Ohio and they made me speak in so many areas that day. I barely had three hours sleep the night before when I came from Cornell in Ithaca, New York. I had to fly back to Boston to meet my doctor who came in from Dallas. I took him out for dinner and we slept at about two o’ clock in the morning. I woke up at 5 o’ clock in the morning. I drove to the airport. I went to Columbus, Ohio. I arrived in Columbus, Ohio and the moment I arrived there, they made me speak in three or different occasions. Finally, on the fourth speaking engagement that day, we were headed towards the Ohio State University where I was going to speak before the student body. It was almost 8:30. It was very dark where the van I was riding in parked and when I alighted from the van, I do not know exactly what happened but I think I stepped on a curb and then when I put my weight, I slipped and little did I realize that that single half a second accident tore my Achilles’ heel tendon and I had to go for an operation after 5 days and I’d been in a cast for 8 weeks and I’ve been out of the cast now for two weeks and hopefully, in another two weeks I’ll be up and about.
I have been asked by many people; what is the actual situation in the Philippines? I think I owe it to a Japanese executive, one of the leading industries of Japan, whose company invested 450 million dollars in the Philippines. They set up a big plant in Mindanao. It was a sintering plant and this plant is now completed, and this Japanese official came to the Philippines, and he spoke at the opening ceremonies. I think this Japanese explained the situation in the Philippines very well. As you very well know, the Japanese have a difficulty in pronouncing their r’s – Manila becomes “Manira”. And so this Japanese gentleman stood up and said, “My dear Firipino peopre, you are very rocky, and I consider,” he said, the Filipino people to be the most “rocky peopre” in Asia. And the people were of course surprised; they wanted to know why they were lucky. He said, “You know why you are rocky, you have a President who robs you, and you have a First Lady who robs you more.”
I say, our situation today, may be likened to the story of a fellow candidate of mine during LABAN. As you very well know, we fielded a team in 1978 to oppose the Marcos team, and I was in jail and I was never allowed to campaign. But, there were 20 other gentlemen; ladies & gentlemen campaigning for us. One of them was the irrepressible former Secretary of Education Anding Roces, and Anding Roces had a very favorite candidate, or had a very favorite personality in all of his speeches, and he called them “Iskombro”. According to Anding, and this is a story of “Iskombro”, Mr. Marcos one day wanted to go to the National Mental Institution, to the psychopathic, to visit the psychopathic. And naturally, the doctor of the psychopathic wanted to impress Mr. Marcos. And three weeks before Mr. Marcos arrived, all the patients of the psychopathic, according to “Iskombro”, were trained by the director. And so, according to the story, the director trained them, “Pagdating ika dito ng ating panggulo, pagtaas ng aking isang daliri, ikang ganoon, palakpakan.” And so, one week they trained them, the director would lift one finger, palakpakan. On the second week, “pag ikang ganoon dalawa na, palakpakan at sigawan.” And so the patients responded, two fingers, palakpakan, sigawan. On the third week, just before Mr. Marcos arrived, pag isang finger, ikang ganoon, palakpakan. Pag dalawang finger, palakpakan, sigawan. Pag tatlong finger, palakpakan, sigawan, talunan pa. And so the patients responded. And the great day arrived, and Mr. Marcos came. The military escorts came. Five thousand inmates of the hospital were there, and they were all dressed immaculately in white. And the director, walking behind Mr. Marcos, lifted one finger, naku palakpakan. And Mr. Marcos saluted. As they were going to the middle of the auditorium, the director point two fingers, naku palakpakan, sigawan. Sabi ni Marcos, okay to ah. And as they enter the main stage, as Mr. Marcos was about to sit down, sabi ng direktor tatlo, naku palakpakan, sigawan, talunan pa. And Mr. Marcos sabi niya, sabi niya kay direktor, “ayos ka na direktor, doble na ang iyong budget.” But as Mr. Marcos sat down, he noticed there was an old man sitting in a corner. Walang kibo, he was just sitting in the corner. And so naturally, the president wanted to know. Sabi niya, “Direktor, eh bakit ika yung matandang iyon, hindi pumapalakpak, hindi sumisigaw, hindi tumatalon?” Ang sabi po ng direktor, “Pangulo, ikang ganoon, mabuti na po iyon. He’s already okay. Lalabas na bukas. Hindi bale na.” Kaya po sa ating mga kababayan na nandidito sa Los Angeles na pag nakikita ang larawan ng Ginoong Marcos at sila’y nasaludo pa at napalakpak, huwag niyo sanang kalimutan ang mga kasama niyo sa National Psychopathic Hospital, sapagkat kami’y hindi na napalakpak ay kami po’y magaling na at kami’y palabas na.
And so dear friends, I was allowed by Mr. Marcos to go out for two weeks last year on Christmas after seven years in prison. And I met an old barrio captain of mine from Tarlac. And this old barrio captain of mine never failed to give me a sage advice. He visited me, we broke bread, and then I sat down with him and I said, “Apo kakong ganoon, ito ba’y may katapusan na? May katapusan pa ba ito?” “Bakit?,” sabi niya. “Eh ako kako’y inip na inip na. I’m very very impatient,” I said, “I already spent seven years. Is there any hope for our redemption?” “Hindi ko nga ika alam anak eh, kung matatapos ‘to. Napakatagal na ika, malapit na akong mamatay eh, hindi pa ika natatapos. Pero alam mo, ikang ganoon, palagay ko matatapos din” “Eh kako, bakit? What is your reason?” Aba’y sabi niya, “Doon sa Iran ay meron isang tunay na Shah natapos, eh itong atin na-shahan lamang eh.” And I feel my friends, as the Tagalogs would say, “Kay haba-haba ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang tuloy.” This will also end.
I have often asked myself when I was in prison for seven years and seven months. You will note that one of the greatest problems of a prisoner is loneliness. For seven years, I was not allowed to see the moon and the stars. There were days when they left me all alone by myself. I had no reading material. I had nothing. I was twiddling my thumb. I would walk and walk and walk across my room; it was a room about four meters by five meters, hoping that I’ll get tired. And then when I get tired, I would fall asleep, knowing that tomorrow will be the same. And I often ask myself, “Eh bakit ka pa nagpapakahirap dito?” In ’73, a high official of the government asked me, “I-endorse mo na lamang ang New Society, Ninoy. Ayos na. Ilalabas na kita.” When I refused, they advised me, “Sumulat ka na lang kay Marcos. Ask for his forgiveness.” O, ano naman kako ang kasalanan ko? Eh siya ang nagkasala sa bayan, bakit ako ang hihingi ng tawad? My friends, I cannot understand the timidity and gull of these people. Ikang ganoon, be practical. Eh talagang ganoon eh, makibagay ka na ika. Napakalakas ika ng bagyo eh, ikaw lang ika ang mahihirapan diyan, mag-isa ka diyan. Hindi bale ‘ka ganoon, kung ayaw mo nang sumulat, eh tumawag ka na lang sa telepono. Ibulong mo na lamang, ayos na. I would like to tell you that I was tempted in my seven thousand, almost 7285 days in prison to do just that. I am only human, ako po’y isang tao lamang. When my wife and children would visit me and they would leave me at dusk after one hour, I also would like to enjoy the embrace of my children in the peace of my home. But if I give faith in that conviction, if I refuse to accept the jurisdiction of the military court, and because I refuse to defend myself, they will give me the death sentence. I vowed to myself that because you have elected me to the Senate and I gloried in its pump, therefore it is now time that I must suffer the consequences of my act and because I knew, I knew early on and I discovered that there is a God who is just, na mayroong isang Panginoon na ibibigay sa atin ang ating kagandahang ginawa at paparusahan niya tayo sa ating kamaliang gagawin rin. It is because of that faith in my Divine Creator that sustained me all these years. All I had to do was call for a telephone that was outside my room. All I had to do was pick it up and tell Mr. Marcos, “Brod, tapos na. Ayos na. I’m throwing the towel.” Killers in the Philippines were free. The people who were used to testify against me told the court I killed 50 people, and yet that man was free. He described to the people, and he described to the military tribunal how he killed human beings, and yet that man was free, and I was in jail. Many witnesses were paraded before me. I never saw them in my life, and yet they were pointing fingers at me, accusing me of crimes I never committed. They admitted to crimes, they said they were Communists. They said they were number 3 in the Communist hierarchy, and yet the government set them free and I was in jail. But I knew, that somehow, I will regain my freedom, maybe not in this world, but elsewhere, and I knew, that sometime, somewhere, Mr. Marcos and I will meet, and in that meeting I will have my satisfaction.
