Jul 6, 2010
Here are some excerpts from the speech delivered by Sen. Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. before the Asia Society in New York, 4 August 1980.
I have spent almost eight long and lonely years in military confinement. The problem of Martial Rule and its injustices have nagged me all these years.
During those eight years, I learned the true meaning of humiliation of courage, of hunger and endless anxiety. Rather than be bitter I have learned to accept my suffering as a cleansing process and a rare opportunity to really grapple with the problems of the Filipino.
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 home-grown? 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.
He is not a coward. He values life and he tends to give his leader the maximum benefit of the doubt. Given a good leader, because he is a good follower, the Filipino can attain great heights.
It would seem that he is more comfortable in being told to do than to think for himself. But this is only a superficial impression because deep down in his being, he loves freedom but puts the highest premium on human life and human dignity. Hence, he would try to adapt till his patience runs out.
Is the Filipino prepared for democracy? Definitely. Even before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistador, he had already practiced participatory democracy in his barangay. He values his freedom, but because he values human life more, he will not easily take up arms and would rather wait till his patience runs out.
Yes, I have gained valuable insights in prison and like an average Filipino, I would like to tell Mr. Marcos this:
I can forgive you for what you have done to me over the last eight years because this I can do, but I can never forgive you for depriving our people of their freedom because it not mine to forgive.
I have waited patiently for you to restore the democracy you took away from us on that night of September 21, 1972. Like the average Filipino, please do not mistake my patience for docility, my conciliatory demeanor for cowardice and lack of will.
I have chosen to suffer long years of solitary confinement rather than urge my followers to put our country to the torch because, like the average Filipino, I put the highest value on human life. And I dread the weeping of mothers whose sons will surely be sacrificed at the altar of revolution. But please do not misinterpret this conduct for timidity and subservience.
I have faced death a couple of times in prison. In 1975, I went on a hunger strike for forty days and forty nights and I was near death when your jailers rushed me to the Veterans Hospital.
I faced death in your detention camp when your army doctors diagnosed my heart ailment as mere muscle spasm, only to be told by doctors in the United States that I could have died from the heart attacks while I was languishing in your jail.
Mr. Marcos: Please believe me when I tell you that, like the average Filipino, I will again willingly face death in a freedom struggle if you will not heed the voice of conscience and moderation.
You were a soldier once, and you have repeatedly said, many times, it is an honor to die for one’s country and for one’s freedom.
I hope you will now believe in what you preach and I pray that you shall at last desist from further trying the patience and resolve of your countrymen.
Mr. Marcos: Give us back our freedom or suffer the consequences of your arrogance.