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Ninoy Aquino Famous Speech in Los Angeles, California, USA in 1981
I have often asked myself, when I was in prison for seven years and seven months, you will note that one of the greatest problem of a prisoner is loneliness, for seven years I was not allowed to see the moon and the stars. There were days where they left me all alone by myself, I had no reading material, I had nothing, I was tweedling my thumb, I would walk and walk and walk across my room. That is a room of about four meters by five meters. Hoping that I will get tired, and then when I get tired I will fall asleep, knowing that tomorrow will be the same. And I often asked myself, eh bakit ka pa nagpapakahirap dito? In ’73, a high official of the government asked me, 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. Eh ano naman ‘kakong kasalanan ko, siya ang nagkasala sa bayan, bakit ako ang humihingi ng tawad?
My friends I cannot understand, the temerity and the gall of these people. ‘Ikang ganon, be practical, e talagang ganon eh, makibagay ka na ‘ika, napakalakas ‘ka ng bagyo eh. Ikaw lang ‘ika ang mahihirapan diyan, mag isa ka diyan. Hindi bali ‘ikang ganon, kung ayaw mo nang sumulat, eh tumawag ka na lang sa telepono ibulong mo na lamang, ayos na. I would like to tell you, I was tempted in my seven thousand almost 7,285 days in prison to do just that. I am only human. Ako po ay 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 and the peace of my home. But if I give faith in that conviction, if I refused to accept the jurisdiction of the military court, and because I refused to defend myself, they will give me the death sentence, I vowed to myself, that because you elected me to the senate and I gloried in its pomp, therefore it is time that my I am – or 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 mayrong isang Panginoon na ibibigay sa atin ang ating kagandahang ginawa, at paparusahin tayo sa ating kamaliang nagawa 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 am throwing the towel. Killers in the Philippines were freed. The people who were used to testify against me told the court, I killed 50 people! And yet that man was freed. He described to the people, he described to the military tribunal, how he killed human beings, and yet that man was freed and I was in jail. Many witnesses was, 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 three 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 has been lifted in the Philippines. It was a very good news. I mean if you are only reading the headlines, you would say, this is the greatest thing that happened after eight years martial law is lifted, freedom should be returned by now. And the Filipino people should be out in the street, like VJ Day, like VE Day, they should be dancing in the street, they’d be shouting alleluia and the bell should be ringing 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 1737. I did not know about this law until Senator Tanada 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, because Presidential Decree number 1737, and this is exactly the exact address of my office in Harvard - 1737 Cambridge Street. Ako po ay ne-nerbiyos, hayop ka ‘kako sa daming numerong kombinasyon ito pa ang tinamaan ng sweepstakes. Hindi ko nga nalaman kun 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 before martial law.
Now let me read to you section number 2, and I hope Danny Lamila hears this very well. Section 2 says, and I quote, "whenever in the judgment of the president or prime minister,” yan po ay si Marcos yan president at prime minister, "there exist a grave danger or a threat or imminence thereof, he Mr. Marcos, may issue such orders as he may deemed necessary to meet the emergency, including but not limited to preventive detention.” Ano po’ng ibig sabihin nito’ng preventive detention. The meaning of preventive detention is, if Mr. Marcos thinks that next month you will commit a crime, he can now order you arrested so that you will not be able to commit your crime. Anong klaseng batas yan? Iniisip mo pa lang ay nabilanggo ka na eh. Aba’y hayop ‘kakong batas na ito, eh kong totoo ito, eh lahat ng lalaking diborsyada na nag-iisip pa lang magliligaw patay na sa asawa. Imagine my friends if in the mind of Mr. Marcos, he suspects that 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 grave threat to national security, he may restrain or restrict your movement and other activities of persons and entities with a view to preventing them from acting 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 admissions to education 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 the national security, he may close the school or prevent the students from enrolling in those schools. And my friends, any violation of this law entails an imprisonment for not less than 30 days and not exceeding one year. So you have Mr. Marcos lifting martial law on one hand, and putting another law in the other which is even worse than 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? Very succinctly 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 pronouncement 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 Malacanang 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 very 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 of a handful in the Senate who denounced this, and I told the Senate, we should not allow an open Constitutional convention because it is very dangerous. Even America it has never called an open Constitutional convention since 1776. They have amended their Constitution piece-meal but they have 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 Jan. 2, 1972, most of you are already here in America, some are maybe too young to remember, but on January 1972 almost 9 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 Malacanang has been giving envelopes to 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 the eight years. The nation was shocked. Immediately the NBI swooped down into the house of Quintero, and then they opened up an aparador walang susi, and they said P500 Thousand pesos in cash were found in the aparador of Quintero. The implication was, the opposition gave him P500 Thousand to make this expose. But if there were P500 Thousand bakit walang susi yon di naman P50 lang yon.