Dear friends, last January 17, Mr. Marcos told the world martial law was lifted in the Philippines. It is very good news. I mean if you’re all reading the headlines, you would say this is the greatest thing that happened after 8 years, martial law is lifted. Freedom should be returned by now, and the Filipino people should be out in the street like V - J Day, like V - E Day. They should be dancing in the street; they’d be shouting “Hallelujah!” And the bells should be ringing the Te Deum. But the announcement of Mr. Marcos was met with stony silence. Why? Because it was only a cruel deception. Because three days before martial law was lifted allegedly in the Philippines, Mr. Marcos signed into a law Presidential Decree No. 1737. I did not know about this law until Senator Tañada came to me in Boston, and gave me this law. And when I saw the number, I was stunned and I had cold chills in my back. It was Presidential Decree No. 1737, and this is exactly the address of my office at Harvard, 1737 Cambridge Street. Ako po’y ninerbyos. Hayop kako, sa dami ng numerong kumbinasyon, ito pa ang tinamaan ng sweepstakes. Hindi ko man nalaman kung sinadya ito sa Maynila ngunit ito po’y hindi nagpatulog sa akin ng isang linggo sapagkat this presidential decree says, An Act Providing For The Preservation Of Public Order And The Protection Of Individual Rights And Liberties During Periods Of Emergency And Exercise Of Extraordinary Executive Powers, signed by Marcos a few days by martial law. Now let me read to you section 2, and I hope Danny Lamila hears this very well. Section 2 says and I quote, “Whenever in the judgment of the President/Prime Minister,” ‘yan po ay si Marcos ‘yan, President at Prime Minister, “there exist a grave emergency or a threat or imminence thereof, he,” Mr. Marcos, “may issue such orders as he may deem necessary to meet the emergency including but not limited to preventive detention.” Ano pong ibig sabihin nitong preventive detention? The meaning of preventive detention is Mr. Marcos thinks that next month, you will commit a crime, he can now order you arrested so you will not be able to commit your crime. Anong klaseng batas iyan? Iniisip mo pa lang eh nabilanggo ka na eh. Aba’y hayop kako itong batas na ito. Eh kung totoo ito, eh lahat ng lalaking diborsyado na nag-iisip pa lang magliligaw, patay na sa asawa. Imagine my friends, in the mind of Mr. Marcos. He suspects next week you may commit a crime, the police can arrest you in the Philippines today. Let me proceed, if in the mind of Mr. Marcos, you pose a great threat to national security, he may restrain or restrict movement and other activities persons or entities with a view to preventing them from acting in a manner prejudicial to the national interest or security or maintenance of public order. He may direct the closure of any publication or other media of mass communication he may believe to be subversive, banning or regulating the holding of entertainment or exhibitions detrimental to the national interest, control admission to educational institutions whose operations are found prejudicial to the national security. If there are many students who want to demonstrate, and that in his mind, is prejudicial to national security, he may close the school or prevent those students from enrolling in those schools. And my friends, any violation of this law entails an imprisonment for not less than thirty days and not exceeding one year. So we have Mr. Marcos lifting martial law on one hand, and putting another law on the other, which is even worse that the former martial law.
This, therefore summarizes me to our point, ano baga ang ating away? What is the cause for all of this struggle? There is, so simply. I believe that no man, how brilliant this man, can dictate the welfare or the direction of 48 million Filipinos. What happened to us? I think we should review what happened to us. In 1972, Mr. Marcos declared martial law. Why did he declare martial law? If you read his announcement, he said there was anarchy in the street, there was a left and right rebellion, there was this and there was that, but there is only one reason which he never said. He wanted to prolong his stay in Malacañang sapagkat napakasarap. You very well know that we have a law in the Philippines that says, no president may stay in the presidency for more than eight consecutive years. That is a law. That is a law even ahead of the United States law. No president may stay for more than eight years. In 1972, Mr. Marcos was already seven years in office, he had one year to go. He was toying with the idea of fielding Imelda, but Imelda showed poor in the polls. So what did Mr. Marcos do? Change the constitution, sabi niya. So he called a constitutional convention in 1970. We were a few, a handful in the Senate who denounced this, and I told the Senate, “We should not allow an open constitutional convention because it’s very dangerous. Even America hasn’t called a constitutional convention since 1776. They have amended their constitution piecemeal, but they never opened it. But we lost, and a constitutional convention was called. People were elected, and very quietly Mr. Marcos started maneuvering to change our form of government from an American-type presidential system to a British-type parliamentary so that, he can be elected as a deputy from Ilocos, become prime minister, and then stay on forever. That was the plan. However on January 2, 1972, most of you are already here in America, some of you maybe were too young to remember, but on January 1972, almost nine years ago today, an old man, a retired ambassador from Leyte, his name is Eduardo Quintero, who is now in San Francisco, stood up on the floor of the constitutional convention and shocked the entire Filipino people with the expose that Malacañang has been giving envelopes to the members of the constitutional convention, buying their votes so that they will vote for a parliamentary form of government to allow Mr. Marcos to extend his term beyond eight years. The nation was shocked. Immediately, the NBI swooped down into the house of Quintero and then they open up an aparador, walang susi, and they said 500 thousand pesos in cash were found in the aparador of Quintero. The implication was, the opposition gave him 500 thousand to make his expose. But if there were 500 thousand, bakit walang susi iyon? Hindi naman singkwenta pesos lang iyon. To cut a long story short, a delegate from Cebu, his name is Napoleon Rama, stood up on the convention floor and said, huwag na tayo magtalo, let us not discuss who received or who did not receive, I am now filing a resolution that will provide, if we approve this constitutional convention, this constitutional amendment, this new constitution, no incumbent president or his spouse may seek office. Out sa kulambo si Mr. Marcos. Eh sa takot ng mga delegado, because they will be accused if they voted no that they received the envelope, everybody voted yes. Nalagot si Mr. Marcos. This Rama resolution was overwhelmingly passed. Mr. Marcos and Imelda Marcos are out of the running. So what will Mr. Marcos do? Hindi na pwede sa 1935 constitution, hindi na pupwede dito sa bagong constitution. The only reason left or the only excuse and the only option left for Mr. Marcos is to declare martial law. And so what happened? The students demonstrated in the streets. Sabi ng agent ni Marcos, “sige pa, sige pa, dagdagan pa niyo.” More demonstrations came, sige pa. Finally, bombings started in Manila, and did you know my friends, the Manila police captured one of the bombers, and one of these bombers in Manila was identified as a sergeant of the firearms and explosives section of the Philippine Constabulary. The following day, this man was snatched from the Manila police and we never heard from him again. And then, on September 23, midnight, Mr. Marcos went on television and said, “I, Ferdinand Marcos, acting as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, by virtue of the provision of the constitution which states, in case of invasion, insurrection, rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, I may declare martial law or suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Therefore, I now declare martial law, and shall administer this country alone.” On that day, democracy died. And so Mr. Marcos arrested together with us in the Senate, most of the leaders in the constitutional convention, all of those opposing him, went to jail with us. And then, when they went to jail with us, all the other members of the convention were herded, and they were given a constitution made by Mr. Marcos, and they were told to sign, and everybody signed, except those in jail with us. And once this new constitution was signed by them, they released the delegates. And then on January 17, 1973, Mr. Marcos went on television and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, my countrymen, there is now a new constitution.” But how can we have a new constitution? There was no plebiscite. You know that the law says, “Before you can have a new constitution, you must present it to the Filipino people, and the Filipino people must in a secret ballot, write yes or no. What happened? Tinawag ni Mr. Marcos ang mga citizen’s assembly. Tinawag niya ang mga barrio councils. And then in the middle of this meeting, tinanong “Kayo ba’y gutom na? Yes. Taas ang kamay. Taas” Lahat ng tumaas, approved ang konstitusyon. My friends, this is not fiction, because in the now-famous Javellana case, Javellana v. Executive Secretary, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Javellana, went to the Supreme Court and questioned the illegality of this constitution. And what did the Supreme Court say? Out of 10 justices, 6 out of 10 said this constitution was not validly ratified. According to the 1935 constitution and according even to the new constitution, it was not validly ratified. But then, the Supreme Court added, but there is nothing to stop it. So, we had a constitution.
