In gratitude, Corazon Aquino

President Corazon Aquino was born on Jan. 25, 1933 in San Juan de Dios Hospital in the City of Manila. She passed away on Aug. 1, 2010 after battling cancer for more than a year. To the Filipino people, she will always be remembered as the inspirational leader in the fight to restore democracy and dignity to our country after decades of dictatorship, cronyism and human rights violations during the Marcos martial law regime.

To the whole world, she was an icon of democracy and the Mother of People Power.

From the assassination of her husband, Ninoy Aquino, on Aug. 21, 1983, to the time she stepped down as the president of the Philippines in 1992, she led her people through many struggles and coup attempts.

After 1992, instead of living a quiet, peaceful life which she deserved, President Cory continued to publicly speak on many national and international issues. She even led street demonstrations, reminiscent of People Power, to speak out on major issues like corruption and Charter change.

In October 1996, she was awarded the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding. Here are some of the most memorable lines from that speech:

“Authoritarian government is said to be the Asian formula for success. But we may yet prove that people power can achieve, perhaps more slowly, but more lasting and with more widely beneficial effects. Democracy, in the end, is the best system for ordinary people. It is the only one that exalts them and unites them in peace across all countries of the world. One can believe in a dictatorship, a few in oligarchy, but only to democracy can the many, in reason, adhere.

“I ended my term with less exhilaration but more circumspection than I began it.

“I realized that I could have made things easier for myself if I had done the popular things, rather than the painful but better ones in the long run. After all, in the long run, I wouldn’t be around to be blamed.

“I could have invited the military to share in the government, rather than keeping them out and fighting them off to the disarray of the economy. But I was called to restore a democracy, not divide up a country as spoils. I could have put pressure on the courts when they favored the enemies of democracy, but I felt that the best protection for freedom must lie in strong and independent courts.

“I sued a newspaper for libel but never used my office to advance my cause.

“I lost the case.

“I could have rolled back prices with a single word, but I would have distorted the painful wisdom of free markets which keep, it is alleged, economies on the right track.

“I couldn’t adopt the ideal solutions proposed by those who had the luxury of a private life.

“I could have rigged the 1992 elections for my successor. Instead, I directed the chiefs of the military to do the country proud by assuring a fair and free election, whatever the result.

“Better still, I could have run myself. The constitutional limitation of a single presidential term did not apply to me; I had taken office under the old Constitution. But that limitation was a cornerstone of the new Constitution I had caused to be drafted and for which I vigorously campaigned. How could I serve as the first example of its moral violation?

June 30, 1992 was, therefore, one of the proudest moments of my life. I was stepping down and handing the presidency to my elected successor, it was what my husband had died for; he had returned precisely to forestall an illegal political succession. This moment is democracy’s glory; the peaceful transfer of power without bloodshed, in strict accordance with law.”

Many of the thoughts that she articulated after her presidency continue to have relevance today. She had a message for those in business when she gave a speech to young businessmen. She ended her speech with several questions to the young presidents:

“As you careen your way to success, working as if there were no tomorrow, you must take time to stop and reflect on what you are doing. Ask yourself the hard questions, like what is the relevance of your work to your family, to your employee and the larger society? What are you working so hard for? How much is enough? When do you have too much? What is the point of acquiring so much wealth and power? Have you given back as much as you have taken?”

At the Global Forum for Women Political Leaders in 2000, Corazon Aquino said:

“Women are natural candidates for positions of leadership – in business, in the academe, in civil society, in politics. We, who are the keepers of the values of the family and of society, should not leave the important task of leadership in the political sphere to the men alone. It is a job men and women can and should do together, in complementarity, just like they should in the home.”

Corazon Aquino talked of what women leaders can do to make a difference in society. She talked of selfless love for and service to the people, of total dedication to a higher cause, of unshakable courage and integrity, and of steadfast faith.

She used these words to describe Mother Teresa. In her humility, she would never use these words to describe herself. In fact, one time she also said, “I am not a hero like Mandela.” But the accolades she received and continue to receive tell us that history will always remember her greatness.

A grateful nation will never forget the heroine, dressed in yellow, who became the icon of democracy, the Mother of People Power.

* * *

Young Writers’ Hangouts on Aug. 7 and 21 with Eli Camacho and Kate Osias, respectively, 2-3 p.m.

Contact 0945.2273216


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