To cut a long story short, a delegate from Cebu his name is Napoleon Rama, stood up on the Constitutional convention floor and said, huwag na tayong 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 puwede sa 1935 Constitution, hindi na pupuwede 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 ninyo. More demonstrations in the street, sige pa. Finally bombing 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 explosive 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 administer this country alone. On that day democracy died. And so Mr. Marcos arrested together with us in the Senate, most of the leaders of 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 Constitutional convention were herded and they were given a Constitution 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, he released the delegates. And then on Jan. 17, 1973, Mr. Marcos went on television and said, ladies and gentlemen and my countrymen, there is now a new Constitution. But how can we have a new Constitution? There was no plebiscite. He 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 citizens assembly, tinawag niya ang mga barrio councils, and then in the middle of this meeting tinanong, kayo ba ay gutom na? Yes. Taas ang kamay. Taas, at ang labas, approved ang Constitution!
My friends this is not fiction. Because in the now famous Javellana case, Javellana vs. 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 ten justices, six out of ten 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, there is nothing to stop it. So we had a Constitution. And so my friends, we started with an American type Constitution, we moved 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 suppose to be a parliamentary form 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 no such thing. Under the new Constitution now, the president is purely ceremonial, taga bukas lang ng pinto, taga tanggap lamang ng credential ng ambassador. Purely ceremonial elected by parliament, he’s not elected by the people. The power of the government under a parliamentary system, rest on the prime minister, and the prime minister must be elected by the 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 are not doing their job, I will also legislate. So now we have two parliaments, Mr. Marcos and parliament. And it is costing us P300 million to have the tuta parliament and what’s the use if Mr. Marcos is doing all the legislation, why keep these 200 guys. So what did they do? They change the name of the street in 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 there mandate of eight years. I will defend martial law, anybody who’s oppose it can oppose me. I want to go to the people and get their mandate. But how can you get the mandate, there is no such thing in the Constitution? Sagot ni Mr. 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 happened to the parliamentary type 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 puwede si Aquino underage. And so naturally I went to the books I said, how come I am underage I thought I was already 48, because the rule before to become the president of the Philippines in 1935, all you have to do is to be 40 years old. And so I looked at the book. Tama nga naman si Marcos, they have increased the age to 50. Kapos na naman ako ng dalawa. Of course Mr. Marcos said, pero kun 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 ko ‘kako sasama sa sa inyong kalokohan. Nagtayo kayo ng isang lapian, ang pangalan KBL – Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan. Mali po ‘ka ko yan, Kilusan ng mga Bingi at mga Lokoloko. Hindi na ‘kako ako 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 had told him. While it is 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 am not seeking anymore any office in this country. But believe me I said when I tell you, that while I have vowed not 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… it is with this thought, that I sought an audience with Mrs. Marcos last December 16. After I was released, or given a medical furlough, I was in prison as you 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 koral for me, they brought me out between 11 to 12 o’clock. Everyday they brought me out to exercise. On that particular day of March, as I was walking around my little koral, 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 them to bring me back. I called for the army doctors, they checked me and they said, muscle spasm lang po yan, 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 I said, look doctor, I don’t know I said your diagnosis or its accuracy but I am 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 Colonel 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 colonel. 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 pong bahala, I will talk to the commanding general. At 1 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 a hand-written note and it said: My dear Senator Aquino, it is with deep regret that I inform you. Your doctor Bayani S. Garcia, died of a massive heart attack an hour ago. If you were in my place, here is your doctor telling you there’s a muscle spasm, at bigla siyang namatay, how would you feel?
