MANILA, Philippines -- The poster behind his desk shows the stark photo of the fallen senator Benigno ?Ninoy? Aquino Jr. lying in a pool of blood on the tarmac of the former Manila International Airport, since renamed the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Today, Sen. Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III looks back at the assassination of his father on Aug. 21, 1983, 24 years to date, as well as his own close encounter with political violence, to reiterate his belief that the ?Filipino is worth dying for? -- his father?s well-quoted paean to sacrifice, nonviolent struggle and democracy.
The assassination of Ninoy Aquino, then the symbol of opposition to the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, mobilized close to two million people in the biggest funeral procession in the country?s history, eventually leading to the People Power revolt that toppled 14 years of one-man rule and swept his widow, Corazon, to power in 1986.
Noynoy was only 23 years old then.
Own bloody encounter
On Aug. 28, 1987, with his mother only 18 months in Malacañang, Noynoy himself barely escaped his own violent death.
Rebel soldiers under the command of then Col. Gregorio ?Gringo? Honasan, one of the leaders of the People Power revolt of 1986 had attacked Malacañang. Noynoy and his four security escorts were fired upon two blocks from the Palace. Three of his escorts were killed, the last was wounded protecting him.
Noynoy himself took five bullets, one of which is still embedded in his neck.
In a recent interview, he bared his anguish over all the violence his family has had to endure. ?Ako ang anak na lalaki...ganoon na lang ba iyon (I am the male child...do we leave it at that)??
He said he had told himself: ?We have to be different from those that we are opposing or replacing, otherwise we?ll just have a merry-go-round. Wala rin talagang mangyayari (Nothing will really change).?
Now a senator, it cannot be easy sitting every day across from Honasan, the man who reportedly tried to kill him and his mother in several coup attempts, who is now also a senator for the second time.
Noynoy paused for several seconds.
Bury his escorts
?You know, I had to bury three of my security (escorts),? he said. One of them, he said, had his child born about a month later. The other two were about to get married.
He was also asked how he felt sitting across from Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos? defense minister who subsequently led the military mutiny that triggered the popular revolt, and who was later sacked from the same position in the Aquino Cabinet over rumors he had backed Honasan?s coup attempt.
?I really try not to take things personally, even though I may have a lot of grounds (to do so),? he said.
?There are (those) whom you know you do not trust. The minute na tumayo, alam mo na kailangan mo na rin tumayo, sabayan mo na (The minute they stand up, you know you also have to get up, to be ready at the same time).?
?If they stand up for something which I think is wrong, I will oppose it as far as I can in all legal ways possible,? he said.
He continued: ?I will be the last to advocate a violent mode for change. Because if there?s one thing that I really had impressed upon me, it?s that the minute violence erupts it?s uncontrollable and there are no victors, regardless of who survives.?
No comment on Marcos Jr.
On the entry of Ferdinand ?Bongbong? Marcos Jr. into politics, Noynoy preferred not to comment. The son of his father?s archrival won a seat in the House of Representatives after several terms as governor of Ilocos Norte.
A three-term congressman from his home province of Tarlac, Noynoy said he had a hard time convincing his mother and sisters to support his decision to run for a Senate seat in May.
His mother, who had called for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s resignation at the height of the ?Hello Garci? scandal, had warned him that Malacañang would put the heat on him.
Noynoy said he was pragmatic about his chances: ?Well, you hope (to win). But I think my main function really was to focus on the issues.?
His advocacies include electoral reform, oversight on intelligence funds and public accountability.
?At the end of the day, democracy is the best system in the world. We really just have to fine-tune it and insist that it head in the right direction,? he said.
Spoken like his father?s son.