By: Juan L. Mercado
“I WAS 13,” recalled President Benigno Aquino in an Inquirer interview this week. It marked the 30th anniversary of his father’s murder. “Dad said goodbye… Remember, he wrote an article that was published in Thailand.”
As punishment, Senators Benigno Aquino and Jose Diokno were secretly held in solitary confinement and half-starved to death in a Nueva Ecija military camp. Prison guards turned Corazon Aquino and family away for 43 days. Carmen Diokno and children received similar brushoffs.
Yes, we remember that three-part Aqunio series, published by the Bangkok Post in February 1973. “I will not accept President Marcos’s offer of an amnesty because I do not believe I’ve committed any crime,” Aquino wrote. He “violated our Constitution and broke our laws.
How was that possible? Aquino then was held in a high security cell in Fort Bonifacio. Then Information Minister Francisco Tatad cabled a furious 8,000-word reply, mentioning Aquino’s name only once.
The reprisals followed. When the Aquinos met Ninoy “he had no glasses. He was unshaven, no watch, no ring… He held on to his pants because he lost so much weight,” PNoy told Lifestyle editor Thelma Sioson San Juan.
And on this anniversary, my son Francis gripes without fail: “It’s your fault. I never got to talk to the man,” Francis was a grade school kid when our family bumped into Ninoy at San Francisco’s International Airport. We were flying to Bangkok, then my United Nations posting.. And Aquino was booked on a Boston flight. The years have blurred most of our chat that day.