And so my friends, I sat down stunned, but then I wrote back to the General and I said, much as I would 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 is 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 that 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 they said, 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 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 six o’clock that following morning that was 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, oh Senator, ‘ikang ganon, 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 got hit again by a 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 so all of a sudden the needles were squiggling. And they called the doctor. The doctor looked at the tracings and then after one hour they came back to me and said, Mr. Senator we are canceling all… all tests. I said why? Because we already know what is wrong with you. I said, what is wrong with me? You have blocked 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 director, 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 kun bigyan akong anesthesia at nagdadaldal ako roon, 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 seven years, I might be saying many things and the doctor will be recording that, and they said, bangongot na muna ito makakasama palang mabuhay. The truth is 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 do not want Dr. Aventura here, why don’t you give us the name of the doctor in America and we will bring them to the Philippines gastos po ng gobyerno. I said it is 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 seguro ‘ikang ganon, mas maganda kun mag-iwan ka ng dalawang anak mo, para maniwala na babalik ka. 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 is 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 allover the place, baka ‘ika may bibisita sa yo. And all of a sudden my guards started jumping, put in 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, nako Ninoy sabi niya, I’m sorry to see you like that. Hindi ko lang nasabi sa kanya, e kayo ang 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 pa yong aking kuwentas, ‘kako anting-anting ko ito, iiwanan ko na ‘kako pareho dito, palayasin mo na ako papuntahin nyo na ako sa America. Sabi niya, there is a plane leaving at six o’clock, you can be on 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 was 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. You 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 over 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 would go 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 those 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 and I told him, operation has been successful, however I developed a pericarditis. My doctor 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 call 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 a 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 of 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 allover the world America and the Philippines, Filipinos sending me $5, and $10 to help me in my hospitalization, sending me little money, token of money for my fellowship in Harvard. There was one underlying note in all of these letters. We waited for you for eight years. Will you now abandon us? I am a human being my friends. I have suffered eight years of imprisonment. I have suffered loneliness like no other man has suffered loneliness, in my life. I’ve been away from my children and my family and I am financially ruined, after eight years. It is only instinctive for a man to look for his peace. And I debated with my mind, and I debated with my self, and I debated with my wife and my children – whether I should 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 eight 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 man in our country, a man who could not be bribed, a man whose towering integrity is a byword 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 ten percent were charged. They were arrested without charges, they were released without explanation, that has what happened to our country. And what about the mothers and the children who lost their breadwinners when those 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 150 meters away from my cell. I never knew that there was a young man by the name of Car… Sixto Carlos Jr. It was 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 safehouse. They fed him poison and his body became numb and finally he lost his senses. And therefore they cannot not bring him back to his family because they took him apart and they cannot not put him back together.
This young man was student leader in the UP. He did not see the sun and the moon for 124 days. He was chained to his cot. Jose Maria Sison was chained to his cot, his feet was chained, his hand was chained. You cannot see a more inhuman 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. I had 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 days into weeks – I knew what loneliness meant. And therefore as I thought back, that there are still many, valiant Filipinos 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 abandoned their loved ones and the comforts of their home, the wealth of their offices, to be able to bring 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 meet 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 thousand are now refugees in Sabah, more than 20 thousand Filipino soldiers have been killed in the last eight years. And only 72 hours ago 118 Filipino soldiers were massacred in Patapata. And therefore I wanted to go there talk to our brothers in the Middle East and plead with them to stop this carnage because we’re 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 I have formula. Maybe I said this is my way to help our people. Tell the President I said, what he has done to me I have already forgiven, and I have 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 name I cannot now tell you because there lives are in danger, they told me, Mr. Senator they said, we have waited eight 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 few, but we are now ready to lay down our lives and these are young Filipino boys and girls, these are boys and girls who come from the better families, who come from the better schools, but have now said we’d better put up or shut up. And so again I entered into a long agony. Because I could not for the life 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’ll kill one, Marcos will kill two, will 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 10 thousand boys and girls are already dead in the streets of Manila and blood will be… will be flowing in our very streets? I cannot I said resist the wailing of mothers who will now blame me that the children have died in the altar of freedom. But 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 his head operated. He did not listen to me. But I felt it was my duty and as I said I promised that 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 ran out, and that if he does not yield now, then he shall reap the whirlwind.
It is in that context that on Dec. 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’ll have a broken neck. But I went to see Mrs. Marcos precisely, to try to tell her of the imminence and the gravity of the 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 she 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 promised 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, 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… 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 other detainees accused of their involvement with April 6 movement will also go on a sympathy strike… hunger strike beginning February 4. Please pray for them. Thank you in advance for any help you can give me. Sincerely, Tina Montiel.”
