MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte paid tribute to the memory of Benigno Aquino Jr, more commonly known as Ninoy Aquino, the senator who fiercely opposed the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and whose assassination sparked the People Power Revolution of 1986.
"Today, we remember Benigno S. Aquino Jr and his important role in restoring our democratic institutions more than 3 decades ago. His sacrifice altered the course of our nation’s history and still continues to ignite the spirit of heroism among our people," said Duterte in his written message for Ninoy Aquino Day on Wednesday, August 21.
Duterte expressed hope that Ninoy Aquino Day would invigorate the commitment of Filipinos to “safeguard the freedoms that we now enjoy” and do more to help improve the lives of those suffering from poverty and injustice.
“Let his example guide us as we strive to uplift and protect the most vulnerable in our society and ensure that all Filipinos will enjoy the blessings of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law," he said.
Aquino can also serve as a model for government workers to render public service with "honor, integrity, and purpose," said the President.
In 1967, Aquino became the youngest Philippine senator upon election. Duterte said Aquino can also "inspire the youth to be of service to their country and fellowmen."
Admirer of Marcos
In public speeches, Duterte has expressed admiration for Aquino's political nemesis, the late dictator Marcos and has said that, except for his dictatorship, he was the best president the Philippines has ever had.
It was also Duterte who made it possible for Marcos to be given a hero's burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016.
Despite his expression of commitment to democratic freedoms of rule of law, Duterte has been criticized for his crackdown on dissenting voices and accused of subverting legal processes to get his way. (READ: Does Duterte fulfill the dictator criteria? This book can help us find out)
With Duterte's political backing during the 2019 elections, the Marcos family's political influence has surged, with its members winning seats in the Senate, House of Representatives, the Ilocos Norte gubernatorial post, and Laoag City mayoral post.