‘CAN THE KILLERS OF TODAY BE THE LEADERS OF TOMORROW?
Introduction to oral statement of Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. before the Subcommittee of Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., June 23, 1983. For full text of statement, see A Testimony by Ninoy, Human Society, No. 21.
Mr. Chairman, members of this august committee:
Please accept my profoundest gratitude for giving me this timely opportunity to testify before your committee on matters vital to the interests of our two countries on the eve of my return to the Philippines and to the prison cell that awaits me.
My family and I will forever cherish the hospitality of your government and your people that has made our exile not only bearable but an experience we shall long recall.
As you probably know, I was given a medical furlough on May 8, 1980 and was allowed to proceed to the United States for an emergency heart bypass operation by the Marcos regime while awaiting final action on the death sentence imposed upon me by a kangaroo court masquerading as a military tribunal.
Since my arrival in America, the Marcos regime has filed two more subversion charges against me, one in late 1980 and another in late 1982. The City Fiscal of Quezon City where the cases were filed announced last week-after the wire services carried the story that I have decided to return-that I would be served arrest warrants the moment I step on Philippine soil and that I would be immediately arrested.
I am returning to the Philippines because it has never been my intention to seek political asylum here in Manila or elsewhere. When I left, I promised I shall return.
Luckily, I survived the heart bypass operation and I have regained the health I lost during seven years and seven months in solitary confinement. I have completed the research work I set out to do. I will never be as ready to return to the trenches.
The Filipino today is facing an ever deepening crisis. Never in history has he suffered from greater political and economic wants. It is time for every Filipino abroad who loves his country to return home, suffer with his people and help in the quest for that elusive national unity which is imperative for the nation’s survival.
During my stay in America, I was privileged to enjoy fellowships in two of the most prestigious academic institutions of this great Republic: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to search for answers to the many problems besetting the Philippines.
Shortly after I arrived in Boston in the fall of 1980, I was visited by some of my countrymen and asked to join the ranks of the freedom fighters who have chosen the path of revolution to liberate our people. I considered their appeal very seriously and I re-directed my academic research to a close scrutiny of the advantages and disadvantages of the use of force and violence to attain national liberation.
To gather empirical data and first hand information, I travelled to the Middle East, to Southeast Asia and to Central America. I interviewed the leaders of the most recent successful revolutions and talked to both the victors and the vanquished, the relatives of the victims and the survivors. I have concluded that revolution and violence exact the highest price in terms of human values and human lives in the struggle for freedom. In the end there are really no victors, only victims.
It is true, one can fight fire with fire, but the late Ramon Magsaysay, one of the most revered presidents of our country, proved that it is more effective to fight fire with water. Communism may be defeated not by adopting the brutal methods of the enemy and thereby lose your moral imperative, but by reinforcing human rights. One can fight hatred with a greater hatred, but Magsaysay proved that it is more effective to fight hatred with greater Christian love. “Those who have less in life should have more in law” was one of his battle-cries.
I have decided to pursue my freedom struggle through the path of non-violence, fully cognizant that this may be the longer and the more arduous road. If I have made the wrong decision, only I, and maybe, my family will suffer. Only I will suffer solitary confinement once again, and possibly death by firing squad.
But by taking the road of revolution, how many lives, other than mine, will have to be sacrificed? We are already the worst economic performer in Southeast Asia. Revolution would set us back thirty or even forty years and we may well end up the basket case in our region.
I have chosen to return to the silence of my solitary confinement and from there to work for a peaceful solution to our problems rather than come back triumphant to the blare of trumpets and cymbals seeking to drown the wailings and sad lamentations of mothers whose sons and daughters have been sacrificed to the gods of revolution. Can the killers of today be the leaders of tomorrow? Must we destroy in order to build? I refuse to believe that it is necessary for a nation to build its foundations on the bones of its young.
Last June 12, 1983, the leaders of the non-violent opposition met and signed in Manila a document entitled “A Formula for National Reconciliation.”
They appealed to the armed opposition in the hills “to give democratic processes a last chance by joining in the forthcoming elections and to demand that they be free, orderly and honest.”
To bring about peaceful reconciliation, the leaders urged Marcos to grant general amnesty to all political offenders; repeal the Anti-Subversion Law; abolish the infamous Presidential Commitment Order; and discontinue the practice of military interference in purely civilian affairs.
These same leaders warned that “armed conflict in our country is fast approaching the point of no return. Dissenters and dissidents, many of them reluctant rebels, are being driven farther and farther from the ways of peace and reconciliation.”
The formula for national reconciliation is their final effort to stave off what they perceive to be an imminent revolution.
Upon my return, I intend to join these leaders in their appeal and take up with them the program of action I drafted during my three years in exile.
Buffeted by natural and unnatural calamities. the Philippines has carded the worst economic performance among the five-nation ASEAN grouping last year. What is more tragic, in the midst of all these miseries, Filipinos are still killing each other in ever increasing numbers. This blood-letting must stop. This madness must cease.
I think it can be stopped if all Filipinos can get together as true brothers and sisters and search for a healing solution in a genuine spirit of give and take. We must transcend our petty selves, forget our hurts and bitterness, cast aside thoughts of revenge and let sanity, reason, and above all, love of country prevail during our gravest hour.
BENIGNO AQUINO, JR.