Benigno Aquino III

In Mass for Noynoy Aquino, priest calls his death the ‘wake of a new political era’

Lian Buan

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In Mass for Noynoy Aquino, priest calls his death the ‘wake of a new political era’

POLITICAL HOMILY. Jesuit priest Fr Albert Alejo delivers a politically-charged homily during a Mass for former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on June 25, 2021.

Screenshot from the Ateneo livestream

The tone of the wake takes a turn toward politics, an attempt to rouse the opposition

Politics was inevitable in the death of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. It happened so near a pivotal presidential race in May 2022. It also closely resembles the narrative of Cory Aquino’s passing in 2009 that made him run for president.

This time, who will rise?

“PNoy’s death, PNoy your death has a special message for all of us. This death comes at the wake of a new political era,” said Father Albert Alejo, S.J. in his homily during the 8 pm Mass organized by the former Aquino Cabinet.

In Mass for Noynoy Aquino, priest calls his death the ‘wake of a new political era’

Alejo’s homily was politically-charged, in character for a priest who has espoused activism since the 70s, during the dark days of Martial Law.

Alejo is one of the two priests on trial with former senator Antonio Trillanes IV for conspiracy to commit to sedition over an alleged plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte through the Bikoy videos. Alejo is also one of the convenors of the anti-Duterte coalition 1Sambayan.

Alejo shared that one of the few instances he saw Aquino in person, and the last time, was during a Mass at the University of the Philippines (UP) to mark the 1,000th day of detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima. 

“I think Leila de Lima is the example of the present administration’s way of treating all of us. And PNoy went to that Mass with sincerity. He was already thin, he was sick, but he went there,” said Alejo.

Noynoy and God

Alejo said that Aquino “had many questions about God, he had questions about faith, and problems with the Church and with priests like me, and probably even with Jesuits.”

The questions were deep, Alejo said, “but I knew very well that deep within his heart there was a child who believed.” Alejo did not elaborate, but Aquino did battle with the Catholic Church when he pushed for the passing of the Reproductive Health Law, which riled the Catholic establishment.

Alejo said Aquino’s kind of governance was an example of “what Pope Francis calls a better kind of politics.”

Quoting from an encyclical of Pope Francis, Alejo said Filipinos must engage “in political love.”

“We must cultivate the political works of mercy, political charity, a love that is just not one on one, a love that is effective in society,” said Alejo.

Taking it a notch further, Alejo said: “Political love builds structures and institutions of justice. It does not destroy Congress. Political love does not destroy the judiciary, it does not destroy institutions like the police, the military, or the media.”

Sharing how hard it was to help victims of tokhang – the name of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war – because the consequence is red-tagging, Alejo talked about a dictatorship that felt like witchcraft.

In front of Aquino’s former Cabinet – former transport secretary Jun Abaya, former justice secretary now Supreme Court justice Benjamin Caguioa, former public works secretary Rogelio Singson to name a few – Alejo said: “PNoy, please whisper to potential candidates – do your share.”

Vice President Leni Robredo had left before the 8 pm Mass.

“Potential candidates, organizers, it’s your turn,” said Alejo. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.