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Author’s note: August 21, 1983. Exiled Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, the char-ismatic opposition leader, arrives at the Manila International Airport to a returning hero’s welcome. Escorted by government soldiers, Ninoy is summarily shot to death ashe steps on the tarmac… Kumander Gusi watches the TV coverage of the assassina-tion while recovering from wounds sustained during an encounter with commandos of the Philippine Constabulary. Years earlier, Gusi was the newly-ordained and affable Father George Madrid whose social justice work among oppressed farm workers(sacadas) in the parish of Santa Lucia eventually led to his defection to the Commu-nist Party of the Philippines. In short order, the rebel priest had risen to the rank of commander of the dreaded New People’s Army. In this chapter, the rebel commander’s gunshot wound is successfully treated by Dr. Sanchez, a surgeon nun. He recuperatesonly to witness one of the most traumatic events in his life.
Chapter 34. The Killing of a Hero
video clip which stunned theentire nation. Cries of anger and disbelief were heard fromAparri to Jolo. Multitudes of expatriate Filipinos around theworld, the TV reporter said,were shocked, outraged, and beside themselves.
China airlines ight 813 had landed,
then taxied to a stop at the ManilaInternational Airport...a smiling Benigno"Ninoy" Aquino, who was registered
in the ight manifest as "Bonifacio",the 19th century freedom ghter, had
returned to the Philippines, after threeyears of exile in the United States.The video clip shows him banteringand kidding with friends and reporters.At a stopover in Taipei, he was shown being interviewed by a foreign journal-ist. He had appeared calm and collected but did say something like, "get readywith your hand camera because this ac-tion can become very fast. In a matter of 3 or 4 minutes it could be all over, and Imay not be able to talk to you after this"....he had seemed resigned to whatever was in store for him. Did Aquino expectto be arrested or to be assassinated?The large welcoming crowd wasfenced off by police and airport security.Three uniformed military men board theairplane and escort Aquino out of theaircraft. The other passengers, including journalists, are barred from joining him. No one gets an unobstructed view of Aquino as he descends the steps.Then, suddenly, a barrage of gunshotsare heard...Aquino's body comes intoview, immobile, prone on the tarmac...the slain senator is scooped up by two
soldiers and ung to an AVSECOM
government van which speeds away....
the gunman, identied to be an airportworker, then later conrmed to be a po
-lice sergeant, is pummeled with bullets by the military. Both the assassin and hisvictim are dead.The TV station showed another videoclip of Ninoy saying: “Assassination is part of public service…my feeling is weall have to die sometime…if it’s my fateto die by an assassin’s bullet, so be it…
but I cannot be petried by inaction or
fear of assassination and, therefore, stayin a corner…”Father George Madrid stares at theTV for the longest time. The ghastlyassassination scene is replayed over andover again, as if commentators wantedto make sure the event was for real.Finally, George picks up his crutchesand approaches the information desk tocheck if anyone had called. No one, thelady receptionist said. George scans thelobby. He doesn't see anybody familiar.What happened to Dr. Delima? Whydidn't he send someone to pick him up? Not certain where he was going next,he wanders through the lobby, thendown a corridor leading to the cafeteriawhen he passes by the door to a smallchapel. He tries the knob, the door
opens. He steps inside and nds himself
alone in the chapel. He sees a small
tabernacle, with a red votive lamp ick
-ering -- a sign that the Holy Eucharistwas present. He wants to approach thealtar, then, on second thought, decidesgo to the pew in the farthest corner, putshis crutches aside, and then sits down insilence.He prays for the assassinated senator and his family, the senator's wife Cora-zon who was still in Boston with thechildren. This killing had left the nationstunned, paralyzed in utter disbelief.But soon, he knew the initial shock would wear off, and the national outragewould progressively turn to widespreadanger. The many opposition groups and protesters would coalesce. A nationalmovement against the dictatorship wasinevitable. A populist revolution couldlikely blow up.What about the Communist Party?Marcos was already blaming the head of the Communist Party, Rafael Salas, for the assassination. The people, in turn,suspected it was a strategic plan hatched by Marcos, his wife Imelda, and trustedaide General Ver -- an operation to beset in motion if Aquino returned fromexile. Or perhaps, it was an impulsivereaction from Ver and Imelda, sinceMarcos had been sick from lupus, wason hemodialysis and “out of the loop.”There were rumors of a failed kidneytransplant.Aquino was a constant threat to theregime. While the popular senator was
in solitary connement, the threat was
contained. But his three years in exilehad allowed him to rally the opposi-tion. Situated back in Philippine soil,Aquino's potential to consolidate theopposition -- national and international-- was real. The senator had to be elimi-nated. There was no other solution.George thought about the tack or se-ries of tacks the Communist Party wouldhave to take. No doubt, it was not unlikesailing into an unpredictable storm. Thewinds would shift quickly. One had towatch the winds and maneuver accord-ingly, adjust quickly. The party wouldhave to convene, promptly. Draw up anew strategy. Develop plan B. And lineup more back up plans. The assassina-tion was a game changer. Should the party mount its own national movement,wait it out, or ride the populist waveearly?A rift was starting in the communist party. It began as an inconsequentialdifference in opinion. But it had startedto widen and, with the assassinationand consequent unpredictability of thenational situation, things would even getworse.