And so my friends, we started with an American-type constitution, we move to a British-type constitution. We had a parliamentary form of government without a parliament. Until 1978, we did not have a parliament. And yet, we were supposed to be a parliamentary from of government. And Mr. Marcos said, “I declared martial law to save democracy.” But by saving democracy, he killed it.
And so my friends, it was not until 1978 that the Batasan was convened. Now, what do we hear? Mr. Marcos once again, is up again to his new tricks. He said, “I lifted martial law but I think we should now elect a president by direct vote.” But there is not such thing. Under the new constitution now, the president is purely ceremonial. Tagabukas lang ng pinto, tagatanggap lamang ng credential ng ambassador. Purely ceremonial elected by parliament, he is not elected by the people. The power of the government under a parliamentary system lies within the Prime Minister. And the Prime Minister must be elected by parliament, and this prime minister may be removed from office, if there is a vote of no confidence. That is the British type. So what did Mr. Marcos do in 1976? He amended the constitution and said, “I, Ferdinand Marcos, as Prime Minister/President, may dissolve parliament, but parliament cannot dissolve me.” And then he said, “Parliament may legislate, but if I think they’re not doing their job, I will also legislate.” So now we have two parliaments, Mr. Marcos and parliament. And it’s costing us 300 million to have that tuta parliament, what’s the use? If Mr. Marcos is doing all the legislation, why keep these 200 guys? So what do they do? They change the name of the street of Divisoria. They change the name of a school. But when it comes to public decrees, like Public Order Code 1737, only Mr. Marcos signs it. And so we have a situation, where we have a man who can dissolve parliament, but parliament cannot dissolve him. And under the Amendment No. 6 of the 1973 constitution, Mr. Marcos is a president-for-life. And now, all of a sudden, two weeks ago, sabi niya, “I have lifted martial law but I now want to go to the Filipino people, and I want their mandate of 8 years. I will defend martial law. Anybody who oppose it can oppose me. I want to go to the people and get their mandate.” But how can you get the mandate? There’s no such thing in the constitution. Sagot ni Marcos, “Let us amend it.” So now, we are going to amend again the constitution. And so we ask Mr. Marcos, but what form of government will we have? “Ahh,” sabi niya, “I want a president with powers.” What happemd to the parliamentary British? Forget it. Let us now go to France. Let us have a French model. And so my friends, it is like the odyssey of Jules Verne “80 Days Around the World”. We started with America. We went to England. Now we are going to France. Under the new proposal of Mr. Marcos, we will now have a president and a prime minister. But the prime minister will be appointed by the president. And this president now will be all powerful. It will not be the American type; it will be the French type. And I suppose two years from now, when he gets tired of that, he will go to the Russian type, whatever that is. And so he announced, “I will take anybody, including Aquino.” And so, I was not inclined to oblige him, but then he added, “Pero,” sabi niya, ‘”hindi pwede si Aquino, underage.” And so naturally I went to the book, I said how come I was underage? I thought I was already 48, because the rule before, to become President of the Philippines in 1935, all you had to do is to be 40 years old. And so I looked at the book, tama nga naman si Marcos, they’ve increased the age to fifty. Kapos na naman ako ng dalawa. Of course, Mr. Marcos said, “Pero kung talagang gusto ni Aquino; if he really wants to come home and to fight me, I will oblige him. I will also have the constitution amended for him.” So I told Mr. Marcos and his people, “Forget me, Mr. President. I am through with your politics. Hindi na po ako kako sasama sa inyong kalokohan. Nagtayo kayo ng isang lapian, ang pangalan KBL, Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan, mali po kako ‘yan, Kilusan ng mga Bingi at Loko-loko. Hindi na ako kako sasama diyan. Ako’y tapos na, I told them. I am through with politics, I said. I would just want to live in peace now. But I wrote Mr. Marcos and I told him, “While it’s true Mr. Marcos,” I said, “that after my 8 years in prison I have lost appetite for office, I am no longer seeking the presidency of this land, I’m not seeking any office in this country, but believe me,” I said, “When I tell you, that while I have vowed never to enter the political arena again, I shall dedicate the last drop of my blood to the restoration of freedom and the dismantlement of your martial law.”
