Imaginary Interview With Ninoy Aquino


Manila – Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the greatest Filipino of the 20th century, talks to 2Rivers about the state of Philippine politics today and why democracy is still the best hope for the future. The questions are fiction but the answers are his direct quotes. Excerpts:


   Q. Senator Aquino, there are those who say that what the Philippines need is a strong leader, like Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore or Mahathir of Malaysia. In this context, is democracy still relevant? 

      A. The struggle in the Philippines today is between those who have been mesmerized by the efficiency of authoritarianism and those who still hold that democracy, with all its flaws and inefficiency, is man’s best hope for betterment and progress. Man’s sense of justice makes democracy possible, man’s injustice makes it necessary.

     Q. But don’t you think there is too much conflicting views in a democratic setting? 

     A. I agree that we must have public order and national discipline if the country is to move forward, [but] The philosophy of democracy rests not on the belief in the natural goodness of man, but in his educability, not in the inevitability of social progress but in the potentialities of nature and intelligence. The essence of democratic faith is that through the continuing process of political education, men can be sufficiently reasonable to discover, with evidence and give-and-take of free discussion, a better way of solving problems.

    Q. Senator, how would you characterize a democratic society? 

    A. A free society reconciles liberty and equality, rejects liberal freedom without equality and total equality without freedom. Its essence is the absence of special privilege. Its guarantee is an equal opportunity for self-fulfillment for every citizen. It is dynamic, not static, open to change, be it gradual or rapid, for no on does possess the last word, and the world of men and nature is in constant flux.

   Q. President Gloria Arroyo’s public trust ratings are even lower than those of Joseph Estrada during Edsa 2. Every year for half a decade, the opposition files for her impeachment, her allies would override it, and reports about Congressional bribery would leak to the media. But the idea is ‘Majority Rules.’ Would you call this democratic? 

    A. I believe democracy is not just majority rule, but informed majority rule, and due respect for the rights of the minorities. It means while the preference of the majority must prevail, there should be full opportunity for all points of view to find expression. It means toleration for opposition opinion. Where you find suppression of minority opinion, there is no real democracy.

    Q. Another annual phenomena in the Philippines are talks of coup de ‘etat. Would you condone a military take-over to force a change of leadership? 

    A. Why should I advocate a violent overthrow of our government? I am one of the lucky few who never lost an election – from mayor, to vice-governor, to governor, to Senator. Why should I want to destroy a form of government that has served me well? In fact, in 1972, I was within a stone’s throw away from the highest office within the gift of our people – the Presidency.

  Q. Since 2001, the Arroyo administration has been trying to shift into a unicameral parliamentary form of government with a new constitution because of the ‘gridlock” brought about by the political opposition, specifically, the Senate. Should we place limitations on the opposition? 

    A. An opposition party is indispensable in a democracy. The opposition should act the critic of the party in power, developing, defining and presenting the policy alternatives which are necessary for a true choice in public decision-making. It must therefore be guaranteed not only protection but existence, and must be allowed to speak freely and unafraid.

  Q. Politicians are always dismissed as “grandstanding” whenever they speak out regarding a major issue, such as the accusations that Ms. Arroyo rigged the 2004 elections and that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo took bribes from ZTE Corp. of China for the national broadband network project. In these cases, what should the responsibility of the opposition be? 

   A. To speak and denounce rampant injustices. Justice can only be realized only when those who have not been victimized become as outraged as those who have been. [The opposition’s] role is to fight for the people. Whether they will show gratitude or not, immediately, later or never, should not enter our calculations. That is our fate: to fight for what is right.

  Q. But some politicians over-react from time to time, to the level of name-calling and gutter language. For example, the feud between Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. There’s also a word war between Sen. Manuel Villar and Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Sen. Bong Revilla took the floor and personally attacked a doctor who was involved in a video scandal, calling him names like “maniac” and “pervert.” Sen. Jamby Madrigal cursed Gilbert Remulla, the spokesman for the Nacionalista Party and former Cavite congressman, on national radio. Where do you draw the line? 

   A. We believe we are the people of God endowed with reason – which lifts us from the brute – from which we derive our standards of morality, justice and rational method of ascertaining our duty to our fellowmen and community. [But] In the end we get the government we deserve. No social or political organization can be better than thequality of the men and women who compose it.

  Q. There are criticisms about how the media sensationalize issues to boost their ratings. Are those criticisms valid? 

   A. A free media is indispensable if a democracy is to function efficiently, if it is to be real. The people, who are sovereign, must be adequately informed all the time. These I hold sacred: the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, freedom of thought and speech and press, his liberty to choose – without fear or pressure – the public official of his choice, and the principles handed down to us by our forebears.

  Q. There are rumors floating around that the 2010 elections will be sabotaged to enable Ms. Arroyo to legally stay beyond her term. There are also reports that her Congressional allies are still covertly orchestrating a Constitutional Assembly – without the Senate – to write a new Charter. 

   A. So, we find ourselves again in a time of trials – kind that demands of each of us an unstinting, heroic response. Beyond the greed, the pride, the insolence and the pretensions of those who rule us through force and fear and fraud, there is a living Almighty God who knows the dark mysteries of evil in the hearts of men. I know His justice, truth and righteousness will reign and endure forever. History offer cold comfort to those who think they can do as they please and let the people go hang.

  Q. Last question, Senator. Do you believe that the Filipino is worth dying for? 

   A. I have asked myself many times: Is the Fillipino worth suffering, even dying for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited, for presidential or parliamentary democracy? I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino, and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for.

  The direct quotes of Ninoy Aquino are from “Ninoy: Ideals & Ideologies, 1932 – 1983 (The Benigno S. Aquino Foundation Jr. Foundation Inc., © 1993) This story originally appeared in AllVoices.com http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/3333197-imaginary-interview-with-ninoy-aquino Photo courtesy of TR.YouTube.com


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