President: Cory popular for losing Ninoy ‘in hands of Marcos’
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte had unflattering remarks about the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino when he led the distribution of lands to farmers in Mindanao on Friday.
The President said the country’s 11th President, whose 10th death anniversary was commemorated by family and supporters on Thursday, became popular because her husband, opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., died “in the hands of [dictator Ferdinand] Marcos.”
He also cited what he considered an “incongruity” in the land reform program under Aquino, who is hailed as an icon of Philippine democracy for restoring civil liberties and democratic institutions in the country following Marcos’ downfall.
The President, an ally of the Marcoses, shared his thoughts on Aquino during a program in Davao City where he presided over the distribution of 1,361 certificates of land ownership award (Cloas) to 1,709 farmers.
“Cory Aquino may be popular. She is popular today. Why? For losing the husband in the hands of Mr. Marcos,” he said.
“When she said, ‘I would like to declare land reform in all of the Philippines,’ she did not include her own [land]. She exempted [it] … So you call her, what? The one who freed, emancipated … It’s incongruity, they call it,” the President said.
He was apparently referring to Hacienda Luisita, the sprawling sugar plantation in Tarlac owned by the Cojuangco family.
Aquino’s husband was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983 at the airport tarmac on his return from exile in the United States.
Ninoy’s death galvanized the opposition to the Marcos dictatorship and made his widow a rallying figure of those challenging the regime. The movement climaxed in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos and installed Aquino in power.
During the post-Edsa transition period, Aquino appointed Mr. Duterte Davao City vice mayor in an officer in charge capacity, thereby launching his political career.
Land reform was a contentious issue early in Aquino’s presidency as well as in the 2010 election campaign of her son Benigno III, who was elected President that year.
Critics of the Aquinos would cite the 1987 massacre of farmers protesting at Mendiola Bridge, the violent dispersal of a strike at Hacienda Luisita in November 2004, as well as the backlash to the Renato Corona-led Supreme Court decision in 2012 on the distribution of Hacienda Luisita.
During her term, Aquino enacted the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program that would be subsequently extended by succeeding administrations. The program was supposed to have ended in the final year of her son’s presidency, although hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land remained for distribution.
The President on Friday assured farmers of his commitment to land reform when he handed over Cloas covering 1,452 hectares in the Davao Region.
“We are crafting a law that would allow you to … mortgage your title, your land, to borrow money to improve the land,” the President said.
“You know, agriculture is the weakest link in our country. So we have to do more,” he said.
The President also underscored the importance of the government’s land reform program in ending the communist insurgency.
“You only have to make them [insurgents] irrelevant. What? The greatest promise that the communist can give is land reform. I have been at it since I became President three years ago,” Mr. Duterte said.
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