It is with this thought that I sought an audience with Mrs. Marcos last December 16 after I was released for given a medical forum. I was in prison as you all know for seven years and seven months. Then on March 18 or March 19 of 1980, while they allowed me to run and they made a little choral for me, they brought me out between 11 and 12 o’ clock. Every day, they brought me out to exercise. On that particular day of March, as I was walking around my little choral, all of a sudden, I developed a chest pain, and then the pain was so terrible that I sat down and I asked my guard to massage my chest and asked him to bring me back. I called for the army doctors. They checked me and they said, “Muscle spasm lang po iyan, that’s nothing, just take a rest.” And so I rested. But after 40 days, I was so weak; I could not even take a bath. I was shaking, and I told my doctor, “Look, doctor. I don’t know,” I said, “your diagnosis or its accuracy, but I’m very very weak. Please bring me to the Philippine Heart Center and get me an examination. That doctor, fortunately, on that morning, after 40 days on April 28, his name is Kernel Bayani Garcia, came to my office and said, “Yes, senator,” sabi niya, “I will now recommend that they bring you to the Heart Center because, apparently, you’re not getting well. Mr. Marcos has just arrived from Honolulu. I will make my recommendation." This is the officer who has been taking care of me for seven years. He is a full kernel. He is the commanding officer of the Bonifacio Station Hospital. He was the one who diagnosed that I only had a muscle spasm. At 9:30 in the morning, he saw me of April 28. He left my room, and I wrote a letter, and I told them, “If you do not bring me to the Heart Center, I will be constrained to appeal to the Supreme Court.” And so he said, “No sir.” Ako na po ang bahala. I will talk to the commanding general. At one o’ clock that day, a knock on my door came and I was given a letter from the commanding general. I thought it was the approval of my request. When I opened the letter, it was handwritten note, and he said, “My dear Senator Aquino, it is with deep regret that I inform you. Your doctor, Kernel Bayani S. Garcia died of a massive heart attack an hour ago. If you were in my place, here is your doctor telling you that’s a muscle spasm. Tapos bigla siyang namatay, how’d you feel? And so my friends, I sat down stunned, but then I wrote back to the general and I said, “Much as I’d like to go to the Heart Center, it is my request that I be kept here in my cell until my doctor is buried. Only after he’s buried will I go to the Heart Center,” I said, “because in deference to him, I would like to wait for his burial.” I did not realize this doctor had a sister in Germany and a brother in Saudi Arabia so it took seven days before they buried him. Finally, on May 5, 1980, almost midnight, they took me from my cell and they brought me to the Heart Center. That was a Monday. The doctors in the Heart Center met me, took preliminary test and they told me, “Senator, tomorrow, we will begin the battery of tests.” And so, I slept, but I could not sleep. That was the first time I was brought out of my cell in almost seven years and seven months and there were beautiful nurses, and the first time I was seeing women in seven years and seven months, and naturally I was watching my heart as it was palpitating. And so, I woke up at 6 o’ clock that following morning on a Tuesday, and they brought me down for my x-ray, and they brought me back. And there were these beautiful nurses around, and they say, “O Senator, ikang ganoon, nangayayat po pala kayo.” “Kako, thank you. You know, I used to be very big.” But as I sat down after that x-ray, I was just about to sip my coffee, all of a sudden, I get, I got hit again by terrible chest pain that was almost choking me, and my arm was getting paralyzed. So I told the nurse, I said, “Miss, please bring me to bed.” So, they brought me to bed, and they put all of those gadgets, and all of a sudden, the needles were squiggling and they called the doctor. The doctor looked at the tracing, and then after one hour, they came back to me and said, “Mr. Senator, we’re cancelling all all tests.” I said, “Why?” “Because we already know what’s wrong with you.” I said, “What’s wrong with me?” “You have blocked heart arteries, and you must undergo an emergency triple bypass. Otherwise, you may die in six days to six months.” I told them, “Where can I have my operation?” “Dito lang po sa Heart Center,” and that’s the Heart Center of Imelda Marcos. And I asked who can do the operation for me. The director said, “Ako lang po. There are two other assistants if you want, but I’m the only one performing in the center.” He was the director of the Heart Center, handpicked also by Imelda. I said, “Doctor, ipagpaliban muna kako. Thank you na lang,” I said, “If they cannot operate on me in America, please bring me to my cell.” Well, the reason why I did not want to be operated in the Philippines, I have one weakness. I talk in my sleep. Eh kung bigyan ako ng anesthesia, nagdadaldal ako doon, sabi ko, “Gusto kong patayin si Marcos. Patayin si Marcos,” mamamatay na ako doon. You know, I don’t know what I will say. The moment they put me on anesthesia, after all, I’ve been thinking of many things for the last seven years, I might be saying many things and the doctor will be recording that, and they say, “Bangungot na muna ito. Masama palang mabuhay.” The truth it, I did not want them to touch me in Manila. And so, there was a crisis. The general came to me and they said, “Well senator,” he said, “If you don’t want Dr. Ventura here, why don’t you give us the name of your doctor in America and we will bring them to the Philippines. Gastos po ng gobyerno.” I said, “It’s too much of a hassle.” “Hindi po. Don’t worry. We will bring them. Name any doctor you want. We will get you operated here.” I said, “No, if I cannot be operated in America, then bring me back to my cell. The Sec - Deputy Minister of Defense came to my room. He tried to talk me out of my decision. I said no. And so, finally, he said, “Are you willing to write a letter to Marcos requesting to be brought to America?” I said yes. “Eh siguro ikang ganoon, mas maganda kung mag-iiwan ka ng dalawang anak mo, para maniwalang babalik ka pa.” And so, I wrote my letter to Mr. Marcos and made two covenants, that if I leave, I shall return and two, that while in America, I should not speak out against his regime. And I also said, I will only bring three of my children with me. That’s also true. But of course, the other two were already abroad. And then my friends, that was a Wednesday, when I wrote that letter. All of a sudden, on Thursday morning, May 8, my wife visited me early in the morning, and she told me, “The hospital is crawling with Metrocom cars. Guards were all over the place. Baka ika may magbibisita sa iyo.” Then all of a sudden, my guards started jumping, putting their Barong Tagalog, hiding all of their guns. I said, “Tama, may darating na VIP.” And then, lo and behold, the beautiful one ascended into my suite. She came, and she was really beautiful. She has not aged, and she sat down and said, “Naku, Ninoy,” sabi niya, “I’m sorry to see you like that.” Hindi ko lang nasabi sa kanya, “Eh kayo may kagagawan nito eh.” At any rate, I had my bathrobe and I was like this and she talked to me, and we talked to her, and she was very nice about it. And then, all of a sudden, after one hour, she said, “Would you like to go to America?” “Aba’y kako, sure. Sure! Oo, oo.” Eh sa tuwa ko, tinanggal ko yung aking kwintas, kako anting-anting ko ito. Iiwanan ko na kako per dito. Palayasin na niyo ‘ko, papuntahin niyo ako sa America. Sabi niya, there’s a plane leaving at 6 o’ clock. You can be in that plane. Eh kako, thank you. And so my friends, she ordered General Ver to instruct the foreign office to issue us passports. They called up the American embassy to get us visa. My wife had to rush out to look for some money. And finally, at 2:30 in the afternoon, they brought me out of my room from the hospital, brought me to my house in a van. I never saw Manila therefore. They gave me 30 minutes in my house to pack, to take a shower, put me back on the van, bring me to the airport, put me in a 747, and out of the Philippines.
That’s the story. There was no deal. There were no other considerations. And when I arrived in America, I want to tell you, I was a very sick man. I had to rest in San Francisco. When I arrived in Dallas, Texas, immediately the doctors brought me directly to the hospital, and then checked me. On that Monday, May 12, they give me an arteriogram. At 1 o’ clock that day, my Filipino doctor-cardiologist, Dr. Rolando Solis came and said, “Senator,” he said, “I’m sorry, but you have to undergo a triple bypass.” I said, “Doctor, what day is today?” Sabi niya, “May 12.” “Tomorrow is May 13. Hit me tomorrow.” “No,” sabi niya, “No hurry, we can do it on the 14th.” I said, “No. Hit me tomorrow, May 13.” Sabi niya, “Ikaw ang bahala.” And so he asked me, “May I know why you want the 13th?” My friends in 1975, I went on a hunger strike for 40 days and 40 nights. On May 5, 1975, my blood pressure dropped 60/40 and they could hardly feel my heartbeat, and I had no pulse, and they rushed me to the Veterans Memorial Hospital. On May 13, 1975, on the 40th day of my fast, and that was my pact with my Lord that, “I will go for 40 days and 40 nights because I wanted to die, but if you do not allow me to die”, I said, “then I take it you still want me to continue, and Your will be done.” And so, on that day of the Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1975, I ended my fast. Five years to the day, on May 5, 1980, and all because I wanted to wait for the burial of my doctor, they brought me out to the Heart Center. And then, on May 13, I was scheduled to have my triple heart bypass five years to the day. I do not know the meaning of these coincidences, and so I told my doctor, “Hit me tomorrow because I will survive.” And so I finished my operation, and I was recuperating, and I cabled Mr. Marcos after my operation. I told him, “Operation has been successful. However, I developed a pericarditis. My doctors advised me four more weeks of convalescence. However, if you feel I should now return to my cell. I shall immediately take the first plane to go back to my cell.” Mr. Marcos had General Ver called me and said, “Pinasasabi po ni Presidente, magpalakas na muna kayo diyan. Take your time, and when you are strong and ready, you can return.” A week later, the international press came out with the story, “Mr. Marcos extends indefinitely the stay of Aquino in America.” On the basis of that report, I wired Harvard University and I said, “I am now ready to accept the fellowship that you offered me.” And Harvard University extended the invitation again to become a fellow at the Center for International Affairs and that’s the story. But I have no intention seeking political asylum in America as you know. I’ve always said that I shall return to the Philippines as soon as my Harvard fellowship is over and I took it only because Mr. Marcos extended my stay indefinitely.
