Ninoy Aquino

Duterte says Filipinos should emulate Ninoy Aquino’s courage amid pandemic

Pia Ranada
On Ninoy Aquino Day, the President calls on Filipinos to be heroes 'through acts of discipline, good will, and social responsibility'

On the death anniversary of democracy icon Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on Filipinos to show the same bravery embodied by the hero amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

“As this important occasion is remembered during this time that we are facing a global public health crisis, may we emulate Ninoy’s courage and patriotism so we may all be heroes through acts of discipline, goodwill and social responsibility,” said Duterte in a written message on Friday, August 21.

August 21 is Ninoy Aquino Day, 37 years after the late senator and political nemesis of dictator Ferdinand Marcos was assassinated in the Manila International Airport, upon his arrival in the Philippines from the United States.

Duterte lauded Aquino, saying his life and work in government “uplifted the lives of many, especially the oppressed and marginalized.”

Interestingly, Duterte’s own son, Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte, is among the lawmakers in the House of Representatives who filed a bill seeking to rename the Ninoy Aquino International Airport into “Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas.”

The Manila International Airport, where Ninoy was assassinated, had been renamed in his honor to commemorate his heroism and contribution to Philippine democracy.

Paolo Duterte and two other Duterte-allied lawmakers wanted this honor to be taken away and for the airport to have a name that would allow it to be “easily identified as the international doorway of the country” through use of the Filipino language.

“Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas” is literally “International Airport of the Philippines” in Filipino, the national language.

The younger Duterte drew flak for proposing the airport name change in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, in late June. At the time the bill was filed, there were over 33,000 confirmed infections in the country and over 1,200 deaths.

The Duterte administration was already then facing criticism over its slow response to the health crisis. Nearly two months later, the total infections have soared to over 170,000, with over 2,800 deaths. –

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at