Cory And Ninoy In Marcos’ Military Tribunal
The declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972 ushered in the defining phase in Ninoy's evolution as a leader. Before then, it was generally assumed that he would ascend to the nation's highest office as the Liberal Party's standard bearer in the 1973 presidential elections. Instead, he wound up the most high-profile political prisoner as Ferdinand Marcos suspended the Constitution, abolished Congress, silenced the opposition and the media, and ruled by decree on the pretext that he needed emergency powers to quell a communist insurgency and a Muslim secessionist rebellion.
While incarcerated in Fort Bonifacio, Ninoy managed to communicate with underground elements of the opposition who eluded arrest and to even have articles critical of martial law published in the foreign press. In an effort to break his spirit, Marcos had Ninoy and Senator Jose "Pepe" Diokno secretly brought to Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija, where the two were placed in solitary confinement.
In those trying times, Ninoy began to question his faith as he wondered why God would allow him to suffer such indignity and injustice. Rejecting the authority of the military tribunal tasked to pass judgment on his guilt or innocence in the face of trumped-up charges of murder, subversion, and illegal possession of firearms, he went on a 40-day hunger strike that nearly cost him his life.
But, in the depths of his desolation, he realized that he had in fact been living a charmed life and felt shame at whimpering when his character was placed under its most severe test. There began a spiritual transformation that would see Ninoy evolve from a brilliant and ambitious politician to a selfless servant leader who surrendered himself to the will of God.
As expected, the military tribunal pronounced him guilty and sentenced him to die by musketry in 1977. However, the Marcos government could not carry out death sentence as its human rights record came under intense international scrutiny. Ninoy was even allowed to run for a Metro Manila seat in the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978. With only his family and a ragtag ticket campaigning for him, the imprisoned Aquino still gave the dictatorship a scare as polls showed him a shoo-in for a Batasan seat and as a noise barrage rocked the metropolis on the eve of election day. With the counting of ballots under their control, the administration Kilusang Bagong Lipunan swept the elections.
On his seventh year and seventh month in prison, Ninoy got his divine reprieve in a strange sort of way. He suffered a heart attack and, to his surprise, Marcos allowed him to go to the United States for bypass surgery. From ninoyaquino.ph"During those eight years, I learned the true meaning of humiliation, of courage, of hunger and endless anxiety. Rather than be bitter I have learned to accept my suffering as a cleansing process and a rare opportunity to really grapple with the problems of the Filipino." Ninoy
"I recalled the situation in my prison. There in that prison I shared a cell with a great Filipino. His name is Senator Jose W. Diokno, one of the most respected men in our country, a man who could not be bribed, a man whose towering integrity is a by-word with the youth. He stayed with me for two years in jail, and then after two years, he was released, no charges, no explanation. There were a hundred thousand Filipinos who went through those jails, hardly 10% were charged. They were arrested without charges. They were released without explanation. That is what happened to our country. And what about the mothers and the children who lost their breadwinners when these people went to jail? In my compound, there were only four of us: myself, Jose Maria Sison, his wife and Lieutenant Corpus. I did not know that there was another one, a fifth one, who was barely a hundred and fifty meters away from my cell. I never knew that there was a young man by the name of Sixto Carlos, Jr. because only when I was released that I finally read his poignant story. You know what they did to this man? They tortured him no end for two weeks. They kept him in a safe house. They fed him poison and his body became numb, and finally he lost his senses and therefore, they cannot bring him back to his family because they took him apart and they could not take him back together. This young man was a student leader in the U.P. He did not see the sun and the moon for 124 days. He was chained to his gut. Jose Maria Sison was chained to his gut. His feet were chained. His hand was chained. You cannot see a more inhumane situation, and I want to tell you my friends, until you have tasted this loneliness, you will not know what solitary confinement means. "
And therefore, as I thought back that there are still many valiant Filipinos who are fighting for freedom, fighting for your right to speak. These are the people who are putting their lives on the line. These are people who abandon their loved ones and the comforts of their home, the wealth of their offices, to be able to bring our freedom back, and to be true to our founding fathers. And so I told my wife, “Much as we have found our peace and our freedom, I will have to return to combat." Ninoy's Speech in L.A.