The "Reafrmists" (the pro Jose Maria
Sison group) strongly adhered to theoriginal view that the basic problems of Philippine society were the “three isms“:feudalism, colonialism, and imperialism.The solution, therefore, was to educatethe masses, to make them aware of these problems and to wage a people's war.Revolution with armed struggle wasthe main and only practical strategy toachieve victory.On the other side of the spectrumwere the "Rejectionists", the groupof senior military and political cadreswho rejected what to them were Sison'soutdated views. They pushed for theholding of a Congress of the Party inorder to elect new leaders, evaluate themovement's experience, re-analyze the basic problems of Philippine society, re-evaluate strategy and tactics in light of social, political, and economic develop-ments evolving over the two decades of the party's struggle.
The split was becoming more signi
-cant and would surely widen following Ninoy Aquino's assassination.The main task of assessing the newnational situation fell on the nationalleadership or the Central Committee. Asthe anti-Marcos movement broadenedand the target (the dictatorship) becamemore focused, the party would have tocarefully monitor, and not underesti-mate, the people's capacity to harnessincreasing rage against the regime.Polarization of Philippine societywould become more pronounced asmiddle roaders and fence sitters eagerlysprung into action. As the national
anger intensied and became orga
-nized, the regime would become moreand more isolated. Imperialist support, primarily from the United States, wouldretract as world opinion became divided.If well represented politically, theCommunist Party would then appear to be the more consistent, dependable, andviable force against a weakened regime.Soon, it would be a favorable time toassiduously advance the front work, ex-
pand the communist areas of inuence,
and selectively launch more tacticaloffensives or military actions.War, of course, was a two-edgedsword. Victors became heroes, loserstraitors...George caught himself -- he wasthinking like a true communist. Whatabout the nation, the people? What if resources were directed instead towards
nurturing the soon to be inuential
populist movement? Should the armedstruggle revert to "parliamentarystruggle?" The ensuing political climatewould provide the communist move-ment a chance to test the waters, so tospeak. Even as the main strategy of armed struggle remained in place, the party could launch a political party and participate in a relatively non violent political process.Theoretically, a political processwould be preferable to a militarystruggle -- less violence, for one.Yet, history pointed out to protractedcasualties and unpredictable outcomesin political struggles, George thought.The assassination of Aquino was a goodexample of the high cost of a "peace-ful, non-violent" political oppositionstrategy. The Vietnam experience, on theother hand, validated the success of a protracted people's armed struggle.He did not have a good answer. Asidefrom the external struggle, George hadhis own inner turmoil to deal with. Howcould he reconcile Jesus Christ's injunc-tion to "forgive your enemies....turn theother cheek" and the many raids he hadhelped launch which had resulted ininjury and death?He decided to stay put in the chapel.He found an old, prayer work and leafedthrough its frayed pages. He cameacross one of his favorites, the Memo-rare, and recited each line slowly, insilence...
Remember, oh most gracious Blessed Virgin Mary,that never was it known
that anyone who ed to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercessionwas left unaided.
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