But when I was convalescing and I was receiving hundreds, thousands of letters from all over the world, America and the Philippines, Filipinos sending me $5 and $10 to help me in my hospitalization, sending me little money, token money for my fellowship in Harvard, there was one underlying note in all of these letters, “We waited for you for 8 years. Will you now abandon us?” I am a human being my friends. I have suffered 8 years of imprisonment. I have suffered loneliness like no other man has suffered loneliness in my life. I have been away from my children and my family, and I was financially ruined after 8 years. It is only distinctive for a man to look for his peace, and I debated with my mind, and I debated with myself, and I debated with my wife and my children, whether should I go back to the arena of combat. I felt that I’ve already earned my peace. I have done my best. I waited for seven years and seven months and the Filipino people did not react, and they would even give me the impression that they love their chain and their slavery. What can one man do, if the Filipino people love their slavery? If the Filipino people have lost their voice and would not say no to a tyrant, what can one man do? I have no army. I have no following. I have no money. I only have my indomitable spirit. But the letters kept pouring in, and they said, “We waited for you for 8 years. Will you now abandon us?”
And so with nostalgia I recalled the situation in my prison. There in that prison I shared a cell with a great Filipino. His name is Senator Jose W. Diokno, one of the most respected men in our country, a man who could not be bribed, a man whose towering integrity is a by-word with the youth. He stayed with me for two years in jail, and then after two years, he was released, no charges, no explanation. There were a hundred thousand Filipinos who went through those jails, hardly 10% were charged. They were arrested without charges. They were released without explanation. That is what happened to our country. And what about the mothers and the children who lost their breadwinners when these people went to jail? In my compound, there were only four of us: myself, Jose Maria Sison, his wife and Lieutenant Corpus. I did not know that there was another one, a fifth one, who was barely a hundred and fifty meters away from my cell. I never knew that there was a young man by the name of Sixto Carlos, Jr. because only when I was released that I finally read his poignant story. You know what they did to this man? They tortured him no end for two weeks. They kept him in a safe house. They fed him poison and his body became numb, and finally he lost his senses and therefore, they cannot bring him back to his family because they took him apart and they could not take him back together. This young man was a student leader in the U.P. He did not see the sun and the moon for 124 days. He was chained to his gut. Jose Maria Sison was chained to his gut. His feet were chained. His hand was chained. You cannot see a more inhumane situation, and I want to tell you my friends, until you have tasted this loneliness, you will not know what solitary confinement means. They brought me to a mountain hideout in the Sierra Madre and placed me in a box. I had only my brief and my t-shirt. I refused to eat because I thought they were poisoning me. There was nothing in the room, barely nothing. And I have nothing to do but twiddle my thumb and for the first time in my life, I heard the ticking of every second, and I was counting every second into minutes, and as the minutes marched into hours, and the hours into days, and the days into weeks, I knew what loneliness meant. And therefore, as I thought back that there are still many valiant Filipinos who are fighting for freedom, fighting for your right to speak. These are the people who are putting their lives on the line. These are people who abandon their loved ones and the comforts of their home, the wealth of their offices, to be able to bring our freedom back, and to be true to our founding fathers. And so I told my wife, “Much as we have found our peace and our freedom, I will have to return to combat.
And so six weeks after my operation, I was still very weak. I went to Damascus, Syria to plead with our Muslim brothers because I wanted to get to the root cause of this problem. A hundred thousand Filipino Muslims have already been killed. 300,000 are now refugees in Sabah. More than 20,000 Filipino soldiers have been killed in the last 8 years, and only 72 hours ago, a hundred and eighteen Filipino soldiers wee massacred at Padapada. And therefore, I wanted to go there and talk to our brothers in the Middle East and plead with them to stop this carnage because we are all Filipinos. In spite of my weakness, I went to the MNLF, hoping to find a solution, and when I came back to Dallas, Texas, I immediately took the telephone and I called Mr. Marcos and I told his Deputy Defense Minister, “I went to Damascus, Syria. I talked to the Muslims. I did it on my own because I am aggrieved by the bloodshed that has occurred. Tell the President that I have a formula. Maybe,” I said, “this is my way to help our people. Tell the President, what he has done to me I have already forgiven and I’ve already forgotten. I have no bitterness against Mr. Marcos. I have no rancor against Mr. Marcos. All I want to do is to help our people stop this bloodshed. So please tell the President,” I said, “I have a formula. In two days,” I said, “I will be sending him a formula.” And I wrote this formula, a secret formula I sent to Mr. Marcos, and I said, “Mr. Marcos, Filipinos are dying and this is a possible breakthrough.” What did Mr. Marcos do? He told the press that he sent me to Damascus, Syria as his agent and as his spy.
And so I stayed on to recuperate in Dallas, Texas. Delegations upon delegations came to me. People whose names I cannot now tell you because their lives are in danger. They told me, “Mr. Senator,” they said, “we have waited 8 years for you. Lead us. We are now ready.” I said, “With what? With water pistols?” and said, “No sir, we are ready.” They brought me to their training camps. They took me elsewhere outside the United States and showed me, “Maybe we are a handful. Maybe we are a few. But we are now ready to lay down our lives,” and these are young Filipino boys and girls. These are young boys and girls who come from the better families, who come from the better schools, but have now, said the time must come, we should either put up or shut up. And so again, I entered into a long agony because I could not for the like of me condone violence. I told them, “If you go into the road of violence, it will only lead to more violence,” I said, “If you kill one, Marcos will kill two. We kill three, and Marcos will kill four. And what will happen to our country? We cannot,” I said, “go to a road of violence, because violence will only beget more violence,” I said, “and what will happen when ten thousand boys and girls are already dead in the streets of Manila and blood will be flowing in our very streets? I cannot,” I said, “resist the wailing of mothers who will now blame me that their children have died in the altar of freedom, that these young men were determined.” They gave me only a few weeks to try to arrive at a solution with Mr. Marcos. And so my friends, on August 4, much against my better judgment, I spoke in New York and I told Mr. Marcos, “Believe me, Mr. President, that if you do not lift your martial law, bombs will be bursting in Manila.” Mr. Marcos called me insane. You know what he said, “He should not have had his heart operation. He should have had his head operated.” He did not listen to me, but I felt it was my duty, and as I said, I promised I will not speak out against the Marcos regime, but national interest now dictates that I must warn Mr. Marcos for the last time. I will walk the last mile to prevent this carnage, but if Mr. Marcos will not listen, so be it. And as you very well know, bombs exploded in the city, August, September and October, and Mr. Marcos made me the mad bomber. I did not threaten him. I had nothing to do with the bombing. I only told Mr. Marcos and I warned him that the patience of the Filipino people have run out and that if he does not yield now, then he shall reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). It is in that context that on December 16, Mrs. Marcos called me in the Waldorf Suite Towers. We spoke for four and a half hours. I told Mrs. Marcos, “I have no more political ambition, Mrs. Marcos.” I told her that I am through with politics. I told her that I am now a broken man, I said, and maybe this is the last time I’ll see you. And she said, “Why?” The last time I saw you I had a broken heart. You call me now I have a broken leg. Next time you’ll see me, I have a broken neck. But I went to see Mrs. Marcos precisely to try to tell her of the imminence and the gravity of this situation. Mrs. Marcos said, “Are you willing to agree to a moratorium?” Well, I said, “Mrs. Marcos, who am I to agree to a moratorium? I am not the mad bomber.” And then she said, “Well, whatever it is, whether you’re the mastermind or not, every time you speak in New York, bombs burst in Manila. So why don’t you now appeal?” I said, “Yes Mrs. Marcos, I will appeal. I will appeal to the opposition in the Philippines, but for what, and for how long?” “Give us six months, he said,” I said, “Maybe 90 days is more reasonable. I do not know,” I said, “whether they will follow me, but I will make my appeal to whoever is bombing in the Philippines to give you the chance. But what will you do?” “I promise you,” she said, “if you give us a moratorium, President Marcos will lift martial law.” I said, “You mean that?” She said yes. And as you very well know, a month after I met her, martial law was lifted. “But what kind of lifting?” and I told Mrs. Marcos, I said, “If your husband is sincere, nothing is impossible, but if your husband is not sincere, nothing is possible.” And believe me, I said, “If you are not sincere, then the question is, how many will die?” My friends, it is now February 15 and there is one month to go. I am not threatening Mr. Marcos. I am only reiterating my word of advice. If they do not increase the freedoms in our country, then I’m afraid that bombs will burst again.