Mr. Montiel was arrested on December 4. He has been kept incommunicado in the Provincial Command Headquarters in Laguna. No lawyers had been allowed to see him. His wife and four year old son went there, pleaded with the colonel but they refused to allow – to allow him to see them. She went to the Defe - 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 him. 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 your 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 is 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 there lives that we may see the morning sun. How many my friends?
And so while we are here in Los Angeles in… savoring the meaning… the true meaning of freedom, laughing, enjoying, dancing our Valentines Day, 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 their strike. Six days later they found out they were fooled, and so they resumed their strike. Some of them are already in the 10th day of their strike. I know what it is to go on hunger strike. On the 10th day my friend, your stomach… 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 hands start 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 Tanada 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 he’d be allowed to see his wife, 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 those basic freedoms.
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 to our country. That’s why I went to Harvard precisely to try to craft the many answers the malaise of our coun… of our society. I know for a fact we cannot go back to the old society where a few enjoyed the fat of the land and the many suffered. 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 market place, we will produce the clash 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 all 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 ask 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 there again and sacrifice myself in a 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 Tanada who arrived last week from Manila and went to Boston. He was called by Mr. Marcos to Malacanang the day before he left for America. And Mr. Marcos said, Danny 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. But I only wish that when I’m 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 dibe - 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 (s)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 Tse Tung? 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 that he did, the monuments to his greatness have already been torn down. There’s 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 sign… the right turn of the fork 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 of almost 60 years old, barely 96 pounds – fought the entire British empire. And cause 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 the 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 s… 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 in your… in your happiness here there are still many people crying for liberation in your homeland.
I shall return to the Philippines knowing that maybe the seeds that we have planted here today will bear fruit tomorrow. I realize the situation here. You have displayed tremendous courage. How many Filipinos are there in Los Angeles, there are more than 200 thousand Filipinos here. But what is the common refrain? Ay wag kang mag punta roon baka makunan tayo ng litrato lagot na tayo sa bagong baya – balikbayan. How many of our countrymen, how many of our countrymen my friends, your own neighbors will tell you – ay bakit ka naman pupunta roon maghahanap ka pa ng sakit ng ulo, kawawa naman yong 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 are condoning tyranny my friends, you share in its corruption and its (s)lawlessness.
There are only two letters and one word that I will leave behind. The letter N and O and the word NO. Because the ancient Greeks taught there people that the moment you can say no, then you are beginning to inquire. The moment you say no, you are beginning to protest. The moment you say no to tyranny, you are beginning the struggle the lone… 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 these degradation of human dignity because then I feel you are the true heirs 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 a torch of freedom which can never be put out. Do not forget that we who are now in the middle of our years mine… must inspire the youth when they are almost in the brink of despair. Do not forget that the purpose of life is precisely to examine our being, not merely be 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, mayron pong isang kasabihan daw na mayrong isang lalaki na naglakbay sa malayo, at siyay inabot ng uhaw, at halos siyay mamatay na ng uhaw nung siya’y makakita ng isang silid, at sa silid na yon ay nakakita ng isang magandang dalaga, at siya po ay humingi ng isang basong tubig. Binigyan ng dalaga ng isang basong tubig at ininum ng lalaking uhaw na uhaw na halos mamatay, at sabi ng lalaki magandang dalaga ‘ikang ganon, hindi ko na po kakalimutan ang inyong itinulong sa akin. Noong ako’y uhaw na uhaw ay kayo’y nag bigay ng tubig. With that, (iniuod) niya ang kanyang baso at kanyang ipinukol at binasag. Ay nagulat yung babae at ang sabi ng babae, eh kung kayo’y nagpapasalamat kung kayo’y uhaw na uhaw at kayo’y tinulungan ko eh bakit naman ninyo sinira ang aking baso at bakit nyo binasag? Ang sagot daw po ng lalaki’y, binasag ko itong basong ito, na parang wala ng ibang lalaki pang makakalapit ditong makiki-inom sa inyo at gagamit sa atin – sa ating maliit na baso. Ako po ay nagpunta rito sa inyo sa Los Angeles bagamat ang aking paay napakasakit. Ako’y uhaw na uhaw sa pag-ibig at inyoy binigay nyo ang inyong pag-ibig, at kayo’y nag bayad pa ng makadinig. At ngayong tayoy may nagkakita, at ako’y nagpapasalamat sa inyo galak sa aking puso sa buong pasasalamat ay sanay basagin na natin yung basong tulong at pag-ibig na inyong binigay na parang wala ng 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 have 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.
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