Former President Corazon C. Aquino passed away earlier today at 3 am, and the media say that the country is in mourning.
On a personal level, I am happy and relieved that her suffering has ended. Cancer is not a joke — my own grandmother died of stomach cancer in 2006, and like Cory, my Lola bore the pain silently and quietly, surrendering her will to her God and trusted Him to do what was best for her and those she would leave behind. I wasn’t in the country when Lola died, but all the way to Hong Kong I felt the enormity of her loss.
So Mrs. Aquino is now in peace.
But how do I view this entire matter on a political and social level?
It’s hard for me to consider Mrs. Aquino a heroine of the masses. She hardly, if ever, spoke directly them. She was silent on the life and death issues that affected workers, farmers and their families; she did not issue statements whenever there were reports of massive military operations and hundreds of families in the countryside were displaced. Urban poor demolitions were not a matter she did not seem to be concerned with. Oil price hikes? Electricity rate increases? Low wages? Mass unemployment? Twisted budgetary allocations where military spending was prioritized over public education, health and housing?No, no, no and no.
Neither did she speak out against extrajudicial killings and abductions of activists and ordinary civilians at the hands of military and paramilitary forces. She was not a patriot either, choosing not to say anything on the issue of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the return of US troops in the country during ‘peacetime’; in fact, in 1991, she was for the retention of the US military bases.
Mrs. Aquino, however, was very vocal against corruption in government; and for this I am grateful to her. To me, Mrs. Aquino was a heroine of the middle and the more or less (relatively) enlightened upper classes. It was them whom she really galvanized and appealed to. It was to them that her messages were primarily directed to; and it was them who followed her example and responded to her calls to action.
Hindi naman pag-aaklas at lumaban para sa katarungan, tunay na pagkakapantay-pantay at demokrasya ang naging mensahe ni dating pangulong Aquino, kundi magdasal para sa pagbabago, at umaksyon sa paraang katanggap-tanggap sa mga maiingat na peti-burgesya at burgesya. Hindi naman pagkakaisa ng mga maralita at masang-anakpawis ang kanyang nilayon; kundi ang pagpapalayas ng mga sobrang swapang at ganid sa pamahalaan (na papalitan din naman ng mga swapang at ganid na hindi nga lang siguro kasing-halata gaya ng kanilang mga pinalitan). Hindi naman niya pinanawagan ang paglagot sa mga tanikala ng kahirapan at pagsasamantala ng mga naghahari: ang pinanawagan niya ay ang pagpaptalsik sa mga sinungaling at hipokritong kauri siyang nagsabing iyon ang kanilang pinaniniwalaan at pinanindigan.
Mrs. Aquino was a heroine and an icon of democracy; but not for me and mine. She was a representative of the ruling elite, albeit a section that shrank away from and denounced too obvious displays of greed and power-hunger.
Mrs. Aquino lived her life the way she saw fit, and it was a more or less worthy life in the sense that she tried to do more good and never harm. But she did harm as president from 1986-1991. Noong panahon niya pinaslang si Ka Lando Olalia, tagapangulo ng Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) at si Ka Leonor Alay-ay na kasamahan din ni Ka Lando sa KMU. Sa panahon din ni Gng. Aquino naganap ang mga masaker sa Mendiola at Lupao. HIndi rin makakalimutan ang karahasan, dugo at dahas na dinala ng Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) na sa ubod ay serye ng mga kampanyang militar na umatake sa daan-daang komunidad ng mga magsasaka upang suyurin at durugin ang mga umano’y kampo ng New Peoples Army .
Right now as her supporters and many others who loved her grieve, it is certain that all of this be discussed or alluded to. But history cannot be tricked or silenced. Pag lumaon, lalabas at lalabas din ang mga naging kahinaan at kasalanang ito sa nagawa niya siya sa bayan at sa mamayan — whether or n0t she was aware of it or not.
Pero saka na yan. Right now, we honor her, and her contribution to the social debate and struggle. She fought against corruption, and a kind of democracy that was acceptable to the middle and ruling classes. She was a symbol of prayerful contemplation that aimed to serve a political purpose. She was a good mother (especially to Kris, I think; despite all the scandals this youngest daughter got herself into). Finally, in a nation where religion still carries a very strong influence and impacts on the way of life of millions, she was a symbol of prayer and peaceful response to social changes. Whether this religiosity is a good thing or if it carries serious drawbacks in the Filipino people’s struggle for genuine freedom and emancipation is open to debate; but it is clear what Mrs. Aquino believed in, and many followed her example.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Aquino.