On February 1, last Saturday, I received a most poignant letter from a mother and a wife and I'd like to read it to you.
“My dear Senator Aquino,
Thank you very much for remembering my husband in your negotiations with the government. I have written you a longer letter which will probably reach you in a few days. I am writing you now because I have just received word from my husband that he intends to go on a hunger strike starting Wednesday, February 4, starting with breakfast. The purpose of this is to protest his not being permitted to talk to his lawyers and his immediate relatives, me and my only son. I think he chose February 4 as the date of his hunger strike because he was caught on December 4 and by February 4, he would have been two months incommunicado. I understand that the number of all the detainees accused of their involvement with the April 6th Movement will also go to a sympathy strike, hunger strike beginning February 4. Please pray for them. Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.
Mr. Montiel was arrested on December 4. He has been kept incommunicado in the Provincial Command Headquarters in Laguna. No lawyers have been allowed to see him. His wife and 4-year old son went there, pleaded with the kernel but they refused to allow him to see them. She went to the Deputy Defense Minister Barbero and Minister Barbero gave a letter instructing the commander to allow the wife to see this man. Again, they did not allow. The suspicion is, they’ve tortured him beyond recognition. That’s why they cannot produce him because there might be evidence. Today, the New York Times carried a long story on the saga of Rolando Montiel, that in spite of the lifting of martial law, there are still people held incommunicado in our land, who are actually refused the very basic humanitarian consideration of seeing their lawyers and their family. What is so bad about seeing your wife and children? I know exactly what Montiel is passing because I also suffered, more than a month, two months sometimes, without seeing my wife and my children, and the mental torture is terrific. This man is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and therefore, is entitled to the very rudiments of basic law. But, no, under our martial law regime, he’s still being held incommunicado. How many Montiels are there? How many unsung, unnamed Filipinos are still languishing in the jails of our land? In that blighted land of ours, where our founding fathers gave up their lives that we may see the morning sun; how many my friends? And so while we are here in Los Angeles and savoring the true meaning of freedom, laughing, enjoying, dancing our Valentine’s date, there are still many Filipinos finding a way, merely to have a chance, one glimpse of their wife and their children. I sent a cable to Mr. Marcos. The military went to one of the hunger strikers. They said, “Montiel will already see his family.” They stopped the strike.” Six days later, they found out they were fooled and so, they resumed their strike. Some of them are already on the tenth day of the strike. I know what it is to go on a hunger strike. On the tenth day my friend, your stomach will actually be only a handful. I know what it means: the hunger pains that you go on the first, second, third, fourth and fifth day; I know the cramps in the stomach. I know when your hand starts trembling and you feel cold because the fat in your body is wasting away. Many of our countrymen are in that predicament. I only hope and pray that Mr. Marcos will now heed to the last cable I sent this morning, together with Senators Tañada and Manglapus, asking him in the name of God and humanity, to stop the hunger strike by merely allowing Montiel to see his wife and children. I am not saying Montiel is innocent or guilty. All we’re asking is that he’d be allowed to see his wife and his child and his lawyer. That’s not asking too much. And yet my friends, today as we have this freedom rally, there are Filipinos deprived of these basic favors.
I would like to reiterate therefore my stand. After almost seven years and seven months in prison, I have lost my appetite in office. I do not have anymore the answers to the many solutions for our country. That’s why I went to Harvard precisely to try to craft the many answers, the malay of our society. I know, for a fact, we cannot go back to the old society, where a few enjoy the fat of the land, and the many suffer. But today, in spite of martial law, the rich are getting richer and the poor are growing in numbers. That cannot be. The meaning of our struggle is to be able to return the freedom. First, you must return the freedom so that all segments of our community, whether from the left or from the right will have the right to speak, and then in that open debate, in that clash of debate in the marketplace, we will produce the class between the thesis and the antithesis and we will have the synthesis for the Filipino people. I do not hold the key to our liberation. I do not know the solutions to our many problems. All I know is that, if the situation continues in the Philippines, then blood will flow and when blood flows, there will be no victor and there will be no vanquished, because all of us will be the victim of our folly. I am therefore appealing to Mr. Marcos, “Mr. Marcos, hear the cry of your people. You have been in office for 16 years. We do not want your blood. We do not want revenge. We do not want to hurt your family. We only asked that freedom be returned. We ask for nothing more, but we will accept for nothing less.” We tell Mr. Marcos, “You may have your exercise. I have said time and again I’m no longer interested in politics, but if this will speed up the normalization of my country, if I must go back in there again and sacrifice myself in the political arena in spite of the fact that I have no money anymore to spend, if that will restore freedom, then I shall go back.”
And I tell you now, I tell you now, unless there are very grave intervening events, I shall return to Manila by June, at the end of my fellowship. What are the prospects? I have a death sentence waiting for me. I have been told by my lawyer, Senator Tañada who arrived last week from Manila and went to Boston. He was called by Mr. Marcos to Malacañang the day before he left for America, and Mr. Marcos said, “Tanny, I want it very very clear. I want you to explain this to Ninoy very carefully so that there will be no misunderstanding. If he returns to the Philippines, he will have to go back to jail.” Senator Maceda went home to the Philippines and arrived two days ago. He had the same message, “Padre, I have talked to the President. He told me that if you return to the Philippines, you will have to go back to jail.” I am going back to the Philippines, and if I have to go back to jail, so be it. I believe that real suffering bravely borne melts even a heart of stone. I want to prove to Mr. Marcos that not only comfort and material things are the demands of the flesh, that there is an indomitable spirit that will be willing to take any sacrifices for our people. I shall therefore go back to the Philippines and I shall bring back to my cell the memory of this afternoon, where many of our kindred friends came, to pay even hard money, and I only wish that when I am back in my cell, that you’ll give me a prayer and pray for those in similar situations. I believe that we cannot do it by force of arms because we have no arms. But civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt, when a citizen who barters with such state shows it shares its corruption and lawlessness. I refuse to share the corruption and lawlessness. I believe that when a government becomes corrupt, there is no other place for a good citizen but to be in jail, and therefore, I shall wear willingly again the hair shirt of imprisonment.
But my friends, this struggle can only mean victory for all of us. It will mean victory because we are different from those that we oppose. Those that we oppose are happy with the material wealth, but for how long? I have written Mr. Marcos letters upon letters and I told him, “Read your history my friend. I have no hatred for you. I only have pity because if you do not see and you do not remove the calluses from your eyes, if you do not remove your blinders, you will meet the same fate of all the dictators of history. What happened to Mao Zedong? His wife is now in jail. What happened to Peron? Isabelita is now in jail. What happened to Franco? He’s now forgotten. What happened to the Shah for all of the things he did? The monuments to his greatness have already been torn down. There has never been a single dictator in history that has lived forever, and so I tell Mr. Marcos, “Mr. Marcos, study the lessons of history before it is too late. It would be a tragic, tragic, tragic thing for a man to miss the side, the right turn of the four and end up as a great tragedy.” I have read Mahatma Gandhi in prison, and I have read what he said, and this frail man, this man, almost 60 years old, barely 96 pounds, fought the entire British Empire and caused that empire to collapse. Why? Because he had an indomitable spirit, he had a moral spirit. He had the courage to stand against the British and tell them, “You can end a man. You can imprison his body but you cannot imprison his soul, and as long as man will refuse to be defeated, you are never defeated.” And so, Mr. Marcos can imprison my body, but my spirit shall soar, and it shall come to you here in Los Angeles to remind you that in your comfort, and in your home, and in your happiness here, there are still many people crying for liberation in your homeland.
