Robredo: 'Find courage to claim freedoms Ninoy died for'

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo urged Filipinos to find the courage to fight for what is right as the nation commemorated the 35th death anniversary of former senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr on Tuesday, August 21.

This was the Vice President’s message 35 years after the late opposition senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr was assassinated on August 21, 1983 at the Manila International Airport, now named after Aquino.

“Today, as we remember Ninoy Aquino, I pray that we find in ourselves the courage to claim for ourselves the freedoms Ninoy died for, and in that way, live up to the unshakable faith he had in us as a people,” said Robredo. 

In her message, the Vice President said Aquino’s most famous quote, “The Filipino is worth dying for,” shows that he never lost faith in his countrymen even during the iron-fist rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Aquino himself was among thousands of government critics who were imprisoned under Marcos during Martial Law.

Robredo said that during Martial Law, some Filipinos already “succumbed to quiet acceptance” while “a few kept the fire of resistance alive.” Still, Aquino's belief in the Filipino spirit persisted.

“The Constitution was eviscerated, democratic institutions were corrupted or destroyed, and thousands were murdered at the behest of a brutal, rapacious regime. For a long time, many simply chose to survive how they could, while navigating the treacherous reefs of Marcos’ tyranny,” said Robredo.

“But despite prison, hopelessness, and the seeming indifference of so many of the very people whose freedoms he was fighting for, Ninoy never lost faith in his fellow Filipinos and the nation he loved,” she added.

For the Vice President, this is what Aquino’s “The Filipino is worth dying for” statement truly means.

“The Filipino is worth dying for, in the end, reveals an invincible belief in the dignity and nobility of the Filipino spirit. Filipinos may cower under the fist of oppression, may fall prey to dazzling lies, may succumb to the alluring numbness of indifference. But ultimately, Filipinos will always find the courage to choose, and fight for, what is right,” said Robredo.

“This is what Ninoy saw in us. And on that day, 35 years ago, he reminded us of who we were, and the life we are capable of living,” she added.

On Ninoy Aquino Day, President Rodrigo Duterte also told government officials and the rest of Filipinos to emulate Aquino.

Aquino was one of the most prominent voices who fought the dictatorship of Marcos, whose only son and namesake has filed an electoral protest against Robredo. 

The opposition senator’s assassination on the airport tarmac drove Filipinos to the streets to join what is now known as the EDSA People Power Revolution. (Watch Aquino's undelivered arrival speech here.) 

His wife, Corazon Aquino, was elected president in 1986. His son, Benigno Aquino III, also served as Chief Executive before Duterte. The younger Aquino and Robredo are both part of the Liberal Party. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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