‘I HAVE CHOSEN TO FOLLOW MY CONSCIENCE’
August 27, 1973
Military Commission No. 2
I have faith in the Filipino. I believe that with all the resources at his disposal and given the facts and the truth, the Filipino can resolve any difficulty and achieve his vision of a good and just society.
I believe that the Filipino will respond to the call to greatness not by coercion but by persuasion, not by intimidation but through the ways of freedom.
All that I hold sacred, the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, his freedom of thought and speech and press, his liberty to choose without fear or pressure-the public officials of his own choice, and the great principles of democracy handed down to us by our forebears have all been set aside for the convenience of one man’s continued stay in power.
I understand my lawyers have stated before the Supreme Court why a Military Tribunal cannot assume jurisdiction over criminal cases against civilians in times of peace. The whole civilized world recoils at the thought of civilians being dragged before military courts and tried as ordinary criminals.
But there is something that transcends all other considerations, something that is unique in the case against me. Two years ago, on August 24, 1971-three days after the horrible massacre in Plaza Miranda-I was accused and pronounced guilty of the same charges by the President himself, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He could have ordered the charges against me filed with the civil courts since 1971 but he did not. He waited for his own brand of martial law and ordered the creation of military tribunals. With due respect to all of you, how can this Military Commission reverse the President? Even if you want to because of your sense of justice, nonetheless under Presidential Decree No. 39, the President has the power in any case to change of reverse your decision.
Sirs, I know you to be honorable men. But the one unalterable fact is that you are the subordinates of the President. You may decide to preserve my life, but he can choose to send me to death. Some people suggest that I beg for mercy. But this I cannot in conscience do. I would rather die on my feet with honor, than live on bended knees in shame.
My friends and relatives have been harassed. Some have been detained. The witnesses I intend to call are all afraid. I want to save all from further agony.
I have therefore decided not to participate in these proceedings: first, because this ritual is an unconscionable mockery; second, because every part of my being-my heart and mind and my soul-yes, every part of my being is against any form of dictatorship. I agree we must have public order and national discipline, if the country is to move forward. But peace and order without freedom is nothing more than slavery. Discipline without justice is merely another name for oppression. I believe we can have lasting peace and prosperity only if we build a social order based on freedom and justice. My non-participation is therefore an act of protest against the structures of injustice that brought us here. It is also an act of faith in the ultimate victory of right over wrong, of good over evil. In all humility, I say it is a rare privilege to share with the Motherland her bondage, her anguish, her every pain and suffering.
Mother Filipinas once again has been led back to her dark dungeon in chains. Her sons and daughters lie prostrate and defenseless, ruled by decrees and governed once more by the hated law of the might-namely that might makes right.
Mr. President, Honorable Members of this Commission, I fully realize the consequences of my decision. You have your own duties to perform, I have my sad fate to meet.
I have chosen to follow my conscience and accept the tyrant’s verdict.
May God have mercy on all of us!
BENIGNO S. AQUINO, JR.