I shall return to the Philippines. Note that maybe the seeds that we have planted here today will bear fruit tomorrow. I realize the situation here. We have displayed tremendous courage. How many Filipinos are there in Los Angeles? There are more than 200,000 Filipinos here, but what is the common refrain? “Ay huwag kang magpunta roon, baka makunan tayo ng litrato. Lagot tayo sa bagong bayan – balikbayan.” How many of our countrymen? My friends, your own neighbors will tell you, “Eh ba’t ka naman pupunta roon? Maghahanap ka pa ng sakit ng ulo. Kawa naman yung kamag-anak mo sa Pilipinas.” Don’t they realize that by saying those words they have condemned themselves? Because they are condoning tyranny, and when you condone tyranny, my friends, you share in its corruption and lawlessness. There are only 2 letters and one word that I will leave behind. The letter of N, O, and the word NO, because the ancient Greeks taught their people that the moment you can say no, then you are beginning to enquire. The moment you say no, you’re beginning to protest. The moment you say no to tyranny, you are beginning the struggle, the long lonely road to freedom. And so I ask this afternoon, please say no and learn to say no. No to tyranny! No to corruption! No to all this degradation of human dignity! Because then, I feel the true air of your fathers who before you have shed their blood for our freedoms. My friends do not forget that your readiness to suffer will light the torch of freedom which can never be put out. Do not forget that we who are now in the middle of our years must inspire the youth when they are almost in the brink of despair. Do not forget that the purpose of life is precisely reexamining our being, not merely a floating flotsam in the time, in the floods of time. Do not forget, as Longfellow said that we should never be like driven cattle, but be a hero in the strife.
And so, as I ended my speeches before in the Philippines, meron pong isang kasabihan daw na merong isang lalaki na naglakbay sa malayo, at siya’y inabot ng uhaw. At halos siya’y mamatay na ng uhaw noong siya’y makakita ng isang silid. At sa silid na iyon ay nakakita ng isang magandang dalaga at siya po’y humingi ng isang basong tubig. Binigyan ng dalaga ng isang basong tubig at ininom ng lalaking uhaw na uhaw na halos mamatay at sabi ng lalaki, “Magandang dalaga,” ikang ganoon, “hindi ko na po kakalimutan ang inyong itinulong sa akin. Noong ako’y uhaw na uhaw ay kayo’y nagbigay ng tubig.” With that, kinuha daw niya ang kanyang baso at kanyang ipinukol at binasag. Ay nagulat yung babae. Sabi ng babae eh, “Kung kayo’y nagpapasalamat, kung kayo’y uhaw na uhaw at kayo’y tinulungan ko, eh bakit naman niyo sinira yung aking baso? Bakit niyo binasag?” Ang sagot daw po ng lalaki ay, “Binasag ko ang basong ito na parang wala ng ibang lalaki pang makakalapit ditong makikiinom sa inyo at gagamit sa ating – sa ating maliit na baso.”
Ako po ay nagpunta rito sa inyo sa Los Angeles, bagama’t ang aking paa ay napakasakit. Ako’y uhaw na uhaw sa pag-ibig, at inyo’y ibinigay niyo ang pag-ibig at kayo’y nagbayad pa na makadinig. At ngayon, tayo may nagkakita at ako’y nagpapasalamat sa inyo, sa galak ng aking puso, sa buong pasasalamat ay sana’y basagin na natin yung basong tulong at pag-ibig na inyong ibinigay, na para wala nang Marcos na makakahiram pa sa balang panahon. My dear friends, I therefore would like to end this afternoon by saluting the courage that you have now displayed and I’d like to tell you today. This courage has energized the batteries of my life, and I shall bring it to whatever fate will lead me, and I shall always remember the people of Los Angeles and truly to me, it has become the City of Angels. I thank you very much.
Q: Why do you think that your returning to the Philippines will enhance the cause of freedom in the country?
A: That has been a question that has been asked to me because people think that I am rather foolish to go back. Primarily, I do believe that we have to show some examples to our people. As Gandhi said, “Cowardice is infectious, but courage can also become infectious.” We must show our people that there are times when we must sacrifice. It’s very easy to be here in America. It’s easy to become soft in America. Who does not want to enjoy this freedom? But so long as the Filipino people are suffering, I think it would be more meaningful if we can go back there and share that suffering. I do not believe, as I said, in a violent confrontation. I do not believe, as I said, that blood should flow. But who knows, that by returning there, and willingly sacrifice again imprisonment, I may be able to touch the conscience of Mr. Marcos and in so doing, we’ll be able to dialogue better with him and tell him exactly what some of our people feel. It may be foolish, but why should it be foolish? I’m only one. If I die, then I die, and there’s only one to suffer. But so long as each one of us will be willing to take on the struggle, even if I am in prison, even if I die in prison, so long as you will continue the struggle and carry the torch, then I think we’ll have a better Philippines started, and have one carrying the torch, we’ll have many, and that’s my answer.
Q: If you will become the next president of the Philippines, what will you do with the U.S. investments or big foreign investments in the Philippines?
A: That’s a very very good question because there is a misconception that if the opposition wins in the Philippines, we will kick out all American/foreign investments. But why should we do that? Foreign investments are in the Philippines to give employment to our people. We should watch against predatory foreign investments who are exploitative of the Filipino people. But I cannot accept that all foreign investments are exploitative. There are many foreign investments that are helpful to our country because there are many foreign multinationals that have technology which we do not have. We do not have the technology and digitals and computers. Who will teach us this? The idea is not to kick out foreign investment but to regulate foreign investment so that they will be mutually beneficial to both countries. Where they become exploitative, they should be extripated, but where they help the economy, they should be encouraged.
Q: What relationship does the UNIDO party have to the National Democratic Front who has played a central role in arguing the Filipino people’s case against the Marcos dictatorship and who presently has a base of support of over 10 million?
A: I do not know the actual relationship today between the United Democratic Opposition in the Philippines and the National Democratic Front. I’ve said in many of my writings that the National Democratic Front, especially its militant arm, the New People’s Army has been instrumental in many social changes in our country. There may have been, there may be a difference in ideology and approach but we are united in one, we are united against the dictatorship. My position is very clear. If we will succeed in overthrowing the dictatorship, we should allow every voice and every idea to ventilate their views in the public market. We should legalize the Communist Party of the Philippines and give them exactly the same forum to expound on their ideas, and once they have expounded their ideas and the Filipino people should opt them, then I think we should, in the spirit of democracy accept majority rule. I do not accept a dictatorship of the right, much less will I accept the dictatorship of the left but it should be the Filipino people, in the ultimate sense, who will judge which ideology and which cause that they should endorse.
Q: You said violence begets violence, so it is just right to use violence against Marcos regime and as much as it is Marcos’s main weapon?
A: I’ve always said that Mr. Marcos is the original terrorist. He is right now employing state violence but if we use violence against him, he will only justify the use of more violence against us, and since he has more violent men, he has more forces of repression we will be the loser. In other words, as Gandhi said, “If he uses violence against you, do not give him a reason to justify his violence, because if you are not violent then before the bar of public opinion and before God, he is the only sinner.” One wrong does not right another wrong.
