I am Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., 45, Filipino, married, father of five, a native of Concepcion, Tarlac, and presently detained since September 23, 1972 at the MSU Compound of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio.
My detention camp is also known as the “cemetery for the living” — to distinguish it from the American Cemetery directly to the north and the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes) slightly to the south.
Both my grandfather and my father were imprisoned, as I am now, for serving the Filipino people.
I am the grandson of the late General Servillano Aquino of the Filipino Revolutionary Army under President Aguinaldo of the First Republic. Shortly after the turn of the century, my grandfather was captured by American forces, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by an American Military Tribunal for “guerrilla war crimes even after the capitulation of President Aguinaldo.” He escaped execution only after President Theodore Roosevelt declared an amnesty for all Filipino rebels. For six years, my grandfather was imprisoned in the dungeons of Fort Santiago and a grateful nation recognized and rewarded his efforts by naming one of the biggest Philippine Army camps in his honor.
I am the son of the late Benigno S. Aquino, Sr., a former congressman, a senator (majority floor leader), cabinet member under President Quezon during the Philippine Commonwealth, and a Speaker of the National Assembly. He was the No. 2 man of the wartime Second Republic. American authorities imprisoned my father, together with the other members of the wartime government, in Tokyo’s Sugamo Prison. He regained his freedom at the birth of the Third Republic in 1946.
I am a product of the Benedictines and of the Jesuit ratio studiorum. After 2 years in Catholic educational institutions, I began the study of law at the University of the Philippines.
I am a former newspaperman (The Manila Times). At 17, I was a war correspondent (the Korean War). Later, I became a foreign correspondent (Indo-China, Malaya, Indonesia, the Middle East). In 1955, I was elected mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac. In 1961, I became vice governor of Tarlac province. In 1961, I became governor of Tarlac province. I was elected to the same office in 1963. In 1967, I was elected to the Senate of the Philippines.
I was executive assistant to three Presidents: Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal. I was awarded decorations by three Presidents: Quirino (The Philippine Legion of Honor, Degree of Officer, for services during the Korean War); Magsaysay (The Philippine Legion of Honor, Degree of Commander, for negotiating the return to the government of Luis M. Taruc, erstwhile Huk Supremo, in 1954); Garcia (First Brown Anahaw Leaf to the PLH – Officer, for services in the peace and order campaign; Presidential Merit Award for intelligence work in Indonesia, in 1958, “classified”). In awarding me the highest civilian award of the Republic, President Magsaysay cited my “invaluable contribution to the collapse of the communist-led Huk insurgency.”
I am not a communist. I have never been one. I have never joined any communist party. I am not — and have never been — a member of any illegal and/or subversive organization, or even a front organization.
Yes, I have met with communist leaders and members of subversive organizations both as a newspaperman and as a public servant as far back as 1954. In fact the government awarded me the highest civilian award precisely for what my pacification parleys with rebels and subversives had achieved.
President Magsaysay made use of my services as a negotiator not only with the communist-led dissidents in Central Luzon but also with Muslim outlaw leaders. Indeed, I consider my ability to communicate with the leaders of the various dissident movements as well as my understanding of their causes as one of my special qualifications for high office.
I have been a student of communism, especially the Philippine communist movement, for the last two decades. I have writtean many papers, delivered many lectures on the Huks, who later became the HMBs and who, still later, became the CPP/NPAs, their aims, their inner dynamics and motivations, both in the Philippines and abroad.
If I had planned to seek the Presidency in 1973, it was because I sincerely believed I had the key to the possible final solution to the vexing dissident (communist) problem.
I was first exposed to communism as a young teenager shortly after the war, in 1945, when my hometown of Concepcion was literally occupied by the Hukbalahaps. Our town mayor, an avowed Huk, was appointed by the dissident group.
In 1950, I was assigned by the Manila Times to cover the UN police action in Korea with special emphasis on the participation of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK). I witnessed the brutal massacre of innocent civilians by fleeing communist forces. Barely 18, I learned firsthand from North Korean survivors how the communists governed and regimented their people, how all their freedoms were suppressed, especially the rights to peaceful assembly, religion and free speech. Some of my most poignant early newspaper stories dwelt on the grimness of existence under communist totalitarian rule.
At 20, I was assigned as a foreign correspondent in Indo-China. I was at Dien Bien Phu and covered the last dying moments of French colonialism in Asia. Later, I was posted to Malaya to cover the British counter-insurgency efforts under General Templar. In 1954, I returned to the Philippines and negotiated Mr. Taruc’s return to the government fold on May 16, 1954.
Three former Presidents availed of my services, especially in the field of counter-insurgency. I was special assistant to President Magsaysay when I met Taruc. Under President Garcia, I was entrusted with the delicate mission of monitoring the so-called “Colonels’ Revolt” in Indonesia. Under President Macapagal, I served as his special assistant in his travels to Cambodia and Indonesia at the height of the Malaysia-Indonesia konfrontasi.
In 1965, President Macapagal appointed me spokesman of the Philippine Delegation to the crucial Afro-Asian conference in Algiers where the two Communist super-powers, the USSR and the PRC, girded for a showdown. The Philippine Delegation, together with a handful of “free world” delegations, held the balance of power. Fortunately, or unfortunately, a bomb was exploded inside the confence hall on the eve of the meeting, forcing the organizers to “indefinitely postpone the conference.”
In 1970, I was a member of the Philippine delegation to the Djakarta Conference on Cambodia which took up the entry of American and South Vietnamese forces into that country.
In fact, four days before the martial law declaration, Senator Gerardo Roxas and I were given a highly classified briefing by the AFP general staff on the nation’s counter-insurgency plans at Camp Aguinaldo.
I enjoyed the highest security clearance from the government.
I have been a student of theoretical Marxism. I have followed every twist and turn of our local communists. I have read practically all lthe published works of our local Reds. Whenever possible, I interviewed communist intellectuals to get first-hand information.
This, however, does not mean that I have embraced communism, much less joined any communist of subversive organization. On the contrary, I would like to believe that I convinced some of the dissidents to return to the fold of the government, as in the case of Mr. Taruc.
I have never advocated the overthrow of the government by force and violence, much less the establishment of a totalitarian regime. Or worse, placing this country under the domination and control of an alien power.
I have no reason to do that — not I, of all people. Why should I advocate a violent overthrow of the government? I am one of the lucky few who have never lost an election — from mayor, to vice governor, to governor, to senator. Why should I want to destroy a form of government that has served me well? In fact, in 1972, I was within a stone’s throw from the highest office within the gift of our people — the Presidency.
It is true I urged our people to boot Mr. Marcos out of office. I campaigned vigorously against him in 1965 and again in 1969. I warned our people as early as 1968 of Mr. Marcos’ sinister plot to suspend our elections and perpetuate himself in power through the declaration of martial rule. I denounced in my maiden privilege speech in the Senate Mr. Marcos’ gradual and steady development of a “Garrison State.” For four years before September 1972, I warned our people of Mr. Marcos’ creeping militarism.
Mr. Marcos is not the Republic and the State. It is unfortunate that some people hold the belief that to oppose Mr. Marcos is to oppose the State and that opposition to Marcos is tantamount to treason.
I am against Mr. Marcos. But I am a loyal citizen of the Republic!”