Tag Archives: edsa revolution

“The Filipino is Worth Dying For” (What Ninoy really said)

Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. '50: Statesman. Hero. Upsilonian.

“The Filipino is worth dying for”

This simple yet powerful statement, attributed to Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr., is one of the most popular quotes in Philippine society. It is quoted by great statesmen in their speeches, it is reprinted on thousands of t-shirts – but in truth, Ninoy never said this, at least not verbatim.

The full text of this statement, which Ninoy delivered before the Asia Society on August 4, 1980 in New York City, goes deeper than the oft-quoted truncated version implies.

The following is the full statement:

“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or 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 because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.”*

In its full form, Ninoy’s statement gains eloquence and a deeper meaning lacking from the six-word truncated version – it is no longer a mere one-liner espousing blind nationalism and sacrifice for heroism’s sake. In the full passage, Ninoy honestly considers the sobering doubts and limitations of the Filipino people, yet despite this his resolve wavers not; For Ninoy, despite all of the Filipino’s faults, the Filipino is worth dying for because he is the future of this nation.

As we again celebrate Ninoy’s legacy this August 2010, let us remember the wisdom of what he was really trying to say when he said “The Filipino is worth dying for.”

*Text of Ninoy’s August 4, 1980 speech sourced from the Asian Journal

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A Warning to the Yellow Army

Dear Yellow Army:

You know who you are. You are the millions of yellow-clad supporters of a certain presidential candidate who cannot bear the face the fact that your candidate just might legitimately lose this election. Therefore, you are threatening to take to the streets in rabid protest against any election returns that are not in your favor, thereby making a complete mockery of Philippine politics.

I strongly warn you against taking this brash course of action.

After all, the Philippines is a democracy. There is no such thing as a monarchy or royal family. Thus, you simply cannot anoint the son of the Modern National Hero and the so-called “Saint of Democracy” as our next president, no matter how impressive his family legacy may be. No amount of self-righteousness can overrule a bona fide vote count.

Also, kindly refrain from using the prior surveys as proof that you candidate was cheated, in the case that he does actually lose. Those surveys only count the opinions of 3,000 people at a time. That’s the reason why we have elections – so that we can take account of the opinions of every single Filipino that chooses to include themselves in the political process.

This is not 1986. There is no overriding consensus within the Filipino people that would justify such a drastic course of action. People Power is not a brand name that can be used just by anyone, nor is its ownership passed by heredity. People Power belongs to all Filipinos, and any cheap attempt to re-create it in this instance would be sacrilege.

Quite frankly, I think your candidate will win the election anyway. However, just in case he does not, please don’t get any foolish ideas about starting EDSA 4. The mandate of the Filipino people is not with you this time.

Mob Rule in the Philippines

Since President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the Philippines has been ruled by an unelected leader for 23 of the past 36 years – Marcos (1972-1986), Corazon Aquino (1986-1992), and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2004). The past 36 years of Philippine “democracy” have been rife with controversy, scandal, and chaos. Stable democracy in the Philippines has largely been a myth.

In the Philippines, mob rule is the name of the game.

The EDSA Revolutions of 1986 and 2001 are two of the most important events in Philippine history. Both, particularly EDSA I in 1986, are hailed as glorious triumphs of democracy. In fact, neither were truly democratic.

EDSA I can be excused despite being non-democratic. There was no democratic process through which the people could choose their leaders. There was no alternative to revolution. The fact that the transition of power was largely bloodless and relatively peaceful is a large credit to the Filipinos of that time.

The problem with EDSA I is that it set a dangerous precedent for destabilization and instability in the Philippine political system. Despite its correctness at the time, EDSA I was still undeniably an exercise of mob mentality – the whims of the three million Filipinos standing along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue decided the course of a country populated by over 80 million, meaning that less than 5% of Filipinos decided to overthrow Marcos.

EDSA II has little in common with EDSA I other than the street on which the “revolution” was centered. EDSA II was the realization of all the dangers set in place by EDSA I, a complete breakdown of the due process of law and Democracy. In hindsight, EDSA II was a hasty exercise of mob rule. The overthrow of President Joseph Estrada – a properly-elected president – without even the completion of the Senate impeachment trial was questionable, despite the allegations of corruption.

The most damaging legacy of Marcos may be the severe disruption he did to the democratic process of the Philippines. The tumultuous thing we have here masquerading as “democracy” can hardly be called that. Without reliable elections and more political stability, the Philippines can never be a truly democratic country.

The rising uproar over the attempts of Administration-allied Congressmen to make a “Charter Change” (Cha-Cha), which may potentially extend their terms and that of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo beyond the 2010 term cap, calls forth all these memories of political instability in the Philippines. If Cha-Cha somehow is passed into law, public outrage coupled with the intense unpopularity of President Arroyo could very well result in yet another EDSA Revolution.

If this is the case, the road to mature democracy in the Philippines will only grow much longer.