Q: For Filipino in the U.S., what do you propose for them to do to hasten the dismantling of the dictatorship in the Philippines?
A: For one, there is really very little that you can do. However, I hope that because the press in our country is controlled, every time you write your people back home, include some clippings that are found in American newspapers about what’s happening back home. Do you know that yesterday, the Los Angeles Times had a story: “Two thousand demonstrated in Manila. Nuns and priests are bombarded by water cannons.” I talked to Manila only this morning. They told me not a single line of the story that has appeared in Los Angeles Times has appeared in Philippine press. Therefore, our people do not know what’s happening. There was a clash in Sulu. We knew about it here but in the Philippines not a word was said in the newspapers. What can you do therefore? When you send your monthly remittances, no matter how small, include a clipping so they will be enlightened.
Q: How would you explain the severe poverty in the Philippines? Any alternatives? What are its roots and causes?
A: There is severe poverty in the Philippines and this is endemic in the Third World. I believe there is a structural defect in our system as Mr. Osmeña pointed out but I can only pinpoint you one specific case. In the budget today, the budget of National Defense is almost seven billion, and yet, if you add up the budget of Education and Culture, Health and Welfare, Agrarian Reform and Social Welfare, they only add up to 6.2 billion. So that four major departments that are people-oriented have less budget than the Armed Forces of the Philippines that has become the terrorists of our own people. The soldiers who are suppose to be our guardians, have become our custodians. We’re spending more money for bullets than for medicine. We’re spending more money for tanks than schoolhouses. We’re spending more money for the salary of the soldiers than the salary of our teachers. That is one of the root causes of our fundamental poverty defect.
Q: What role do you think the Reagan administration will play in the struggle for Philippine freedom?
A: I think this is a very vital role. President Carter, as you very well know, initiated human rights policy and I’d like to state here that beginning 1977, thousands of Filipinos were released from jail because of that Carter human rights policy. And Mr. Marcos was so pressured by the Carter human rights policy that there was a Harkin Amendment in the Congress, and this Harkin amendment said, “Any country that consistently violates human rights will not receive American aid,” and Mr. Marcos has been very dependent on foreign aid. The Reagan administration will now turn its back from this policy, and will put more policy on terrorism as against human rights. This may give a wrong signal to Mr. Marcos; it may only embolden him to carry out more of his repressive measures because as some officials in the Reagan administration said, “They may be violating human rights, but if they are our friends, we do not fight our allies.” Now that can be a very wrong signal and it can have a very adverse effect to our freedom cause.
Q: Do you think Marcos still has a conscience after all this time? How can one reason with a monster?
A: No, sir. Mr. Marcos is a human being and Mr. Marcos has a conscience. I may even conceive that in his own fashion, he thinks he’s doing right. It is therefore our duty and our obligation to enlighten him. It is our duty and our obligation to tell Mr. Marcos that maybe he is wrong. But definitely, Mr. Marcos is a human being and I have not lost hope that we can still reach him in the recesses of his conscience.
Q: To Senator Aquino, people who claim to know you before martial law say that if you are elected president, you would have acted exactly, if not more than Marcos, will you comment on this impression? Have 7 years of solitary confinement changed your political attitudes, character and credibility?
A: I would like to begin with the first line of the sentence, “People who claim to know you before martial law say that if you were president, you would act exactly if not worse than Marcos.” The defect is in the first line, “People who claim to know you.” They don’t know me.
Q: According to the Boston Globe Magazine, you call yourself a Christian Socialist. Will Christian Socialism help poor Filipinos?
A: What do I mean by Christian Socialism? Very simply, Christian Socialism means to me an equal opportunity for advancement and the full development of the human being. This means that the poorest person in the land must be given the equal opportunity for education. Not all men are created equal in their talents. Some are more brilliant than others but we must give every citizen of the republic the equal right and the equal opportunity to quality education. That’s number 1.
Number 2, the Christian Socialist believes that the great legitimizer of the government is the ballot, not the bullet, and therefore because we believe in the ballot, we believe in a majority rule, so if that the majority should opt and should win in a contest, then the minority should accept the majority mandate, but we put colatilla, that if majority, even if it wins, must respect minority rights.
Number 3, we do not believe in the exploitation of man by man, meaning we do not believe in unbridled capitalism where the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. In a developed country, in America, you may have capitalism, but in a country like the Philippines with very meager resources and a developing economy, we must harness our meager economy and maximize their benefit, and therefore there should be centralized economic planning and the government must actually give the direction as to prevent any overlap.
Example: In the Philippines today, because it’s profitable to have condominiums and profitable to have office buildings, all the millionaires in the Philippines are putting up all of their money in buildings and condominiums to the detriment of our industrial development. The go over the ‘quick-buck’ is. I believe that we should go where the long-range interest of the Filipino people is.
Finally, I do not believe in the monopoly of basic industries. Why should one family monopolize one electric company in the Philippines? Or why should one family monopolize the ownership of one airline company in the Philippines? Or why should one company monopolize the telephone company in the Philippines? So since the government is funding all of these to begin with, these families are borrowing from government institutions and must depend on government guarantees, then I say, let the government own them and let the people share in the profit. Christian Socialism therefore is nothing more than democracy.
Q: Since the forthcoming presidential election is a mockery once again and an insult to the people, may it not be fairly game if the lone presidential opposition is to Marcos be Pascual Racuyal? And in a more serious vein since you are not going to run for the May presidential election, who is your personal choice to run against Marcos?
A: I think I will join those who propose Mr. Racuyal.
Q: Could Marcos retain his power if U.S. aid is withheld or decreased?
A: Yes for a time he will be able to retain his power, but I believe that if the U.S. will continue to little down aid to him, he will not last as long as he will last if there is aid.
Q: Marcos is said to be able to get access with maps to the gold treasure the Japanese hid in the Philippines. What do you know about this? Could be one reason why Marcos would like to continue to be President of the Philippines?
A: I don’t know about the gold of Mr. Marcos and I, he has not told me about the maps that the Japanese left behind.
Q: We don’t want you to go back yet. Why don’t you wait just like many did in Iran?
A: I’m only 48. Khomeini is 78; that would be a 30-year wait. I don’t think we should do that. I do not believe that it is within our reason to wait. We can accelerate time. What I’m trying to say is this; we should not depend on one man. We should depend on all of us. All of us are expendable in the cause for freedom, and therefore I say, “Stand up now and be a leader, and when all of us are leaders, we will expedite the cause of freedom.”
Q: What is the true story of Governor Lingat’s murder?
A: I do not yet know the full facts of the murder of Governor Lingat. I was talking to the daughter of Governor Lingat last night and I received certain information about the surroundings or about the antecedents or the facts surrounding the case. We’re still looking into it. Our people in the Philippines are still trying to pinpoint the perpetrators of the dastardly crime. Suffice it to say that Governor Lingat died in the highest line of duty and it’s unfortunate that when he died for 2 hours, nobody would even touch his body, but in time, I think our people will be able to appreciate the sacrifices that this man did at a time nobody or hardly anybody want to pick up the cudgel.
Q: Since you came over to the United States, have you yourself appealed or sought U.S. government’s assistance in restoring democracy in the Philippines.
A: No sir. I have never appealed to any American official or to any American to help us in our freedom. I believe that if we Filipinos cannot fight for our freedom, we do not deserve it. We should not depend on the Americans. We should depend on ourselves. All I told the Americans is, “We are not asking you a single cent in our freedom struggle, all we’re asking you is to give, quadruple your military aid to the dictator so that our job will not be that much harder. The only thing I asked them is, “Desist from helping him and let us free ourselves.”