Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library Flickr account
From one jailed opposition senator to another.
Former president Benigno Aquino III could not help but think of what a conversation between his father, the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, and detained Senator Leila de Lima would look like.
To convey his point, Aquino made light of the serious matter on Tuesday, August 21, during the 35th death anniversary of his father.
Ninoy was the fiercest critic of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos while De Lima is perhaps the steadiest opponent of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has repeatedly praised Marcos. Both Ninoy and De Lima are members of the Liberal Party.
Their conversation would go like this, according to the former president:
“Leila, alam mo naman naging senador ako.” Sasagot si Leila, “Ako rin po.”
“Leila, nakulong ako pitong taon at pitong buwan.” Si Leila [sasagot], “Ako dalawang taon naman pong nakakulong.”
“Leila, alam mo bang ang nag-akusa sa akin ay pangulong nakaupo?” Sasabihin ni Leila, “Ako rin po.”
“Leila, ako na-assassinate sa Manila International Airport.” Malamang sasagot si Leila ng: “Ay sana naman, di ako maganyan.”
("Leila, you know I became a senator." Leila would answer, "Me too."
"Leila, I was imprisoned for 7 years and 7 months." Leila would answer, "Me, for two years now."
"Leila, you know it was a sitting president who accused me of crimes?" Leila would say, "Yes, me too."
"Leila, I was assassinated at the Manila International Airport." Leila would likely reply, "Oh, I hope I don't end up like that.")
The late senator was one of the first individuals arrested following Marcos’ Martial Law proclamation. He underwent a military trial after he was accused of murder, illegal possession of firearms, and subversion. He was assassinated upon arrival at what was then called the Manila International Airport. (READ: LOOK BACK: The Aquino assassination)
De Lima is detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame over drug charges, which she claims, are fabricated.
As early as the 2016 campaign, President Duterte had vowed to go after De Lima, who first investigated him in 2009 for the Davao Death Squad. (READ: De Lima in jail: 'I never imagined Duterte would be this vindictive')
Aquino ended his speech by repeating his father’s famous words: "The Filipino is worth dying for."
There is no doubt, he said, that his father would stand by his statement even amid the current political landscape. After all, Aquino said, the country proved that it is capable of a peaceful revolution that ousted a dictator in 1986.
This, Aquino said, would not be the last time that Filipinos would “stand for the truth," in apparent reference to the People Power Revolution.
“Minsan na ngang nagpakita ng lakas ang taumbayan. Paniwala ko po, sa gabay ng Poong Maykapal, at sa tiwala at malasakit sa kapwa, sa tamang oras, muling maninindigan para sa tama at katotohanan ang sambayanang Pilipino,” said Aquino, who had recently become more vocal in criticizing his successor.
(The country has once shown its power. I believe that with the help of God and with trust and compassion for our countrymen, at the right time, the Filipino people will again stand up for what is true and right.) – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com