Max Soliven recalls Ninoy Aquino: Unbroken
Ninoy’s optimism was a revelation. For the treatment at the hands of his captors had grown worse after most of us had gone, not better. By March 1973, Ninoy himself recounted it in a letter to “Monsignor” Soc Rodrigo, he was averaging 1,200 Hail Mary’s a day. On March 12, Ninoy was led to a blue Volkswagen Combi and saw Pepe Diokno already seated inside. The two of them were hustled aboard a blue and white helicopter “with a presidential seal,” blindfolded and handcuffed. The chopper took off and landed (as they found out weeks later) in Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. “When the blindfold was finally removed,” Ninoy recalled, “I found myself inside a newly painted room, roughly four by five meters with barred windows, the outside of which was boarded with plywood panels.” Only a six-inch gap between the panels provided air and light. A bright neon-tube burned day and night. There were no electric switches, the door room was bare except for a steel bed without mattress. No chairs, tables, nothing.
Ninoy was stripped naked, his wedding ring, watch, eye-glasses, shoes, clothes, taken away. A guard brought in a bedpan and said that he would be allowed to go to the bathroom only once daily in the morning to shower, brush his teeth and wash his clothes. He was issued two jockey briefs and two T-shirts and instructed to wash one set everyday. Diokno apparently occupied the adjoining “box” but they were warned not to try to communicate with each other.
The cruel part of this punishment (Ninoy was never informed what they were being punished for) was that all his belongings — ring, watch, glasses, were given to his wife, Cory, without explanation. For a horrified period of time, his mother and his brothers and sisters, and Cory and the children, could only despair that Ninoy was dead. Eventually they located him, but they were powerless to do anything. Ninoy and Pepe endured 30 days in their stifling boxes — during the hottest time of the year. It was a transparent attempt to break Aquino’s and Diokno’s will.
On Aug. 27, 1973, back in Bonifacio, Ninoy was brought before a Military Tribunal, specifically Military Commission No. 2 chaired by Brigadier Gen. Jose G. Syjuco. Ninoy was charged with alleged violations of Republic Act No. 1700, the Anti-Subversion Law, with four separate charges and a total of nine specifications including murder, subversion, illegal possession of firearms. He refused to take part in such a farce of a trial, asserting that military officers should not be allowed to try him since their commander-in-chief, President Marcos, had already declared him “guilty” in his public pronouncements. Moreover, sentence by a military tribunal did not permit him an appeal to the Supreme Court. “I will not participate,” he stated, “You can dispose of my flesh, but I cannot yield to you my spirit and conscience.”
Aquino’s defiance led to the suspensions of hearings for a year and a half, but on March 31, 1975, his objections were brushed aside by the tribunal which proceeded, after a few — and starts to “reinvestigate” witnesses against him Huk Commanders Melody, Ligaya and Pusa, Tarlac politician Max Llorente, and others. Ninoy put up no defense for the trial that was launched in 1973 and finally concluded in 1977. He simply expresses his innocence.
On April 4, 1975, he announced that he was starting a fast to the death to protest the injustice of his military tribunal. Ten days after the “fast” began, he instructed his lawyer to withdraw all motions he had submitted to the Supreme Court. As weeks went by, he took no food, only salt tablets, sodium bicarbonate, and amino acids and two glasses of water a day. Even as he grew weaker, undergoing chills and cramps, the soldiers forcibly dragged him to the military tribunal’s session. His family and hundreds of friends heard Mass nightly at the Santuario de San Jose in Greenhills, praying that he would not die. Near the end, Aquino’s weight had dropped from 160 to only 120 pounds, and he could not neither stand nor sit. On March 13, 1975, on the 40th day of his fast, he noted that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. His family and several priests and friends, begged him to stop his fast, pointing out that even our Lord had only fasted 40 days and nights. “I want to die today,” he prayed to God, “but if You do not allow me to die, I’ll take it You want me to continue my work. Your will be done.”
He survived. He had made his gesture. Offered his sacrifice up to God. But at 10:25 a.m. on Nov. 27,1977, Military Commission No. 2 sentenced Aquino and his two co-accused, Bernabe Buscayno (Commander Dante) and Lt. Victor Corpuz, to death by firing squad.
Ninoy called the act an “indecent and immoral rush to judgment.” But as he said, “a time comes in a man’s life when he must take a stand and make a painful decision: to willingly die for his principles or surrender. I have opted to die for my principles because my cause transcends my individual self and freedom.”