Edsa hero Butz Aquino dies; 76
There will be no wake for one of the major heroes of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Sen. Agapito “Butz” Aquino, who first rallied the people to go to Edsa, died Monday afternoon. He was 76.
President Aquino went to the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City Monday night despite the pouring rain to pay his last respects to his uncle.
He arrived at 7:37 p.m., followed 23 minutes later by his sister, Pinky Aquino Abellada.
The Inquirer had no information whether the President’s other sisters—Ballsy Aquino Cruz, Viel Aquino Dee and Kris Aquino—also went to the hospital.
Aquino and Pinky left the hospital at 8:19 p.m. Other members of the Aquino clan left minutes later.
Butz was the younger brother of opposition Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. whose assassination on Aug. 21, 1983, on the tarmac of the then Manila International Airport sparked massive protests across the country, including the “Tarlac to Tarmac” march that he and his friends initiated, and the confetti rallies on Ayala Avenue in Makati City.
In the tumultuous days of the civilian-backed military revolt against Marcos in 1986, Butz called on Filipinos to mass on Edsa in support of the rebel forces.
Butz declared the August Twenty-One Movement’s (Atom) support for then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, and over radio asked other anti-Marcos groups to convene in Cubao, Quezon City.
Butz recalled his call to the people on Feb. 22, 1986, in an account published in the Inquirer in 2011.
He said: “I am calling all Atom members and all brave Filipinos to assemble at Isetann Cubao to support the breakaway group of Minister Enrile and General Ramos.”
Isetann was the assembly area for Atom mass actions in Cubao, Butz said. He added that by midnight, at least 10,000 had gathered in the area and they started marching on Edsa toward Camp Crame, where he asked to see Ramos.
“His call was followed by (the late Manila Archbishop) Jaime Cardinal Sin’s exhortation to the people and the miracle of Edsa,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
Lacierda said the nation lost a “committed public servant, one who had originally chosen a quiet life as an entrepreneur, but in the face of the dictatorship’s tyranny, he became one of the frontline fighters for the restoration of our democracy.”
Sen. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said his uncle died of “natural causes” at 4:22 p.m.
Butz’s uncle, Hermie Aquino, however, said the former senator died of multiple organ failure after days of confinement at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center.
“It was multiple organ failure. He had been in the hospital for several days,” Hermie said on the phone. “He had been suffering from complications, including diabetes, for several months, years.”
According to the family, there will be no wake for the former senator, congressman, and movie and television actor.
In a statement, Lacierda recalled that Butz was a “prime mover in the formation of Atom and Bandila, short for Bansang Nagkakaisa sa Diwa at Layunin.”
“He played a prominent role in the parliament of the streets that fought the dictatorship’s bayonets, truncheons and tear gas with peaceful nonviolent assemblies, yellow confetti and Ati-atihan drums.”
Lacierda noted “this road to reclaiming democracy by way of democracy, as his sister-in-law Cory Aquino put it, was crystallized in the decision Butz made to be the first public figure to ask Filipinos from all walks of life to gather at the Isetann Department Store and provide civilian protection to elements of the Armed Forces and Constabulary that had decided to go against the dictatorship.”
After the 1986 People Power Revolution, Butz was called to public service in the Senate “where he became an advocate of cooperatives and the interest of small farmers, and subsequently, in the House of Representatives.”
As senator, he authored several laws, including the Magna Carta for Small Farmers, Seed Act and the Cooperative Code of the Philippines.
From 1998 to 2007, Butz represented the second district of Makati in the House of Representatives. In the 2010 elections, he ran for mayor of Makati City but lost to Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.
Senate President Franklin Drilon paid homage to Butz as a freedom fighter and legislator.
“He was a civic organizer. He helped form the August Twenty-One Movement, whose members bravely fought for the restoration of our freedom,” Drilon said in a statement.
Drilon said Butz was also responsible for “legacy laws (that) have been benefiting our countrymen, such as the Magna Carta for Small Farmers and the Cooperative Code of the Philippines.”
“On behalf of the Senate, I extend our condolences to the family of Butz,” Drilon said.
For his part, Vice President Jejomar Binay expressed sadness over the passing of Butz whom he considered a “friend until the end.”
In a statement, Binay said he had been with Butz since “the time of the parliament of the streets until he retired from politics.”
He said that they both marched in Makati during the martial law years as members of Atom and that they were also together during the 1986 People Power Revolution.
“During these times, Butz showed courage and principles. And when he was a senator and a congressman, he did not use his position or his family to push for his own interest,” Binay said.–Reports from TJ Burgonio, Jerry E. Esplanada, Christine O. Avendaño, Jovic Yee and Inquirer Research
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.